Good singing begins with good breath work. Plain and simple, if you’re not breathing properly and using your breath in a supportive way, all the correct placement in the world isn’t going to be terribly effective, because you won’t have the breath to get through the phrases. So we start with breath, and we come back to it often. We also talk a lot about vocal health and hygiene. Vowel placement is kind of a big deal too. Oh, and muscle use/relaxation also factors in pretty significantly. Although those are a lot of technical things to consider, singing is also very much about connecting to emotion and expressing the story of a song. So we talk a lot about both the technical and performance aspects of singing in your singing lessons.
At THE STUDIO, it is our philosophy that individual voice lessons should begin no earlier than age 15-16. There are a few reasons for this. Female bodies continue to grow and physically develop until the age of roughly 15. Male bodies can keep growing even longer than that. Beginning intensive, individualized voice training prior to the body completing it’s growth can potentially change the way a voice develops. While it may not manifest in every case, we believe it is a safer course of action to involve kids under this age in group singing programs with a sound technical component to them, such as school and community choirs, glee clubs, and Kodaly classes. Then, once the body is more or less fully grown, the vocal cords cease to be at risk of developmental change due to training. At this time, we can begin to add technical components to the vocal instrument that has developed naturally, making it stronger and improving range and focus.
Typical piano lessons at most studios involve working into the Royal Conservatory syllabus, and sticking with classical repertoire, with a component of theory thrown in.
You can tell us what kind of piano you’re interested in playing. Are you a jazz buff? Do you totally dig pop music and want to play rock and roll piano? Are you super bluesy and want to leave your soul on the keyboard? Are you a soloist, or do you want to be an accompanist? Maybe you want to self-accompany while singing?
Any and all of those things are possible. (And you know what? So is the classical piano route.)
Every single one of those genres of playing has their undeniable merits. It really comes down to where your heart is. What makes you feel excited about playing music? What do you want to do with your music?
Your instructor may have you work on some pieces of music or techniques that are outside of your comfort zone as well, but that’s because as musicians, we need to stretch and grow to find our own musical voices. Most of your lesson work can be in the genre or genres that pique your interest the most.
Your piano lessons will involve not only developing the physical motor skills of playing your instrument, but also learning to read music, ear training, theory, and when appropriate, your lessons can include improvisation as well. Beginner piano lessons are appropriate for ages 5+.
Who are your guitar heroes?
Many people start playing guitar because they fall in love with one player, or one guitar-based band, and they need to be able to do that too. Some people fall in love with music as a whole, or a particular style of it, and just gravitate towards guitar because that’s what they feel deep inside. Other people pick up the guitar to look cool or get the girl (or boy!), and unwittingly begin a life-long love affair with their instrument.
What are your reasons for wanting to play guitar?
In many typical guitar lessons, you would tell the teacher what song you wanted to learn, and they’d teach it to you. Over. And over. Wash, rinse, repeat.
At THE STUDIO, we do things a little differently. Sure, you can tell your teacher the songs you’d like to learn, and yep, you’ll learn ’em. You will also learn how music works, and how your instrument drives it, with you at the wheel. That means learning the mechanics of music (basic theory), the mechanics of your instrument, working on your physical dexterity, doing some ear training and some improvisation. (Improv to guitar players is like pig skin to football players – you rarely have one without the other.)
It’s a far more complete approach to learning guitar.
It’s a far more complete approach to falling head over heels in love with it too.
Beginner guitar lessons are appropriate for ages….well, it’s really all about the size of your hands. If your hands are big enough, then you’re ready. Often that’s around 10 years old, but definitely depends on the person.
Music theory can be intimidating, and it can be dry. However, with the right approach, and with the right teacher, music theory can also be exciting and illuminating. All of a sudden, the mechanics of music come to life, and the road map makes sense. With good theory training, not only does your instrument make more sense, but the world of songwriting can be vastly opened up. Music theory is intertwined with many other aspects of music: songwriting, arranging, ear training, and improvisation, to name a few. Our teachers bring music theory alive, and help you understand the functionality of common musical elements within different genres of music.
In theory, we will examine the fundamental grammar and syntax of tonal music, and develop your skills in notation and analysis of basic pitch and rhythmic structures. We will progress from the overtone series, intervals, scales and modes through rhythm and meter, chords and principles of voice-leading, harmonic progression theory, root position part-writing and use of chord inversions to create more melodic bass lines and a greater variety of vertical sonorities, chord scales/harmonic extensions, parallel harmony, and reharmonization.
But don’t let all those big, scary words send you running. We’ll start at your level (whether that’s zero theory or university degree theory)…and progress logically from there. And it’ll actually be fun. Really, it will.
Ear training is an incredibly important part of advanced musicianship. Being able to translate the music you hear to what you play under your hands or put down on paper, or alternately, to translate the music that’s written on the paper into your hands or voice, are skills that are integral to working musicians.
In these Ear Training lessons, we will concentrate on melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic dictation and sight singing.
Improvisation is often part of private music lessons on any given instrument. For those who wish to focus on it more fully, specific improv lessons are available. And while improvising can be intimidating, it can also be incredibly fun and rewarding.
At its most basic, improvisation is being able to play or sing unplanned solos over chord changes. That’s it. Doesn’t sound so hard, right? There is some learning that goes on behind the scenes of every good improviser, however.
If you study improv, you will begin with rhythmic concepts, basic chord-scale relationships and development of technical exercises for basic chord progressions. As your study of goes deeper, you will begin to analyze chord progressions and undertake more advanced chord-scale analysis. Eventually, you will get to melodic minor modes, including the “altered” scale, whole-tone and diminished symmetrical chord scales, chromaticism, chromatic approaches using pentatonic and altered pentatonic scales, and more.