3 Simple Rules to follow when choosing a Voice Instructor

Hello everyone! Thank you for visiting Marcello‚Äôs Musings. Here we will discuss various topics. They will be mostly in the music field with some variances on Fanatic Fridays where other subjects can be covered either by me or in response to questions left by the readership. Visit our website for more info about us at www.marrossproductions.com. So here we go!

A challenging quest for many aspiring singers and parents of those singers is finding a coach/ instructor in voice that can actually help their child or themselves in their quest to sing better and attain the goals they have set forth. These goals may vary: from singing well in your church choir to trying to get a recording contract with a record label. There are questions one should ask when choosing someone as their voice instructor. Who is this person? Where do they have a certification or degree? Where have they taught and what are they doing with their degree? Do they have a good track record of success of their students? Do they have reviews posted anywhere? The following are 3 Simple Rules one should follow when making this important decision.

Rule #1: Know who you are getting!

Who is this prospective instructor? Did they go to college in voice? Do they have a degree in education? The questions keep progressing from there. A great way in getting answers to your questions is if the teacher has a studio? What are the studio’s criterion in adding teachers? Sometimes studios hire people to teach voice just to have someone available to fill that need. Does the studio take the time to scrutinize the qualifications of their teachers? Some do and some don’t. DON’T JUST RELY ON THE STUDIO!

First, ask if the teacher has a website. They should have card to offer and the website should be on it for you to check out. At this point in our technological progress, all teachers should have a website. It is their web resume so to speak. I have one as listed above with www.marrossproductions.com. It is a must! It should have at least a Home page, Services page, About Us page, and a Contact page. People should know what they are getting. Teaching voice is NOT like teaching a wind instrument or piano. A wind instrument or piano is already man made and one is learning how to make it work and how they can play it. A voice is a human instrument that most do not know how to make it work properly and with a unlearned instructor, or just a glorified piano accompanist, more damage than good can happen. That is why choosing a voice instructor is much more difficult that one may think. Do they have a degree in Voice? Is their degree in Voice Performance or Voice Education (I will explain the difference)? How long have they been teaching? Where have they taught? Many of these question should be answered on their website. If those questions are not then write a comment to them asking those pointed questions. I will explain with the next rule.

Rule #2: Know what you want and how it is supported by the aim or philosophy of the teacher.

This rule is very important. There are many people that have dreams of becoming the next Beyonce or John Legend (fill in the blank of your most favorite recording artists). If your prospective teacher promises you that he will get you to your destination, ask min or her how they can specifically do that. Do they have a management firm that they own as well? Who have they mentored to become stars in their own right? I can almost guarantee you that if you hear those pie in the sky assurances, they you should be running in the opposite direction! NO ONE CAN PROMISE YOU SUCCESS! You are just being sold a mirage just for the “teacher” to get a client. Usually if you come across a teacher that has a degree in Voice, preferable with an Education certification as well, they will never try to sell you a bill of goods. If they went to a University to master their craft at such a high level they will have too much respect for the art to throw out absurd sales pitches like “I will make you a star!”

Since I have both, I believe I am qualified to explain the difference between degrees in Performance and Education. If a person has a degree in Performance, they may be a great singer, but being a good or great teacher they may not be. I had an instructor at Wayne State in voice who was a terrific Bass-Baritone with a great resume in performance. He was not a good teacher. This is because he was trying to get me to sound like something that I wasn’t or I wasn’t ready to be. Thankfully I learned so much more about good teaching when at The University of Michigan. This is not to say that Wayne State doesn’t have good voice teachers, because they do! I, unfortunately, didn’t get one. I was so impressed at how good he was, I thought he could be as good as an instructor. He was head of the Vocal department too so…. Well you live and learn I guess! A person with a degree in Vocal Education may not be a great singer (maybe they are a very good one), but what matters is their ability to get the best out of you. They will have had the classes in pedagogy and vocal teaching techniques that could be very beneficial. Of course, many techniques can be learned from good voice instructors that the Performance major may have absorbed. I know I learned a lot from mine at U of M and after that! Yet translating that experience to teaching depends on the natural teaching talent of the individual. I believe the most important bar to reach for any teacher is the health of the student’s voice and it’s natural progression and development. I would hope that all students would want to have the best version of their voice and know how to take care of that voice so they can enjoy it for their lifetime. That should be the aim for the teacher and student alike.

If a young singer is fortunate to get a contract that is viable from a respected recording label or land a spot on a Disney TV show or both, that is fantastic! Of course one should realize that the chances of that happening are low. That is not because you are not talented enough. It is just that you didn’t get the break that you needed. Fortune does favor the bold, however. You don’t know unless you try! So I do encourage you to reach for the stars, but try to keep you feet on the ground as well. Always have a back up plan and get a degree or trade that feeds you and your family. It is just sound advice.

Rule #3: Look for the warning signs!

Your new teacher should have a plan to see a growth and improvement in your or your child’s voice. He or she must have a plan to attain certain discernible phases of improvement. For myself, from years of teaching and observation, I have come to discover that there are 3 stages of development for a singer. I would explain my aims for the student and be able to exhibit to the student in measurable terms how they have been improving (this could be range, tone, clarity, projection, etc.). I would hope that all teachers have such goals for their students. One thing is certain, if your “teacher” is just giving you new songs to learn and are just accompanying you on the piano, he is not teaching you anything but a new song. That is not teaching. In my opinion, teaching is based on the development of the instrument, not the volume of repertoire or style replication. New repertoire is just a tool to improve the technique of the singer. It is a means to an end, not the end! If you are in a Voice Theater or Opera program at a university, you will have to learn plenty of repertoire (I know I did!). But everything you did at those Universities were in a program meant to evolve your talent and hone your craft, so that you can use those tools after your leave to find work in the real world. One more thing, if you or your “teacher” is trying to make you sound like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or some pop star that you like and think you want to sound like, STOP IT! Take it from first hand experience, the “teacher” that is trying to make you sound like something or someone is not helping you, the teacher is hurting you. You were born with a voice and a quality. You will sound like YOU and the teacher’s job is to bring out the best version of YOU!. Why do we need another Mariah Carey? We already have one! When teaching young and old alike, make sure your teacher is following a plan of development and has your vocal health in mind. If not, you are wasting time and money if not worse.

In summary:

This blog is meant to point to those interested in reading it in the right direction when choosing a voice instructor. I hope it brought a bit of clarity to you. On my Facebook page Marcello Rossi Music, I feature some of my students that I have taught or are teaching among other things. There is a review section of past students. I am also working on some interviews with some of my current award winning voice students on what they get out of their lessons and will post them on that page as well with links to their YouTube pages. Please visit the page to get a more in depth perspective on what you should expect from a teacher. Please leave a comment in the comment section. I’d love to hear your thoughts! All the best to you in your search.

3 Simple Rules to follow when purchasing a Keyboard

Hello everyone! Thank you for visiting Marcello’s Musings. Here we will discuss various topics. They will be mostly in the music field with some variances on Fanatic Fridays where other subjects can be covered either by me or in response to questions left by the readership. Visit our website for more info about us at www.marrossproductions.com. So here we go!

Buying musical instruments are difficult. If you don’t have experience in the field, you really don’t know what you are getting. What makes matters even more tricky is that a very significant percentage of those buying instruments are online. It is quick, convenient and the shipping is timely. And you don’t have to leave to confines of your house! Perfect, right? Well, this fine to do if you know exactly what you are looking for and you know and are comfortable with the merchant you are getting it from.

Many well known merchants like Evola, The Piano Place, Music Go Round and the like in my community sell their keyboards on Amazon and do well. The instruments can vary in quality and size. You can get a 61 key that plays like an organ or an 88 weighted key that has a feel of a real piano. Here are the 3 Simple Rules to follow when purchasing a keyboard online.

Rule #1: KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR KEYBOARD!

Are you buying this keyboard for yourself or for your child or someone in the family that wants to learn the piano? Short of actually buying a piano, in which I will happily do a blog on the intricacies of doing that tricky experience (I’m looking to do a video blog as well on that), a keyboard is a less expensive alternative purchase to get started. Some people buy a keyboard because they are in a band and want some neat sounds to add to the performances. Buying an organ or piano feel is completely up to you. For myself, I own two 88 key, weighted key Korg and Yamaha keyboards. I am very happy with both. I’ve used them a lot for different applications and they’ve worked great. The weighted key versions are my preference and helps my performance in my ensembles when doing concerts.

Don’t go into a purchase without a concept of what you are using it for. For those well versed in this business, they know exactly what I am talking about and they know what they are getting. So this blog is geared for those first time buyers (or second time for those who did not like their first purchase) who want to get it right.

Rule #2: KNOW WHAT KEYBOARD TO GET AND WHAT IS RIGHT FOR A PIANO LEARNER

Who is looking to takes lessons in piano? Is it you, your son, daughter, niece, nephew or grandchild? That’s great! If you are looking to take piano lessons but don’t have enough to actually buy a real piano, a keyboard is a viable choice as a first step. That way if you or your loved one doesn’t like it, you can maybe sell it online and get some money back for your purchase. No big deal, right? The problem is if you really want to give yourself or your loved one a real chance at enjoying the process of learning the instrument, wouldn’t you want to know the instrument feels like the actually instrument?

This is why I chose a weighted key instrument and why you should want it too. In my performances, I play piano with the band I’m in and like having a real piano action feel. I use a Korg 88 key keyboard without speakers. I can hook it up to the sound system of my engineer and/or use my own speaker amp to hook it up in smaller settings. Obviously, if you just want an all in one situation, a Digital Piano with Speaker and Console by Korg is a wise choice. It all depends on what your budget is. You can also find used keyboards as well that can save you a little money too. The brands names like the aforementioned Korg as well as Yamaha and Casio are the giants in the keyboard field. There are others offered but the big three above are well used, tried and true. The links I provided are the console keyboards with weighted keys offered on Amazon. Amazon has many more products like these for different prices, but in my opinion for the value these are great choices.

Rule #3: ALWAYS CHECK THE WARRANTY!

Of course any product that is selling online has a warranty, right? Maybe not. Check the warranty. If you are buying a new instrument like the ones I linked for you above – yes. These are big brands with a great track record and you can feel comfortable with a purchase from them. The smaller brands that are new will and should offer some kind of warranty up to a year. They might even offer an up-sell for more years to cover it. That’s fine and is up to you if you want to extend the coverage. In my opinion and experience, if the keyboard has any problems, you will know in the first 6 months. After that, I would not expect anything new to arise. And remember, electronics devalue quickly so in two years the instrument that you bought, like any computer, will be old news and a new and better model will be out there. So an extended warranty, based on the price, might not be a good value. And, if you or your loved one really like playing the piano, in two years you might want to invest in the real thing!

As far as used instruments, they are more economical perhaps, but it would be RARE they would come with a warranty. Perhaps you could purchase one with the manufacturer but I seriously doubt it. If the product did not come directly from their company and was used already, they would not know how the instrument was cared for or treated outside of their care. So that’s understandable.

HAPPY SHOPPING!

I hope you found this article helpful in your shopping endeavors for a keyboard this holiday season. Leave me a comment if you care to. Thanks for reading!

3 Simple Rules on How to Buy or Rent Musical Instruments for your Child

Hello everyone! Thank you for visiting Marcello’s Musings. Here we will discuss various topics. They will be mostly in the music field with some variances on Fanatic Fridays where other subjects can be covered either by me or in response to questions left by the readership. So here we go!

My name is Marcello Rossi. In my experiences at Gus Zoppi Music Center in Sterling Heights, MI where I was a private music instructor for over 25 years, I have taught many students playing different wind instruments: from Trumpet to Tuba, Clarinet to Baritone Saxophone. Most of them became award winning instrumentalists at the American Guild of Music Regional Festivals where I entered them in solo competitions. I am very proud of the successes we achieved together and will always have fond memories of Gus Zoppi Music Center. Once that wonderful place closed in 2016, I moved my students to teach at The Piano Place in Troy, MI. I also have affiliation with Anderson Music in Troy and Evola Music in Shelby. Feel free to check out my website for further info: https://marrossproductions.com/

Many parents (thousands really) have sought my advice as to what is the right brand to rent or buy for their child. Of course that answer varies as to what instrument they are looking to get. Is it a Brass Instrument or Woodwind? What is the best value for their dollar? What are the top brands available? What is most appropriate for the education level and age of the child? The variables go on and on.

One thing that was always consistent with every parent that entered the store before even looking for a teacher, was the instrument they should get for their child to play. Of course that is a good question and the most common one we hear. People go online to find recommendations and I’m sure that is why you are reading this post, but the most important information you will need is why one would pick one instrument brand over another. Here are a few rules to follow:

Rule #1: NEVER THINK THAT A NEW INSTRUMENT THAT YOU CAN GET FOR $100 IS A GOOD BUY!
This is the biggest issue I found with parents. They are already done finding an instrument! Unfortunately they found it online from some music outlet selling a bright, shiny new instrument for around $100. RED FLAG. Always ask yourself, how is someone selling a “new” instrument for $100 dollars and making a profit? And considering it is a rule of good business that it will up-charge merchandise to make 100% profit just so they can have a “sale” and still make a profit, that would mean they acquired the instrument for easily 25% or more less than they are selling it. Does that make sense? Of course it does! In most instances, you get what you pay for. I have found that these “new” instrument break down quickly and easily have “air Leaks”. That is bad news and the instrument will have to be returned (hopefully it was sold with a return guarantee) and a refund could take place.

Rule #2: ALWAYS GO WITH A PROVEN BRAND WHEN CHOOSING AN INSTRUMENT

Brands that have staying power are the first ones to be considered. Why? Because they are good enough to have stayed in business! The woodwind family (flutes, saxophones, clarinets and oboes) have specific brands that are trusted in the music community. Those brands are Yamaha, Selmer and Conn. There are others that can make the list, but these are very well respected and widely used brands that have not had issues with poor manufacturing. For the money a parent would like to invest in an instrument for their child, this would be a safe, sure buy. For the brass wind family (trumpets, trombones, baritones and tubas), once again Yamaha is popular as

well as King, Holton and Bach. There are other well respected, higher end brands but, again, for young players these brands are trusted and well used without issues.
The links to the above brands point to instruments that are available on Amazon right now. There are many instruments new and used that are available on that site. Just stick to the suggested brands and search around. I am confident you will find what you are looking for.

Rule #3: BE SURE TO CHECK THE PRODUCT WARRANTY

Don’t be in a rush to purchase an instrument without checking the return policy and/ or a satisfaction warranty. The brands listed above have such warranties. Why? Because they know they have a solid product to sell. The lesser products may not have a guarantee and even if they do, you don’t want to keep returning the instrument for them to “fix”. This proves to be a waste of time with plenty of aggravation.

Please share a comment if you wish and I hope this information will be useful in your buying or renting endeavors for yourself or your child. Happy shopping!