Tag Archives: musical theatre

How to Sing Jazz

How to Sing Jazz

I tend to shy away from any blanket statements about how to sing a particular style, since each one has so many variations that are all valid. But in the interest of not rambling on forever, I’m going to give you some suggestions about how to sing jazz. None of these are hard and fast rules. There are many, many ways to make a genre work for you, but if you’re struggling or have a background in a different style of singing, then these tips are for you.

1. Play With the Phrasing and Rhythm

If you come from a classical, or even a musical theatre background, you’re probably used to pretty closely adhering to the notated rhythm. Try to be a little more playful with it. Hold a syllable out longer than you normally would and then play catch up by doing the next part a little faster; speed part of a line up and then draw out the rest of it; take breaths in places you might not have considered. In other words, just make the phrasing your own, and don’t feel like you have to stick to the way it was done in the past.

2. Have Fun With the Melody

Don’t feel like you have to stick to the written melody (although you should learn the original melody well before altering it). Try replacing some notes with others, not enough that the melody is no longer recognizable, but enough that it catches a listener’s attention, even after they’ve heard 300 different covers of the song. This is especially true if you’re repeating a section of the song.

3. Ornament It

Along similar lines as altering the melody, add some ornamentation. If this is daunting to you, don’t worry about starting with long terrifying runs. Just throw in a note bend or very short run. Instead of just ending a phrase on a note, throw in the note right above it for a quick flourish. Listen to this example:

4. Experiment with Amplification

A classical singer might need to fill the Met with her voice with no need for amplification, but this isn’t the case for a jazz singer, and you can make your vocals reflect that. Lean into your mic and try letting more air out through your notes than you’re used to. You may not want to sing everything this way, but because of mics, you have a wider range of sound colors that are available to you that you may not have worked with before.

5. Lose the Crystal Clarity

If you’re used to singing with pristine clarity and perfectly timed ringing vibrato, try to loosen up. Instead of holding that bell-like high note out, consider doing something new with it. Pour air into it, do a run off of it, make it brassier, or even change the note altogether. For sustained notes, try a straight tone into a relaxed, maybe even slower-than-usual vibrato.

6. Play With the Key

Unlike when you audition for a musical or opera, you have way more leeway with your key. Play around with different keys, until you get the vocal quality you’re looking for, whether that be low and world-weary, high and brassy, or mid-range and conversational.

7. Have Fun With Diphthongs and Consonants

Because you have the benefit of amplification, you don’t have to shape your vowels in a way that will make the sound carry as far. Instead of feeling like you have to draw out every vowel, play with drawing out a nasal consonant once in a while: “hommmmme” instead of “hoooome.” Or emphasize your dipthongs by lingering on both consonants: If you have to sustain the word, I, for example, try “aaaaaaheeee.”

8. Learn to Syncopate

If you’ve grown up on classical singing or even a lot of musical theatre and pop, you’re probably used to the strong beats being on 1, and to a lesser extent 3, if you’re in 4/4 time. Try clapping along with “When the Saints Go Marching In.” You may find yourself clapping on the syllables when, saints, march, and in– beats 1 and 3. Instead, try clapping on the, go, and ing. Experiment with singing on these weaker beats as well.

9. Learn to Scat

You don’t need to scat to sing jazz, so don’t let this intimidate you. But if you’re so inclined, start imitating different instruments: the “wah wah” of brass, or the “bip-bop” of percussion and improvise on these syllables. Learning to scat is definitely its own beast, so if that’s further than you want to go with your jazz singing, there’s no shame in that.

Academy of the Performing Arts: An Interview With Drew

Academy of the Performing Arts: An Interview With Drew

Because so many of our students audition for local performing arts programs, we decided to put together a collection of interviews with students who’ve successfully auditioned and been accepted to various programs. We’ll start with the ultra-talented Drew, who was just accepted into Huntington Beach’s Academy of the Performing Arts (APA) as a musical theatre major for next year. Drew shares her experience about her prep work for the audition and about the audition itself and even kindly offers her email address so that perspective students can get in contact with her and ask questions.

MM: Can you outline to me what you did to help prepare for your audition? Did you feel like preparation was an important part of your success?

DD: Preparation is the key to success. Without preparing myself and rehearsing over and over again, I wouldn’t have felt confident going into the audition room. I prepared by choosing my audition songs about 3 months in advance and just practiced as much as I could. It’s quite simple.

MM: Can you describe the audition process itself? Was there anything unexpected, or did it go like you thought that it would?

DD: So there was a dance, acting, and singing audition. During the dance audition we learned a short dance routine and auditioned in groups of four. In acting and singing there were about 4 or 5 people behind the table and I auditioned with no other students in the room. During my singing audition I only sang one of my audition songs and the pianist played some notes on the piano for me to match pitch with. I was at the school for about 3 hours since there were so many people auditioning but the actual auditions only lasted about 5 minutes each. Everything went smoothly and I wasn’t surprised that I only had to sing one of the two songs I prepared.

MM: Did you find preparing for the audition, or the audition itself, to be a bigger challenge?

DD: Honestly, preparing for auditions is always easy for me. I have an extensive knowledge of musical theatre audition songs and a musical theatre repertoire book that I can use for auditions. If you don’t know what a repertoire book is, it’s a binder filled with audition songs that are in your range and are a wide variety of different types of songs. Always have classic and contemporary songs, uptempos and ballads, and comedic and dramatic. I have a few pop songs in my rep book as well because you never know when the director might call for a pop song to be sung at auditions! I also fill my rep book with an array of different monologues. And I was nervous for the audition itself but it was over in about 10 minutes and went better than I expected!

MM: Do you have any thing that you do to help you calm down before the audition, or are you one of the lucky few who don’t get nervous?

DD: I’m one of those auditioners who seems like they’re calm and confident but on the inside I’m pretty nervous. I always try to calm myself by:

  1. Taking deep breaths
  2. Drinking lots of water because being hydrated can really calm you somehow
  3. Giving yourself pep talks! You can do it!

MM: How did it feel when you found out that you got accepted?

DD: Amazing! I felt that my audition material was great and my resume and essay were written well. I couldn’t stop smiling for a week.

MM: What are you most looking forward to in attending APA?

DD: Overall just getting to be around all my friends. I have been online schooled for the past 2 years so I sadly haven’t gotten to see many of them.

MM: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

DD: If anyone is auditioning for APA like I did and needs help finding audition songs, monologues, or just needs some advice feel free to email me at drewnicoleeee@gmail.com. I always love getting to help people find the perfect audition material for them!

Student Spotlight: Tessa A.

Student Spotlight: Tessa A.

Meet Tessa, Anne’s talented voice and guitar student. Tessa is extremely versatile, singing and accompanying herself on everything from pop to musical theatre. Recently, she made it through three rounds of America’s Got Talent, getting chosen to sing in front of the executive producers. We’re excited to hear whether she gets called for the next round, but regardless of the outcome, we’re so proud of her and know she’ll go far with her music.

MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing and playing guitar? Why guitar?

TA: I always liked singing but started to formally take lessons when I was 6 (~three years ago). I’ve been playing guitar for just one year and wanted to learn an instrument that I can use to accompany my singing.

MM: Do you share your musical skills with family, friends, or your community? How?

TA: I pretty much sing at every family gathering and I also try to do open mics and recitals every chance I get.

MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals?

TA: I have a really fun time practicing and my goals are to start writing my own songs by the time I’m twelve.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why?

TA: I love Coldplay because Chris Martin has great vocals. I also LOVE Sam Smith cause his voice delivers so much emotion.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?

TA: When I was working on “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” I worked really hard on my breath support so I can hit the high notes. Miss Anne helped me improve so much.

MM: What advice do you wish you had at the beginning? What advice would you give to other students just starting out?

TA: To always remember to connect with  the emotion of a song I’m singing. The most important part of singing is making the audience feel a new emotion, and if you don’t connect with the song then the audience wont feel it either.

MM: I heard you had a great AGT audition! Tell us about it! What did you do for your audition?

TA: The AGT auditions were really fun. Lots of crazy acts and talented artists. It was a great experience, and even if I don’t get in it was a great feeling to get to sing five songs for the executive producers.

MM: How did you feel going in? Nervous? Excited?

TA: I was just very excited and a little nervous.

MM: What was the most memorable thing about the experience?

TA: The most exciting part of the experience was when I got to sing for the show’s executive producers.

MM: How are you preparing for the next rounds of the process?

TA: Not sure I will make it to the next round. For now I just practice like always and if I get in I will sing from my heart.

Teacher Feature: Lina M.

Teacher Feature: Lina M.

Our newest voice and piano teacher, Lina, has performed all over the world, including the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and a wide variety of other venues in both America and throughout Europe. She won first and second place in two separate NATS competitions, one for contemporary music and the other for musical theatre. She won the contemporary music category conquering the infamously difficult “Chandelier” and “Stone Cold,” and for that has our undying respect! We’re so excited to have her as part of our team.

MM: What instruments do you play, how did you get started with each one, and how long have you played them?

LM: I am a vocalist and play the piano. I started singing in church choir when I was four years old, and I’ve been singing ever since! I started teaching myself to play the piano during college and have fallen in love with the instrument.

MM: Who has inspired you musically?

LM: As an artist, my main motivation is to speak to my own experiences and connect with others who resonate with the sentiments expressed in my music. For this reason, I find my biggest inspiration is artists who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable in their music. Twenty One Pilots and Sia are two artists whose vulnerability inspires me. They both fearlessly address their struggles with mental illness and use their music as a platform to reach others struggling through similar experiences. As a creator, I hope to find the same strength in vulnerability with my own music.

MM: What are your favorite musical genres, and why?

LM: Some of my ultimate favorite genres are soul, gospel R&B, alternative, hip hop, atmospheric rock, modern orchestral, musical theatre and dance music. I love each of these genres for unique reasons, but they all share a deep emotional expression in the music. I also love music that lends itself towards dancing, as I’m a choreographer.

MM: What are your current musical projects?

LM: I’m currently writing and producing my own music. I’m working on expanding my musical knowledge by learning to play more instruments (guitar, drums, and more) and reinforcing my musical theory background.

MM: How do you practice, and how do you balance music with some of your other life goals? How do you help your students practice?

LM: When I practice, I set aside a specific amount of time each day and plan to work through a few specific tasks. For example, if I’m going to be performing a piece for a recital, I’ll plan to work through the diction of the piece for an hour one day, review the trouble spots the next day, and so on. In order to make sure my time is well-balanced, I write out my short term and long term musical goals and decide the most efficient way to work towards those while also granting time for my other time commitments.

I advise my students to treat music practice like they would studying. You shouldn’t throw out your voice practicing all in one day, but instead plan to practice consistently for shorter time periods. I also encourage students to make practice fun by incorporating it into your daily routine in unique ways–that way when it comes time to practice you’re excited for it.

MM: It looks like you’ve performed in quite a few places! Do you have any favorites (country, venue, etc.)?

LM: I’ve performed numerous wonderful places, but one of my favorites was in Vienna, Austria. My choir and I performed in a small church called St. Peterskirche. The beauty of the architecture and artwork inside of the church was unparalleled by anything I’ve ever experienced, and the acoustics and atmosphere made the performance feel ethereal.

MM: I heard you won first in the post-collegiate contemporary music category and second in the collegiate musical theatre category for the NATS competition—congratulations! Tell us about the experience! What did you sing? What was the process like? How did you prepare?

LM: I competed in the Bay Area NATS competition in the contemporary music and musical theatre categories. The experience was wonderful. After consulting with my vocal teacher, Donna Olson, I competed in the Spring and Fall competitions of 2016. I was required to select three diverse pieces to perform, fitting within the parameters of the competition’s official guidelines. After selecting my repertoire, I worked tirelessly to perfect the musicianship and performance of my pieces. Each category was performed in front of a different judge panel of 3-4 NATS members, who scored your performance based on technique, style, stage presence, and preparedness.

For the musical theatre and contemporary music categories I performed a selection including “Breathe” from In the Heights, “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato and “Chandelier” by Sia, and “Once Upon a Time” from Brooklyn.

My first NATS I placed 1st in the Collegiate Contemporary Music Category, and at my second NATS I was lucky enough to place 1st in the Post-Collegiate Contemporary Music Category! It was an amazing experience seeing all my hard work paid off.

Classical Vocal Program

Should I Go into a Classical Vocal Program

The Julliard School Photo, by Don Ramey Logan under cc by 4.0

A couple years ago, one of my most impressive musical theatre students attended a NATS musical theatre audition. A little background on her: When she started with me, she was most comfortable with a healthy musical theatre belt, but by time she did her audition she also had a glistening head voice and could pull off legit like a pro. Their advice at NATS (after hearing her on a Jason Robert Brown song from The Last Five Years of all things)? That she sounded good but should go pursue a second degree in a classical vocal program.

That advice was completely baffling to me. So instead of continuing to perfect her musical theatre craft and building up her résumé by doing some shows, she should spend the rest of her 20’s rapidly going into debt while getting another degree in a genre of music she wasn’t interested in? Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of crossovers between musical theatre singing and classical. Classical singing would continue to help her develop her breath control, lift her soft palate, strengthen her head voice, and a number of other wonderful things that can easily be applied to musical theatre. It’s just not the right move for someone who’s already a trained singer, who’s getting better at musical theatre singing every week, and who’s in a perfect age range to be on the audition circuit.

So When Should You Go into a Classical Vocal Program?

There are lots of great reasons to pursue a degree like this, but you should go for the right reasons. Here are some excellent reasons to consider it.

1. You Love Classical Singing

This goes without saying, but if classical voice is truly what you want to do–because it’s what you love singing, because you’re interested in an opera career, because you hope to one day teach classical voice at a conservatory, or just because it brings you joy, then by all means, do it!

2. You Really Want to Sing (Pretty Much Anything) in College, and This is Your Only Option

Okay, so this might not be quite as solid a reason as #1, but it’s not a bad one. If you just love singing and don’t care what you sing, you’ll still probably have a great experience. Just make sure you’ve tried out some classical music before making any decisions.

3. You Love Learning New Genres

Maybe you don’t know a ton about classical singing, but if you love learning new genres, new aspects of music history, or just new things in general, it’s pretty likely you’re going to enjoy this!

Who Shouldn’t Go into a Classical Voice Program?

For all the wonderful reasons to go into this, there are plenty of reasons not to as well!

1. You Want to be a Pop Singer (or Any Other Type of Non-Classical Singer) But Want to Learn Good Technique First

No! If you want to learn healthy pop vocal technique, go into a program (or simply to a singing teacher) who specializes in healthy pop vocal technique. There are plenty of wonderful crossovers among the genres, like pitch, support, and breath control, but there are just as many aspects of classical singing you’re going to need to undo once you go back into pop singing.

2. You Want to Sing and Think This is the Best Shot at Getting Paid For It

No, sorry. As tough as it can be “making it” in music, making it in classical singing is one of the tougher vocal fields. The Met pays a full-time living, but the vast majority of opera houses out there don’t. Even if you want to teach singing one day and hope to start your own business doing it, you’ll get more work if you’re great at teaching commercial genres.

3. You’ve Heard that if You Sing Classical You Can Sing Anything

Again, no. Sure, you might be able to hit all the notes in other genres, but the way to get good at a genre is to practice that genre. The way to get good at a few genres is to practice those few genres. There’s no one genre you can sing that’ll make you good at all genres (and to be honest, musical theatre would get you closer to that goal than classical, since it spans more styles and vocal qualities).

To be clear, I’m not at all down on getting a classical vocal degree. I think it’s wonderful for many people. Just go into it because you enjoy the pursuit of it and not because you think it’s what you should be doing. If you love classical singing or want to explore new genres and expand your technique to new areas, then by all means, go for it, but don’t do it because you think it’s what you need to do before singing the type of music you like. It’s a disservice to classical music, which is so much more than a means to an end, and a disservice to pop music, which has its own set of great techniques.

Student Spotlight: Delaina

Student Spotlight: Delaina N.

Delaina is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter who studies with our teacher Michael. In her early years she was inspired to learn music by her musician grandfather, Kenny. She’s sung everything from classical and musical theatre music to current pop radio hits. Her dedication to practicing her craft is inspiring, and we can’t wait to see perform at some of our upcoming recitals.

MM: What are some of your favorite hobbies, outside of music? Favorite school subjects, books, movies, shows, sports?

DN: Some of my favorite hobbies are working out and spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy reading and watching Netflix if I have some free time. My favorite show to watch on Netflix in Criminal Minds. I find it really interesting because I’m studying criminology and psychology right now at school.

MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing?

DN: I’ve been singing since I can remember. I’ve always been interested in music and I was in choir throughout my high school career, in classical choir and musical theater. I think what really got me to start playing an instrument was my grandfather, Kenny, he is an extremely talented musician. What really helped me with guitar was the fact that I could understand certain music terms and I learned how to sing in proper classical tone.

MM: What have been some of your favorite performances, and why? How do you share your music with others, beyond recitals?

DN: Performing in high school was always really fun for me. I haven’t really performed for anyone since I graduated, but that’s because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my music.

MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals?

DN: I’ve always wanted to better myself as a musician. It was tough to keep practicing when I first started, it takes time to begin playing songs when you don’t know any chords, but after playing guitar for a few months it became kind of therapeutic. I think my goals for this upcoming year would be to perform in a few recitals and write a few more songs.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why?

DN: A few bands and artists that have inspired me would be Ed Sheeran, Panic! At the Disco, and All Time Low. These musicians inspire me because they pour themselves into their music and out on the stage when they perform. That’s what I aspire to be like.

MM: What are some of your favorite songs, and why?

DN: Some of my favorite songs are “Therapy” by All Time Low, “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran, and “The End of All Things” by P!ATD. All of these songs have incredible lyrics and music. They also display the artists’ emotions extremely well.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?

DN: A song that I really struggled with would be Shawn Mendes’ song “A Little Too Much.” There’s a picking pattern in the song that I had a really hard time doing for a while. I’m still not great at finger picking, but after playing that song it has definitely become easier. It just proves that practice makes perfect.

MM: What advice do you wish you had at the beginning? What advice would you give to other students just starting out?

DN: I think some advice that I wish I had when I first started would be to never skip a day of practice because one day makes all the difference. That’s also the advice I would give to other students. Practice is incredibly important as well as determination. Don’t give up on a song, even if you and your teacher decide to move past it keep going back to it and practicing.

musical theatre songs for pop voices

10 Musical Theatre Songs for Pop Voices

You’ve sung pop music all your life, but now an audition’s come up, and you need to sing a musical theatre song. Sound familiar? If this is the case, and you don’t have time to suddenly develop a legit musical theatre voice (think Rogers and Hammerstein), it’s very important that you don’t choose your audition song lightly. If you’ve only ever worked on singing Adele songs and haven’t developed your head voice, you’re going to seem massively out of your element if you show up with “The Beauty Is” or Vanilla Ice Cream. Luckily, there are plenty of musical theatre songs you can fairly convincingly pull off as a pop singer. Here are 10 great musical theatre songs for pop voices.
*Please note that if this is a Broadway audition, or something more professional, some of these are going to be overdone and should usually be avoided. But I’m guessing that if you’ve only sung pop music and have never worked on musical theatre before, you probably aren’t Broadway bound quite yet, in which case these will do just fine.

1. Blow, Gabriel, Blow

It’s low, it’s from Anything Goes and serves as classic musical theatre, and it doesn’t require much more than a belt. To fully sell this song, you’ll want to add some musical theatre vibrato, but you can totally sell it if you’re a good pop singer.

2. Lost in the Wilderness

Long before there was Wicked, there was the Stephen Schwartz musical Children of Eden. This wonderful pop-musical theatre song sung by Cain from the biblical Cain and Abel story is one of my favorites.

3. Part of That

This one is a go-to for me. As far as Jason Robert Brown songs go, it’s not one of the ones you hear constantly, despite the Last Five Years movie. It requires a good mixed belt and some acting chops.

4. King of the World

Since we’re on the Jason Robert Brown train, let’s just throw another one up here. “King of the World” is a beautiful, soulful number from Songs for a New World.

5. Everything Else

*Warning: this one uses profanity, so if you’re playing it for your kids, watch with caution. Stay away from this one as an audition piece if you’re too young to use swear words in your songs without making people uncomfortable. That being said, the character in Next to Normal is a teenager, and this is a fun one. It’s in a fairly easy belt range and is a great acting piece.

6. Beauty School Dropout

Here’s a classic one from Grease for you to have some fun with!

7. There Are Worse Things I Could Do

Let’s stick with Grease and throw in one for a girl. This one can definitely be a little overdone, though not egregiously, and it’s a great one for pop singers.

8. Wicked Little Town

If you’re young, pick the appropriate verses from this Hedwig number, or maybe just change “turning tricks” to something else, but regardless, this is a beautiful song with a beautiful sentiment: “And if you’ve got no other choice, you know you can follow my voice…”

9. Safer

It’s a Krysta Rodriguez song from First Date that’s fun to sing and isn’t as overdone as “Pulled.”

10. Hard to Be the Bard

There’s nothing hotter than Shakespeare, right? I bet you’ll be a giddy thing working on this Something Rotten number.

What are some of your favorite musical theatre songs that a mostly pop-trained voice can pull off? Let us know!