The Challenges of Performing

ANZAC DAY 2021

I had the joy and honour of singing at three Anzac Day Services on Sunday. It has been a long time since I have sung in front of an audience and it was wonderful to be able to sing for people again. There were good crowds at all the services and I had a lovely response, with many saying how much they enjoyed my singing.  I believe it is such an honour to be able to sing at an Anzac Day ceremony and to be able to sing at three was very special.

The first ceremony was actually held at the local cemetery.  In my town we have quite a beautiful cemetery, with beautiful gardens, a recently renovated band rotunda and a substantial newly built memorial in memory of returned service men and women who are buried at the cemetery. This year was the first year since 1946 that an ANZAC day ceremony was held at the cemetery. This is because the town cenotaph was built after the second world war and the yearly ceremonies are now held there. 

THE LAST POST

One thing I was able to observe in detail was the bugler at each ceremony. There was a different person at each ceremony and they all had a very different experience performing. One of the buglers was a mature person who had been performing for many years and was very experienced at performing. One was still quite a young person but had played for many Anzac Day ceremonies, even though they were early on in their performing career. The third was a young person, had been playing for a few years, but had not had experience playing to a crowd. It was interesting to note that they had all obviously practiced for the event and they could all play the last post, but they had very different experiences. None of them played it perfectly, but the mature person and the very young person continued on in spite of any little slips they made. 

The person who had never performed for an audience before did get through the performance, however I could see very clearly that they were extremely nervous and tension had built up in their body, and they simply could not get enough air in to support the notes fully.  They are to congratulated on their performance, performing for the first time and in spite of being nervous, they did get through the last post and overall it was played correctly. It was sad to see their response afterwards. I didn't get a chance to speak to them, but if I could have, I would have told them how well they played for a first performance.  

PERFORMANCES ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN

We can be so harsh on ourselves for performances that don't go as well as we would like. Especially when we are first beginning to perform for an audience. As I said previously, none of the performances were perfect, but the people who had performed previously did not worry too much about perfection, shrugged off a missed note and kept playing.  It is so important that we practice performing, getting used to being in the stressful situation of standing in front of an audience and playing or singing. I have been performing for many years now, and although I can still get nervous, I have performed enough times to understand how my body works and I can prepare and be aware of what I am doing, relaxing and breathing well for good breath support. That does not mean my performances are always perfect.  Usually I go off stage thinking about what I can do better, but generally I am pretty happy with what I have done. The audience wants you to do well, and are for the most part very supportive, so we shouldn't be afraid to perform for others. Perfection is hard to achieve, but we are often hard on ourselves when we don't achieve it.

So get out there and perform.  A LOT!

SINGING PRACTICE

5 Things you can do to improve your singing practice.

You can listen to this blog post here:

5-tips-for-better-singing-practice

As singers, we all want to be able to practice regularly to improve our skills. But sometimes we are not sure about what we need to make our practice sessions worthwhile.  Below you will find 5 tips to help you make the most of your practice time and achieve success.

Tip Number 1:

Make sure you have all the materials you need to practice.

  • Use sheet music when practicing, not just lyrics. We are musicians and should be able to read music.  The sheet music also gives important  clues about things like tempo and dynamics.

 

  • Invest in a music stand. It is important you have something to put your music on that you can stand at. You can get collapsible stands that fold away neatly.  I have a manhasset music stand which is more expensive, but is really easy to use and very solid. You can click on the pictures if you want to order them online.

    stand-foldupmanhasset-stand

 

                              fold away stand                                               Manhasset stand

 

  • Make sure any device that you use for playing backing tracks is loud enough to sing along with.  You might need to invest in some speakers if you are using an ipad or phone.  Don’t practice using headphones. This is a bad habit to get into as you can’t hear yourself properly.

 

headphones  Headphones are great for listening to music but not so good for practice.

Tip number 2:

Have a designated place to practice.

  • Have a special, clean, private ready to start in space.  Having a space always ready for singing makes it much easier to get started. If you are always having to pull things out to get started, or have to practice in a space where other people are, you are less likely to get going.

    practice-room

Tip number 3:

Be clear about what you need to practice.

  • Always have a plan about what you want to work on during the week between lessons.  Make sure you have discussed with your teacher what will be required and then have some way to record what you have done. This way you can account for your practice sessions.

Tip Number 4:

Make it part of your routine. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

  • Singing practice should be a part of your every day routine.  Just like brushing your teeth or having a shower, we need to find time each day to practice our singing. If you start this from the beginning it is easy to reinforce. For young students, parents really need to be present in the beginning to encourage this routine.  Make a time and stick to it, whether it be in the morning or afternoon. If no time is dedicated to practice, it simply will not happen.

    practice-poster

Tip Number 5:

Warm up, then chunk it.

  • Make sure you warm up well. Have a warm up routine that you can do in about 5 minutes.   Here is a link to a website with some great ideas on warming up. Click here.

  • Don’t try to do it all at once, break it up.  Hopefully your teacher has highlighted what needs to be worked on.  Focus on those small sections and get them correct, then put it all together.

  • A couple of 10 minute sessions each day is much better than trying to do an hour at a time. Committing to 20 – 30 minutes each day is quite achievable – this equates to at least 3 hours practice a week.

Use these five tips you are guaranteed to have success with your singing.  Remember singing is a skill and can be developed like any instrument.  Your success depends on your practice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Want to have singing lessons? To get started in your musical journey with Mary and Singing Strong please click here and fill in your details.

Mary will get in contact with you to assist you with your inquiry.

Mary Mirtschin

Mary Mirtschin

Why have a singing teacher?

I have been visiting various singing websites lately and have found many of them to have great ideas and ways to help singers.

One thing I have noticed on a couple of the websites is their claim that you don’t need to have face to face lessons to sing well, just watch my videos and you can become the greatest singer.  For me this is a one way street.

My comment to this is if you don’t know what you are doing wrong, you can never know what you are doing right.

Feedback is integral to good progress.  Feedback is the rocket fuel that propels the acquisition of knowledge and without it, no amount of practice or watching videos is going to get you there.

A singing teacher is not merely there to offer encouragement and assessing levels of concentration, they are also on the lookout for small technical glitches that may have escaped the attention of their student.

You can get the basics from reading material or watching videos, but I would highly recommend you seek out a singing teacher or at least a mentor who can give you appropriate feedback and guide you on your musical journey.

teaching singing

Newsletter 1 2016

Welcome back to another year of singing!

It has been wonderful greeting students for the new year, hearing about their holiday adventures and seeing their joy at returning to lessons.

For the adult students there has been less about holidays ( unfortunately) but there has certainly be the same enthusiasm as they arrive for lessons.

For students who have been studying with me for a while, it has been great to hear their voices again and realize the progress they have been making vocally. It has been so exciting to hear the way their voices have matured and developed.  For new students it has been exciting starting with them and helping them uncover the voice they have inside them.

A big welcome to all the new students who have started for 2016.  I look forward to working with you on your musical journey!

News from the Studio:

PRACTICE BLITZ!

Students have new repertoire to start working on for 2016.

To get you into a practice routine I am holding a practice blitz for the next two weeks.

The blitz will run from Monday 22nd February until Sunday 6th March .  All you need to do is practice consistently and record your practice times on the singing strong website.  (remember you have to log into your account to fill in the details. If you need help with this please let me know.) You can log in at the bottom of this post.

There will be prizes and surprises for the person who clocks up the most practice hours!

Take some time now to work out times during the week when you can dedicate 15 -20 minutes to practice.  Record this on your calendar and then stick to it!

Student achievements:

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the Summer Pantomime “Aladdin”.  It was  a fun show and  I thoroughly enjoyed myself when I went to see it.

aladdin

Congratulations to Alicia Hooimeyer who played the title role and to Sophia Patikisa who was a gorgeous Jasmine.

 

 

 

 

aladdin2Hollie Gibson was terrific as the dog and there were other fantastic performances from the following students as well:

Ella Brent

Zahra Hanratty

Ella Hill

Paige Horn

Maddison Logue

Britney Nelthorpe

Sebastian Poole

 

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There are numerous students involved in the many productions that will be held during 2016. I will keep you informed as they come up.

Cafe Concert

I have tentatively booked our first term Cafe Concert for Wednesday 16th March from 6.30pm.  Please put this date in your diary.  I understand that some of you will have commitments on this evening, but it would be appreciated if you are able to come and sing, even if you are only able to pop in and out.

I will put out some more information about this event during the week.

 

So let’s get singing!  Have a great week.

Dream!

 

 

Can anyone sing?

boy singing with mic cartoonThe answer is yes.  If you are able to talk then it is possible to sing.

Singing is a skill that can be taught just like any other instrument or any skill actually.

I have worked with many students who wanted to sing but didn’t have the skills. Over time with study and practice these students became very good singers.  These students wanted to be good singers and they put in the time and effort required to get good at it.

I am an ok dancer. I can move in time to the beat and when I take time to go over a dance routine I can learn it reasonably well.  But I will never be a great dancer.  That is because I like dancing, but not enough to want to do it all the time and take the classes to become really good at it.  My daughter loves dancing, goes to classes, practices a lot at home and is becoming really good.

But I love to sing.  I have had lots of lessons and performed quite a lot and I have developed skills I need to be a good singer.

I will never be great at violin because I don’t have an interest in playing it. I would like to learn cello though.

I love to teach but I would be pretty useless as a nurse as it is something I don’t want to do.

They say it takes around 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.  I think that this is pretty close.  If you were to ask anyone who is an expert at something, they would probably tell you these sorts of hours.  They would be working on their craft every day over a long period of time.

Learning how to sing well is like any instrument.  You can’t expect to become a concert pianist with a weeks worth of practice.

When you look at the lives of some of the famous singers who are really good at their craft –  you would discover that most have been singing since they were young children. They sing all day every day, listening to music and singing along, they probably go to voice lessons and are involved in any performance opportunity they can.

If you would like to be able to sing reasonably well, in tune, yes you can learn.  You probably don’t need to spend 10,000 hours.  Maybe 100 hours would be a great start.

How good you get depends on how much you want it. How much is your desire?  Are you willing to do what it takes to get really good?

 

Here is a video of  Jessie J at 15. You can tell she has been working on her craft for many years already.

Another video of a young Jessie J

A more recent live acoustic performance.

 

Dream!

How to get back into a practice routine

boy singingIt’s the beginning of 2016 and you haven’t practiced any singing since before Christmas.  Does that sound like you? I am a little bit guilty of this too.  The Christmas season was so busy for me I hardly had any time for anything else. It was a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends and I did sing heaps of Christmas carols, but most things like practice got put aside.  Now with the new year we find ourselves back into more of a routine, but finding the motivation to get back into practice can be a bit challenging.
You might want to start by sitting down and writing out a couple of goals for your singing this next couple of months.  My goal at the moment is to come up with a list of ten songs I would like to start learning as I need to build up my repertoire for performance and auditions.
However, it is important that I don’t start singing all these 10 songs straight away. Over this week all I am trying to do is get my voice back in shape.  I need to do my vocal “push ups”. Just like the rest of our body, if we don’t exercise consistently, things get out of shape.  My vocal chords and the surrounding muscles need to get a good work out.
I need to do this slowly, a bit to start with and then lengthen my sessions later on in the week.
So to start I will just do some light warm ups.  Sirens, bubbling lips, humming etc.. through my vocal range. Then some exercises to extend my vocal range and work on my resonance and then get into learning songs.
Starting with 15 –  20 minutes and then gradually increase this time over the week.
Just like the rest of your body,  if you go out and exercise full on straight away, you will most likely be very sore the next day or may even do some damage.  Your voice is the same.  Go slowly and gradually build up your strength and stamina.
Here are a couple of exercises to get you started:

Breathing:

 

5 note scale on ah:

 

practice makes perfect

 

The power of “Yet”

Music and singing requires accuracy and skill to be the best at your game.
More often than not we fall short of this and usually give up. Too often I hear from my students “I can’t do it, it’s too difficult”.
And they stop. They stop trying, stop persisting and then fail to make progress.

I like to use the words “not yet” all the time.
I have learned from years of experience, that when faced with something difficult it is important to remind ourselves that it will take time to master it.
With our ‘instant’ society we tend to believe that if I don’t get it straight away then it will not happen.
Working with children I sadly see this all the time.
By constantly reminding them that it is ok to have a go and get it wrong, and try again and again if you need to, they start to realize that if they persist eventually they will get it.

If you are studying anything and finding you are getting nowhere, it may be because you have hit a road block and instead of saying not yet have not bothered to look for a way around it and given up.

Tell yourself that “I haven’t  learned  ________________  yet!”  That little word makes such a difference to your end result.

Einstein-Persist

It’s Eisteddfod time

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Eisteddfods are a great opportunity to use as motivation to learn repertoire, improve your skills and practice performing.

Eisteddfods date back to the 12th century in Wales.

Eisteddfods are competitions that involve testing individuals for singing, dancing, acting and musicianship. The Royal South Street Eisteddfod in Ballarat has been running since 1891.  The Sydney Eisteddfod commenced in 1933 and offers some 400 events across all Performing Arts, catering to 30,000 performers annually. Modern equivalents in Australia are competitions reserved for schoolchildren, though many have open sections where anyone (including professionals) may participate and compete. Typically, a prize may be a scholarship to pursue a further career. Many young Australian actors and dancers participate regularly in the various competitions scheduled throughout the year.

The main Eisteddfods in our local community are:

The Sale Eisteddfod                          (entries have already closed)

The West Gippsland Eisteddfod    (entries close 7th June)

The Latrobe Valley Eisteddfod      (entries close 30th June

The Yarram Eisteddfod                   (entries close 1st June)

 

Please note there are costs involved such as entry fees, purchasing sheet music, paying for rehearsals with pianists. There are also rewards such as a sense of achievement, prizes that include cash, and feedback from the adjudicator (the person judging the performances)

If you would like to know more about entering an Eisteddfod or would like singing lessons to help you better when performing in things like Eisteddfods  click here and send me a message. Would be happy to help.

 

For a list of Eisteddfods and festivals in Victoria click here.

 

I have a limited number of places available for in person or on line lessons. To enquire about singing lessons click here.