Expression in Violin and Singing - Part 3: Making Your Violin Sing

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Expression Violin Singing Part 3Nicole Notes: Several years ago I paired up with violinist and orchestra teacher Katie Gustafson to write several articles for String Notes, published by the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association (MNSOTA), which is the local chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). We had a great time exploring the commonalities between playing the violin and singing. Please enjoy this three-part series.

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by Katie Gustafson and Nicole Warner

In the first two installments of our series on connections between singing and violin playing, vocalist Nicole Warner and I delved into the subjects of body awareness and breathing. Both of these areas have proved highly useful to me when working with young string players, and have informed my understanding of the foundations of musical playing. In this final issue, I would like to explore how good singing can help develop an instrumentalist’s musicality.

Expression in Violin and Singing - Part 2: Breathe Your Way Out of Your Lizard Brain

on . Posted in Teaching

Expression Violin Singing Part 2Nicole Notes: Several years ago I paired up with violinist and orchestra teacher Katie Gustafson to write several articles for String Notes, published by the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association (MNSOTA), which is the local chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). We had a great time exploring the commonalities between playing the violin and singing. Please enjoy this three-part series.

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by Katie Gustafson and Nicole Warner

Urbandictionary.com defines ‘lizard brain’ as “that part of the brain that senses danger; where instincts and gut feelings originate; subconscious or involuntary processes.” The lizard brain is our tendency to react rather than to make thoughtful, calculated actions, and it can affect our music-making more than we might care to admit. We can attribute stage fright and its corresponding adrenaline symptoms to lizard brain, as well as careless physical habits. I would even argue that sloppy execution and lack of ‘mindfulness’ could be attributed to the automatic, reactive habits of lizard brain. The solution to these problems is not simple, but I discovered a good strategy in my voice lessons with Nicole Warner.

Expression in Violin and Singing - Part 1: Body Awareness

on . Posted in Teaching

Expression Violin Singing Part 1Nicole Notes: Several years ago I paired up with violinist and orchestra teacher Katie Gustafson to write several articles for String Notes, published by the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association (MNSOTA), which is the local chapter of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA). We had a great time exploring the commonalities between playing the violin and singing. Please enjoy this three-part series.

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by Katie Gustafson and Nicole Warner

A few years ago I was singing with a women’s choir at church, and stumbled onto a wonderful new colleague. A vocal specialist named Nicole Warner had been hired to coach the ensemble, helping us with vocal technique and German diction. After getting to know her, I discovered that she also played violin, and I told her I would help her with violin if she would help me with my singing.


We had regular lessons together and enjoyed this partnership for about two years. During our time together we made some great discoveries about how complimentary vocal technique can be to violin technique. Some of these areas include body awareness, breathing, ear training, musical phrasing, and others. I have since applied many of those discoveries to both my studio and orchestra teaching and found them very helpful to my students. I have invited Nicole to help me share some of these ideas with you, in hopes that you will find them as useful as I did.

9 Goofy Things Voice Students Say

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9 Goofy Things Voice Students SayVoice students say the darndest things! And my students are no exception. Over the past couple of years I've collected their antics and funny comments. Here, without further ado, are 9 goofy things my voice students have said:

You know you're old when...

A: *takes out smart phone and hits the button* Siri, who is “Milli Vanilli”?

Do I have a wobble?!

T: *looks at me wide-eyed.* Nicole, your vibrato…it scares me.

Confessions of a high schooler:

D: (whispered) I like orchestra better than band!

 

Kids say the darndest things:

G: (singing from “The Cherry Tree” original lyrics "They sing of the frozen rivers...") They sing of the frozen livers…

 

Me: (reading from sheet music) Steht der Strauch…

E: What’s that word?

Me: Strauch.

E: *shakes head slowly* No…

Dear Senior Voice Students...7 Words of Wisdom

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Dear Senior Voice Students,7WordsofWisdom

It's hard every year when you depart. The last concert is so emotional, your last lessons are poignant. I often imagine what you'll think 20 years from now when you think about your voice lessons. Did you learn what you wanted to learn? Did all the music theory sink in deep enough? Do you remember to breathe with your belly?

Here are 7 pieces of what my students would probably call unsolicited advice I give to seniors and any voice student who's going off on a new adventure. I like to call them Words of Wisdom.

1. When you take lessons, you are paying money in exchange for a service, which means that you are the consumer. You are paying the bill, which means your teacher works for you. You might be in a teacher's voice studio, however you are the client, the customer. So if you're happy, keep it up. If you're not happy, start shopping around.

This applies to all areas of life, whether it be lessons, relationships, doctors, etc. Don't ever think you have to keep at something to meet someone else's expectations.

2. Your list of (over-)achievements is long. Life is short. Choose your activities wisely. You will be happy to have time in your calendar when your friend calls, someone in your family falls ill, or for simply having quiet time at home to follow your fancy. You are so worth it.

3. Remember that at the end of the day, there are no schools--they are just buildings; there are no businesses, it's just paper. At the end of the day, all you have are people. So be kind. And spread it far & wide. The world needs more kindness.

Routine in the Voice Studio

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Having a general, predictable routine in the voice studio is part of what I call the "culture of a voice studio." When students start taking lessons from you, whether it is your private studio or at a school, they need to learn how your studio functions--Routine in the Voice Studio bluethey want to know what they can predict. Having a general structure to lessons creates a sense of security for you and your students and avoids chaos.

Over this past school year I've implemented a beginning-of-lesson-routine that has helped many students focus and relax when they enter their lessons--they take 3 slow, deep breaths before we do anything else. There are always a few students who try to rush through these breaths, and I have them start over and take slower breaths.

These 3 breaths serve multiple purposes:

1. The student turns off the outside world and turns on to their voice lesson.

2. The student will calm and relax.

3. How the student breathes gets you an idea of where they are that day, breath-wise as well as psychologically and emotionally speaking.