Posts Tagged ‘Alaina Ferris’

Performance “Do”s and “Don’t”s

April 30, 2010
Alaina Ferris, Voice & Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Alaina Ferris

There were many times in my performance career when I was thrown onto a stage without ever being told what to do. However, there are a lot of things to consider before and after you perform. Stage fright is a natural part of performing, but it can be assuaged with proper preparation. Take the time to read through this performance checklist. Hopefully it helps you with your next performance!

  1. Arrive ahead of schedule!
  2. Make sure you have all of your materials.
  3. Be sensitive to dress codes.

Approaching the Stage

  1. Make sure you have all of your materials in your hand, before you go on stage.
  2. Bow and acknowledge the audience.
  3. If you have not been announced, say your name and the piece you will be playing.
  4. Take your time! Tune your instrument, arrange your music, take a few deep breaths. Do not begin playing until you are ready.

During the Performance

  1. Attitude not only shapes how you play, but affects the engagement of the audience. Be positive. Be willing to talk to the audience. Different kinds of songs require different approaches and attitudes. Determine your attitude before you perform the song. Is the song light and playful? Is it quiet and contemplative? How can you reflect the song’s mood in your physical performance?
  2. Never be ashamed. Mistakes are part of any performance. Do not point them out to the audience. Accept them and let them become part of your playing.
  3. Inclusive Awareness: Be aware of the audience without letting it affect your concentration. Nervousness is natural. The best way to combat it is to be aware of it without letting it stop you.
  4. Be patient with your performance. Space and silence are equally as important as every note you play. Do not rush through the piece.

Performing with a Band

  1. Always acknowledge your musicians! If the song features a solo, announce the solo before or immediately after the piece.
  2. During the solo, look at the soloist!
  3. Name all the musicians in the band again before or immediately after the last piece of the show.
  4. If you are playing with an accompanist, announce them at the beginning of the performance.

After Your Performance

  1. Bow, collect your materials, and walk off stage.
  2. Learn from your experience, let it inform the choices you will make in the future, but accept your mistakes and do not dwell on them.

Songwriting – Helpful hints

March 9, 2010

By Ayo Awosika, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ayo Awosika, Voice & Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ayo Awosika

Once a month, songwriters will gather at The Lesson Studio for a Singer Songwriter Class I host that focuses on sharing ideas, songs, and lyrics. As songwriters, one difficulty we face can actually be a lack of ideas. Where does our inspiration come from? Our own experiences? A fictional character or story? Some days ideas flow out of us like they were just waiting to be released, and other times it feels like we can’t find any words to express the things we want to.

I once took a Songwriting course with wonderfully talented songwriter Mark Simos (written for Allison Krauss among others) and he introduced me to the concept of object writing; an exercise for songwriters that is not only beneficial, but can be essential to our writing process. The way that object writing is usually presented for songwriters ( e.g. in Pat Pattison’s books – if you haven’t checked them out, do!) is as a technique that teaches us how to focus, be more detailed in our writing, engage and utilize our senses, and be free while keeping ourselves within a few guidelines.

Here’s what you do. Sit down with a pen and paper (or laptop if that works better). Pick a subject – it could be anything from a dirty sock to a piece of fruit. Set a timer for say, 5 minutes. Remind yourself of the 5 senses (sight, taste, touch, sound, smell), and write freely for 5 minutes everything you can think and feel about that subject. Don’t censor yourself! Even if your mind begins to wander and through free association you begin to write about another topic (ex. Dirty sock -laundry detergent – a teddy bear – cuddle -a warm bed – taking a nap) that’s ok! Let it happen. The idea of this exercise is to be in the moment; you may do 100 object-writing exercises that you never look at again – but you will have learned much from the repeated process.

It works best as an early morning exercise, stimulating and engaging our writing mind for the rest of the day. Mark refers to it as “morning pages” (much like the well-known morning process from  the book “The Artists’ Way”)


The key things to remember:

–  Stick to a strict time limit. Do not allow yourself to write more or less than the time that you allot even if you feel like you need to.

–  Don’t write in any verse forms, or with rhymes – just allow yourself to free write. The idea is to come up with material that may or may not be used later.

–  Remember to use your senses so you are describing all aspects of the object.

–  This is fun! It’s not about using this exercise to write your next hit song, (although it could be!)

Happy Writing!

Singing from the 11th Century—Sunday Night’s Singing Practice Class

January 28, 2010
Alaina Ferris - Voice Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Alaina Ferris

By Alaina Ferris – Voice Instructor at The Lesson Studio

The Sunday night Singing Practice Class that I am hosting a The Lesson Studio was inspired by a method of voice instruction from the 11th century. Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th century Benedictine monk, created the solfège method so that singers could learn to sing melodies that they had never heard before by using a system of syllabic notation: Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do, etc. Each syllable is committed to a specific note frequency (this is known as the fixed Do system). Through practice, sound patterns and muscle memory enable the singer to sing the pitch without having to hear it played first from another instrument. In this way, singers could reclaim their voice as an independent instrument. He wrote:

“In dealing with an unknown melody […] we ought not to look for the sound from some person or instrument, like blind men who can go nowhere without a guide. Rather, we ought to fix fast in our memories the characteristics of every note”

Guido de Arezzo,
Letter on Singing Unheard songs, 1030 a.d.
Trans. by Lawrence Rosenwald

I take this quote very much to heart in that I believe every person, not just “singers” or “musicians” should have the opportunity to learn the characteristics of notes and sounds that come from their bodies. Singing is not simply an act of assimilating music through other sources, it is an act that comes from within human body.

Our singing practice class uses Guido’s solfège syllables to “fix fast in our memories” the sounds and characteristics of specific notes. The class also uses this opportunity to understand how these sounds and musical pitches feel. By incorporating simple breathing and movement exercises, we further establish the connection between internal processes we are using to create a sound that is both internal and external.

Too often, I hear stories of people who have spent their lives under the assumption that they can’t sing, or worse, shouldn’t sing. The class is the perfect opportunity for anyone to reengage with an ability that is already nestled in the human body. It is also a great opportunity for experienced singers and instrumentalists to work on their ear training.

For more information about Sunday night’s Singing Practice Class, or about Boulder voice lessons, please call 303-543-3777 or contact us via e-mail.

Singing Practice Class Begins!

October 30, 2009

When: Sundays, 6:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.

Where: Studio F @ The Lesson Studio
3200 Valmont Road #8

Cost: $35 for 4 consecutive sessions in November/DecemberAlaina Ferris, voice instructor, The Lesson Studio.
Class begins again in January 2010.

Age:  Ages 14 and up.

Are you a singer looking to improve your pitch quality? Are you an instrumentalist hoping to further your aural skills? This class is a concentrated 45 minute vocal workout that focuses on pitch quality, breathing techniques, and vocal independence. We will employ a combination of Eastern and Western singing styles to further our understanding of pitch and rhythm. Come practice in this relaxed group setting. This class is appropriate and beneficial for all levels.

For more information or to contact Alaina, call 303-543-3777 or e-mail us.