Singing Lessons: After

It has been a long time since I started my Singing Lessons, and I cannot believe how far I have come. When I first started this activity, I had not sung in my life and I had no techniques to rely on. Now, I have participated in two singing auditions, have recorded several songs, and I am much more aware of my breathing and projection techniques. In other words, I have certainly “Developed new skills,” which was one of my Learning Outcomes.

In addition, I believe I have also shown a great amount of perseverance in this CAS experience. Keeping up with my singing lessons has not always been easy, and some of the songs I’ve had to sing were quite complicated and required me to practise them many times over. However, I overcame these difficulties through hard work and dedication, and I am happy to say that I have missed very few classes over these last two years. For this, I am very proud of myself. Therefore, I have achieved my other learning outcome: “Show commitment to, and perseverance in, CAS experiences.”

There are very few things I would have liked to change about my singing experience. The most significant one is possibly not being able to ever sing a solo song in an audition, but I am probably still not ready for one. Still, as a closing for this experience, I would like to share my latest singing recording. It is a Spanish song called “Si Tu No Estás Aquí” by singer Rosana, and I am very proud of how it turned out. I think it perfectly represents how long I have come ever since I started my lessons, as I would not have been able to sing like that a year ago. You can listen to the song here (when available).

All in all, I am very happy about this CAS experience, and it is one of those pastimes I will make sure to keep working on even after my IB years are over.

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Singing Lessons: During #11 – Audition Time!

So much has happened since I last updated my blog!

In class, I have been practising many new songs, including “Out of Reach” by Gabrielle, “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt and, now, “Si tu no estás aquí” by Rosanna. Out of all of these, “Out of Reach” was definitely the hardest. It took me a while to figure out how I could hit all the right notes without sounding awful. However, I practised hard at home and ended up getting so much better at it that I was congratulated by the teacher! Meanwhile, “Don’t Speak” was very fun to sing, as it is upbeat and allows for a lot playing around with registers, something I found very interesting. I have only barely started practising, “Si tu no estás aquí”, but it is bound to be very fun to work through. My teacher has told me this song has the potential to sound very good on me due to my low voice, so now I just have to focus on practising it and giving the song a personal touch.

However, it was my recent audition (on February 16th) which has truly left a mark on me this term. My teacher decided to make us work on a cover of a song called “Tonight You Belong to Me” (link) to train us in singing harmonies. One of my classmates was given the main voice, or the melody, while another classmate and I had to sing the back-up voices, or harmonies. We all found carrying several voices at the same time very challenging, and we even had to simplify some aspects of the song to make it more managable. One of the most memorable parts of practising this song for the audition was our first (and only) practise with the person who played the ukelele for us during the show – he had no idea how the song went, which made us very confused when singing. This made us feel very stressed out, but luckily we helped him learn the song correctly before the show.

At the show venue, we were all very nervous at first, but then we just decided to forget about the nerves and just have fun – what’s the worse that could happen? Therefore, we all got on stage and sang, and we actually did pretty good. We made a few mistake during the song bridges, which were the hardest part, but overall we did a good job. My sister, who was in the crowd, even told me that she heard some ladies talking about how beautiful our voices were! It was especially interesting for me to consider how different this audition was from last year’s: we were all much more relaxed in the lead-up to it, and I think our performance was much better. Sadly, the video quality is not that good, but I am still very happy with our performance.

Singing Lessons: During #10

The start of a new school year always comes alongside many changes! In terms of CAS, that is no different.

First of all, my singing teacher has changed and, what is more, the way he teaches the class is definitely different from the way in which our previous instructor used to! This is especially obvious in terms of how he handles the recording of songs. With our old teacher, us students would each focus on a song until it was perfect, after which we would record it to see how we could improve our techniques. With this new teacher, however, I am unsure of whether I will be able to record anything this year! Up until now, he seems to prefer alternating between songs instead of focusing on one and recording. By doing this, he can take advantage of the different challenges each song poses for us, the singer. I started classes in September and I am already on my second song!

Despite this, my new teacher has proven to be just as good (or even better) than the last. During these last few classes, he has been teaching my classmates and I new breathing techniques and strategies regarding voice projection that we had no idea about. He is also very clear in his explanations, and I expect to improve my singing techniques a lot with his guidance!

As for the songs I have been practising, those are “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri and “Out of Reach” by Gabrielle. I cannot really talk about the latter, as I started practising it a very short time ago, but “A Thousand Years” was definitely challenging. Although it seemed like a rather easy song at first, I soon discovered that it required some sudden changes in register that I was not sure how to approach. However, I soon learned that it was all a matter of improving my mouth positioning and getting rid of my nerves.

All in all, the start of the year has been busy, but I am still enjoying my singing lessons enormously despite all their changes!

Singing Lesson: During #9

Due to schoolwork and a lot of exams, I have not been able to update my singing progress. However, a lot has happened ever since I last reflected on it!

To start with, I have since recorded one more song: “Army of Me” by Bjork. It was an interesting tune that, despite being simple in terms of tuning, forced me to develop a new singing style, using a type of resonance where all the sound is channelled to my forehead. I felt strange at first, but it ended up being a very enriching experience!

A new student has also joined the class now! I was worried that she would not be a good fit for our closely-knit group, but she ended up fitting in perfectly with the rest of us. I now feel that our group is more united than ever. I am very happy to have her in our team!

However, I have some bad news as well: I was not able to complete the goal I had established for myself after my singing audition was over: recording four more songs before the year was over. This is because, after recording “Army of Me”, I attempted to record “Death of a Bachelor” by Panic! at the Disco (listen here) as my last song of the year. However, after working on it for a few classes, my teacher asked me to please change it, as he believes it is a song that strictly requires a male range. I obliged, but before I could choose a new song, I got sick for a week, which left me too little time to record anything. However, I do not consider this a failure, as I tried my best and I still got to record three great, varied songs that have taught me a lot!

All in all, I had a lot of fun with my signing lessons this year, and I cannot wait to return to them after my summer vacation!

Singing Lessons: During #8

A lot has happened ever since I last wrote! First of all, I should mention I recorded two more songs: “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna and “Your Type” by Carly Rae Jepsen. While the latter turned out much worse than I expected due to my being sick the day I recorded it, “Please Don’t Stop the Music” turned out much, much better than I anticipated, earning me a lot of praise from my singin teacher. That is why I have decided to upload it in this post!

Click here to listen!

Aside form this, it is also worth mentioning that my singing teacher has decided to change his teaching approach. Now, instead of focusing on signing techniques, we will start focusing more on the interpretation of our songs. Therefore, we will be allowed to make more mistakes when we sing as long as we are “feeling” the song and giving it  our all. I am excited to take on this new challenge, as I consider interpretation to be crucial in singing.

The next song I will be working on is “Army of Me” by Bjork. It is very different from everything I have done before, and I was eager to see how it turns out!

Singing Lessons: During #7 – Audition!

Last week I accomplished my first long-term CAS goal: participating in a singing audition! The experience was both nerve-wracking and wonderful, and it was truly a unique event that I would love to participate in again.

In order to prepare for the audition, my singing partner and I practised the song both in and out of class for a month straight. Although it would have been good to have more classes to prepare it, I don’t think the outcome would have changed all that much, as we felt quite confident with the song. The hardest part to get right was its bridge, where my singing partner had to sing a different melody than I did. To make it even more difficult to coordinate, I had to sing in a lower key. At first, I thought I would never get it right but, with the help of my singing teacher, I did manage to go to the audition feeling ready and confident, although also extremely nervous.

The audition itself took place in the bar of a big department store in Bilbao. It was packed with excited singers, musicians, families, friends, and even random passersby. However, the atmosphere of the event was fantastic, everyone had fun and, when you were on stage, you never felt judged or looked down upon.

My classmate and I were the seventh (out of seventeen people) to sing and, right before I got up on stage, I felt completely numb. At that moment, I didn’t care how things would turn out: I just wanted to get it over with. Once we made our way up, our singing teacher came up and gave us some encouraging advice, telling us that the most important thing was for us to have fun and feel good onstage, and that’s what we did!

Our performance was not perfect by any means. Because we could not perform sound tests on the microphones before singing, our first few verses were not really heard that well across the room. In addition to this, it was apparent by our fidgeting that it was our first time singing onstage, although our teacher assured us that we looked much less nervous than other first-timers!

Still, our performance had many good qualities about it. To begin with, our teacher told us we were not off-key at all, something I am glad about. He also said that it looked as if we were having fun together onstage, and that the audience felt that. However, the aspect of our performance that I am most proud of is that the bridge of the song turned out much better than expected! It was that moment that let me know all the practise had been worth it as, at the beginning of my training, I could not get one note right. When the song was over, people clapped very hard for us – I think they could tell it was our first audition – and we quickly left the stage feeling incredibly accomplished. The rest of the audition was fun-filled and very animated, as the songs being sung were very widely known and everyone could sing along.

Therefore, I am happy to say that I have accomplished my first singing goal successfully! My next goal will be to sing at least four more songs from now to the end of the school year. I already know that the next song I will work on is “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna. I can’t wait to get started with more!

Singing Lessons: During #6

An exciting change of plans has taken place!

The first singing lesson after returning from my winter holidays started off with a surprising turn of events: both my classmate and I (there are just two of us now, as the third decided to leave after the holidays due to schoolwork) are going to be participating in the music school’s annual audition on February 4th! I am extremely excited about this, as it will be the first time I sing properly in front of an audience.

My classmate and I will be performing a song titled “Somewhere Only We Know” by Lily Allen. (Listen to it here!) I am thrilled to be singing this song, as it happens to be one of my favourite songs of all time! (Although I do prefer the version sung by Keane to the one we will actually be signing, as it is the first version of the song I came into contact with). Both my classmate and I will sing some parts of the song alone and others in unison. However, we will sing the song’s bridge using two voices, or melodies.

It is that last aspect of our performance that I am most worried about, as it is me who has to deviate from the original song as the second voice. This has proven to be quite hard for me to do, and I am not sure I will be able to sing that part of the song correctly, especially because I expect to be extremely nervous on the day of the event! However, the rest of the song is turning out pretty well, and I was delighted to discover that my voice works wonderfully with that of my classmate.

Despite my insecurities, I will work hard to prepare this song as well as I can in order to have it ready for the audition. I can’t wait to see how it goes!

Singing Lessons: During #5

I have finished working on “How To Be a Heartbreaker” by Marina and the Diamonds, and I recorded it this week. I am quite happy about how it turned out, as it was rather a challenging song to sing because of how much power it required. I needed to control my diaphragm very carefully in order to breathe appropriately, which was very difficult for me at first. However, I ended up managing it all quite well, and the result was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be!

Since I last updated this blog, other aspects of the class have changed quite a bit, as more exercises have been introduced to us. Possibly the one I like the most consists of counting up to 13, and sometimes 15, in one breath. (Of course, this is done with a song!) It is very fun, and the music we use to complete the exercise has great rhythm, which makes it even better. Another enjoyable exercise has one improvise a melody with the lyrics “I’m like a bird / Flying in the wind / High low high / Flying”. Each verse is followed by your classmates echoing your melody, making it a very interactive exercise.

Unfortunately, there are also some less enjoyable, yet still beneficial, exercises that we must practise now. One of the hardest makes you, the singer, regulating the dynamics, or loudness, of your voice. What makes this exercise possibly the hardest one up to now is that it requires you to maintain a single note for 12 beats, which is a long time. Sometimes I only manage to hold it for 8 beats, although I have reached 12 a couple of time. Of course, practise is needed!

I am thinking about singing Titanium by Sia next. I have no particular reason for choosing it other than the fact that it sounds like a very fun song to sing. Let’s see how that goes!

Singing Lessons: During #4

I was completely alone during this week’s lesson! It felt rather lonely, but it did allow my teacher and I to work on more exercises geared towards me specifically. We tried, for example, an exercise in which he played three notes on the piano and I had to sing them back at him. After repeating them three times, I had to tell him if the notes were ascending, descending, ascending and then descending again, or descending and then ascending again. I did not make a single mistake in the whole exercise, which is something I feel quite proud of!

Towards the end of the class, I recorded “Snap Out of It” by the Arctic Monkeys, and I must admit it’s not my best work. I was not feeling too well that day and, on top of that, recording for the first time made me quite nervous! It was hard to breathe correctly, which made the song sound very flat and out of tune, as if I was tired throughout the whole song. My teacher told me that was because my diaphragm was not working properly, and I have to agree with him; I definitely need to practice working with my diaphragm more!

I would love to be able to record the song again to fix my mistakes but, at the same time, I am very excited to start with “How to be a Heartbreaker” by Marina and the Diamonds next week. I feel like this song will turn out much better than “Snap Out of It”, as it doesn’t require me to use my diaphragm as much. I will absolutely work hard on it, and I have learned a lot about voice projection from this last song, so let’s hope I can do better next time!

Singing Lessons: During #3

After missing out on a few classes because of my MUN trip, and also because I felt quite sick afterwards, I have finally returned to my singing lessons! I really could not wait to come back to this activity. It’s so much fun!

Coming back, I discovered I had missed out on quite a few things. My teacher had introduced a few new breathing exercises that were quite complicated, but I managed to figure them out after a little practise. The hardest one to grasp consisted on exercising one’s diaphragm by “breathing out” vowels using not your throat, but your lungs to get the sound out. It sounds bizarre and confusing because it is, in fact, quite bizarre and confusing! I will have to practise it a home a few times before I feel confident doing it in class. In addition to this, the teacher had also introduced some exercises to train our diction. These were based on tongue twisters and were very fun to do!

After warming up my voice, it was time for me to sing and, apparently, I did quite well! The teacher told me that, if anything, I should be careful to open my mouth wide as I sing in order to project my voice as much as possible. He also said that I would be recording the song next week! I am extremely excited about this, as I have never recorded a song before, and it sounds like quite an experience!

We also decided that the next song I should sing should be “How To Be a Heartbreaker” by Marina and the Diamonds, as it suits my tone quite well. Here is the song:

I am very happy about this choice, and I couldn’t be more excited to record “Snap Out of It” next week!