• Bass, Drums, Guitar, Jennifer Iovanne, performing, Singers, Violin, Voice, Woodwinds 15.02.2010 Comments Off on Stage Fright: Conquer your fear!

    With our biannual student concert just around the corner, some tips to help combat stage fright are in order!  Ah, stage fright – that dreaded onslaught of fear so many of us experience before (and sometimes while) we perform.  The pulse quickens.  Breathing becomes short, shallow and unsupported.  Hands become sweaty and shaky.  Sound familiar?

    Stage fright is completely normal — and yes, there are several things you can do to help ease stage fright immediately.  The best solution over time?  Perform often!  Sounds counterintuitive, but the more often you get up there and perform, the easier it becomes over time. Here are some pointers to help make your struggle with stage fright a little easier:

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    1. Know your material.  Practice, practice, practice.  A lot of the fear of performing is centered around making a mistake — hitting a wrong note, forgetting a line.  The more you know your song, the more confidence you’ll feel!
    2. Breathe!  (And keep breathing!)  Challenge yourself to breathe slowly and deeply — 10 seconds in, 10 seconds out; repeat.  Also, try yawning and stretching.  Relaxing your body and your breath will ease the uncomfortable feelings associated with stage fright.
    3. Fake it.  If you’re scared, that’s ok.  Smile anyway.  Walk with confidence.  Give it all you’ve got.  Chances are, the audience won’t know you were nervous, and will be wowed by your stellar performance!
    4. Think of the performance as a reward.  You’re here because you’ve worked hard, had a blast, learned a lot — and now you want to share that joy with others!  Performing is an awesome way to stay motivated, meet other musicians, and celebrate what you have accomplished!
    5. Use a mantra.  Sounds a little cheesy, but some folks find a phrase ("I can do it/I am strong/Share your joy"….) and repeat it in their heads while prepping for a performance.  For many folks, using a mantra provides a sense of comfort, and helps focus the mind.
    6. Think ahead: for most of us, the hardest part of stage fright hits us BEFORE we perform, and usually eases up within the minute or so of our performance.  After performing, lots of us feel a rush of excitement and relief — no matter how scared we were beforehand, lots of us finish the performance with a huge smile on their face and a rush of excitement — performing feels great, and we want to relive the experience!
    7. Come prepared: be a few minutes early.  Have a light snack.  Avoid caffeine and lots of sugar.  If you’re a singer, warm up your voice. Bring a water bottle.
    8. Think positive thoughts:  you’re here because you’ve worked hard and had a lot of fun, and you want to share that with others!  Always remember, the audience is on your side.  We WANT you to have fun and rock your performance!  🙂

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  • Jennifer Iovanne, Practice 12.01.2010 Comments Off on Tis’ the Season (for colds and flus…and lessons!)

    Occasional flu and cold symptoms are inevitable for most of us, especially during the colder months.  Added to the normal responsibilities of school and work, feeling under the weather can leave us with little energy leftover to practice music.  By all means, take a few days off of practice when you’re sick.  But what should you do when you feel well enough to get back into the swing of things? Here’s a few tips, whether you’re a piano guru, a guitar shredder, or a vocal star!

     

    • Wash your hands before lessons!  This is always a good idea, whether
      you’re sick or not.  Preventative care is an awesome way to help avoid
      spreading germs!
    • Aim to practice as regularly as possible – the more consistently you
      take time to rock out on your instrument, the easier it is to keep
      progressing and make learning fun!
    • Get plenty of rest – the more rested and relaxed you are coming to
      lesson, the easier it is to focus and think happy thoughts!

    For voice students, there’s a few other tips to follow:

    • Don’t over-sing.  Yes, it’s tempting to belt out your favorite song
      another 4 times, but doing so can inhibit recovery from colds.  When
      your vocal chords are swollen, keep vocal use in check.  It’s worth
      it!
    • Don’t sing too loudly, too quietly or too high.  Again, be as kind to
      your voice as possible.  Keep the singing range from venturing too
      high, and avoid volume extremes on either end.  Whispering is actually
      pretty tough on vocal chords, believe it or not.
    • Drink lots of liquids.  Water, hot herbal tea are especially great.
      Even when I’m healthy, I drink at least 10 cups of water a day.
      Staying hydrated is really important to the voice!
      Stay healthy in the new year, and keep rocking!

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  • Jennifer Iovanne, Piano 03.12.2009 Comments Off on Picture-Perfect Posture: Piano

    Ah, nothing like alliteration to kick things off!  In this article, we’ll be discussing the ins and outs of posture and its role in piano lessons.  It’s often overlooked, and for good reason: it’s just not that exciting.  But it is important and plays a vital role in playing comfortably and effectively through the years, so it’s best to learn and apply these techniques early on.

    • Don’t sit too close to the piano.  I see this all the time – students nearly hover over the keys.  Sit in the center front area of the piano bench, and scoot the seat back until legs are at a 90 degree angle with the floor.
    • Relax!  Relax your shoulders, your jaw, your neck.
    • Keep hands loosely rounded, not flat.  Imagine a small tennis ball is underneath each palm.
    • Keep wrists off the piano – keep them relaxed, but don’t let wrists droop.  This causes unnecessary tension in the hand and usually causes us to play with flat fingers.
    • Sit tall, but comfortably so.  Office chairs often have special ergonomic features to prevent unnecessary strain for this reason.  When sitting at the piano, keep your back straight and neck tall but remember to stay loose and relaxed as well.

    For most of us, this posture won’t begin feel natural and normal for some time.  That’s okay – just remember to pay attention to it each time you practice, and before long it will become second nature.  The benefits?  You’ll avoid unnecessary strain, and you’ll gain better control over the keys, helping you develop as a stronger, more effective musician!

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  • Jennifer Iovanne, Singers, Voice 03.12.2009 Comments Off on Picture-Perfect Posture: Voice

    If you’re in voice lessons, you’ve probably had your teacher lead you through some stretches, tell you to keep your knees relaxed, etc.  Ever wonder why?  Body positioning plays a significant role in producing a strain-free, natural sound.

    Over the course of the day – especially if we’re spending long hours sitting at a desk! – the shoulders and neck tend to hold tension and the breath tends to be shallow.  Releasing unnecessary tension and relaxing the breath are paramount to developing a richer sound.  Here are a few specific posture-related pointers to focus on:

    • Feet should be around shoulder-length apart, ideally with one foot a bit further forward than the other – this helps “root” you to the ground.  Avoid slouching.  Keep weight evenly distributed.
    • Knees should be loose, not locked!
    • Hands ought to rest at your sides – avoid crossing arms, putting hands on hips, etc.
    • Shoulders should be relaxed and back — think of standing tall with chest open, but not in a forced, strained manner.
    • Keep chin roughly parallel to ground – don’t raise your chin to hit high notes, it creates strain!

    It’s worthwhile to take a few minutes before singing to check your posture — it will make a difference!

    ~ Jennifer Iovanne

  • For Parents, Jennifer Iovanne 16.10.2009 Comments Off on Making the Most of Your Lessons

    Learning an instrument takes consistent work, but it should also be
    fun and relaxing.  After playing a song, I’ve heard countless students
    remark that it “sounded better at home.”  Lots of people – kids and
    adults – tend to get a little self-conscious in lessons, especially
    early on.  The following tips are great ways to help you focus, relax
    and enjoy the process!

    1. Get to lessons a couple minutes early

    When folks are late, they tend to be frazzled, feel rushed and
    unfocused.  Aim to get to the studio a few minutes early – this is a
    great way to immediately feel more relaxed prior to your lesson!

    2. Wash your hands before your lesson

    Besides the germ-busting factor, washing your hands before each lesson
    will also help you focus your mind on the task at hand, and mentally
    prepare for a calming, fun, focused lesson.

    3.  Turn off the cell phone

    For 30 minutes, allow yourself to focus on develop your musical
    prowess.  Ignore the cell phone, try to put away any worries or
    concerns that are on your mind.  Let the outside world go and you’ll
    be more likely to connect with your instrument.

    4. Practice during the week

    For obvious reasons, the more prepared you are, the more focused and
    confident you’ll feel in lesson.  Consistent practice most days of the
    week is the best approach!

    5. Identify short and long-term goals

    This is great for kids and adults alike.  Your goals can be as
    specific or broad as you want — learn a particular song or genre,
    enjoy music, become familiar with chords, perform in a recital, develop
    a new hobby — and so forth and so on.  Reflecting on your personal
    motivation for being in lessons helps develop a positive, focused
    attitude in lesson and throughout the week with practicing!  If you’re
    not sure what you are looking for or how to get there, that’s okay!
    You can also work with your teacher to identify goals and interests.

    6. Remember that we’re on your side!

    Teachers aren’t just musicians — we are there to help you and
    encourage you. We want to help you succeed in your musical goals!

    ~ Jennifer Iovanne

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  • Jennifer Iovanne, Singers, Songwriting 16.09.2009 Comments Off on Identifying your vocal range

    When students begin learning piano (or guitar, or any instrument for that matter!), there’s a common starting point – learn to identify intervals, types of notes, and so forth.  With voice, the path is generally not as clearly laid out.  While music theory still applies, students beginning voice lessons have quite likely sung before at some point and have an idea in their head of how their voice sounds – raspy, low, thin, high, mellow, and so forth.  In other words, folks generally begin voice lessons with an idea of their own ability.  Identifying our conceptions of our own voice is very important for many reasons – it helps us better identify specific aspects we like or dislike about our voice, identify areas we’ve like to improve upon, and gain a deeper awareness and ability to listen to vocal qualities.  A great way to begin thinking about your voice is to work with your voice teacher to figure out your vocal range and “type”.  Here’s a run-down of how that works:

    Everyone has a vocal range – a particular number of notes they can comfortably hit.  Over time with practice, our ability to higher or lower notes clearly can increase, which can expand the vocal range a bit.  In general everyone falls into a particular voice “type”.  This is GREAT info to use when purchasing vocal music – especially for classical or musical theater voice music, look for music meant for your voice type!

    The general names used for vocal types are:

    Soprano: the higher female voice.  Generally from the A or B below middle C to high C.

    Alto: the lower female voice.  Generally from F below middle C to F on the top line of the treble clef.

    Tenor: the higher male voice.  Generally from C one octave below middle C to the G above middle C.

    Bass: the lower male voice.  Generally from the C below the bass clef to middle C.

    There are other types as well, including:

    Contralto – a low alto voice

    Mezzo – “mixed” voice – between alto and soprano ranges

    Baritone – between tenor and bass ranges

    Do you know your voice type?  Work with your voice teacher to gain a better understanding of your own voice, and how we can use proper vocal technique to make your vocal range stronger!

    Jennifer Iovanne

  • Jennifer Iovanne, Piano, Practice 29.07.2009 Comments Off on Making the most of your piano practice

    As with any instrument, practice outside of lessons is very important for continued progress.  For most kids, parental encouragement and support is necessary to ensure practicing is done regularly throughout the week.  During the school year, aim to build practice sessions into your child’s regular schedule – or into your own schedule!  During the summer, take extra measures to keep practice sessions fun, exciting and productive – Rachel’s article below is a great resource in ideas to help stay engaged during these summer months!  Want other ideas on how to help yourself (or your child) make the most of their practice outside of lessons?

    First, be sure to review the weekly lesson log – these are passed out to piano students in each lesson with information on pieces to practice and other things to work on during the week.  Be sure to practice assigned material – it is also great to spend some time just playing around on the piano and making your own music, but don’t sacrifice one for the other.

    Come to the piano as relaxed and focused as possible.  Try to eliminate distractions and other noise if possible – TV, conversations, etc.   For a lot of students, having a cool drink at the piano and taking a moment to take a few deep, relaxing breaths can help to focus the mind and encourage creativity!  Think of “putting away” any frustrations or worries you may be holding, and let the piano be a place where you can stop multi-tasking and let yourself be in the moment as completely as possible.  The more you can encourage your child – or yourself – to treat practice sessions as fun AND productive, the better.

    If you or your child gets discouraged in piano lessons, remember to think of progress in baby steps — no one became a piano virtuoso overnight!  Encourage progress and acknowledge frustrations but don’t let them stop you.  Each practice session helps build a stronger, more confident piano player – keep it up, you CAN do it!

    ~ Jennifer Iovanne