Can I Sing Like Adele?

Adele was a big hit at the Grammy’s this year.  OK.  That might be an understatement. 

Now I’ll say that I am not a huge Adele fan, but it isn’t because I don’t like her songs.  As a voice teacher with many years of training and quite a few excellent teachers, her voice makes me cringe.  The obvious vocal damage makes my throat hurt just listening to her.  Here’s hoping that the surgery and maybe some good lessons on preserving those vocal chords will help the girl out.  Adele’s signature sound is largely caused by the vocal damage.  It could be from over use, vocal abuse, smoking, drinking, poor breathing technique or any combination there of.  However, when you try and listen beyond the squeaks and glottal fry there is a nice voice under there that has an very good range.

Voice teachers usually see an uptick in calls about lessons after an event with as much exposure as the Grammys.  Not to mention that Adele is all over the news.  So since I was at the music store, I picked up a PVG copy of Adele’s latest album 21.  PVG  stands for Piano, Vocal, Guitar.  Unlike many pop albums the accompaniments in the book are good and make sense with the vocal line.  They aren’t just duplicating it. 

After looking at the arrangements, my conclusion that many people could sing from this book/album and learn a lot.  For example,  the song Someone Like You covers a 2 octave range.  You aren’t going to find many pop songs that do that.  This is a perfect opportunity to learn about crossing the passaggio.  Many of the songs are in a range that beginners would feel comfortable singing in. 

So my answer is yes.  Go out and buy the PVG copy of Adele’s album 21.  Find a voice teacher that is teaching proper singing technique and not just coaching students to create a copycat sound.  With proper training you can sing just about anything. 

Welcome to New Students

I just want to give a big welcome to all my new students.  Brunner Studios is growing at a very steady pace.  I am excited that we added piano and oboe students to the roster this week.  Wednesday lesson times are now down to 1 available slot. 


Keep up the good work parents and students.  Don’t forget that you get a 10% referral discount for any new students that give your name.


And here is a funny picture.  This is so true.  Well, except for that time in college when I was so sleep deprived that I tried to play with my music upside down.  It still looked like the top example in that case. 

Piano Lessons In My Home

I’m a member of several different websites that advertise piano lessons.  Parents can send in requests and the teachers can choose to respond to requests in their area that fit their professional goals.  So many of the requests on these boards and inquires that I receive through my website are parents asking for lessons in their home.

I do not teach lessons anywhere other than my home studio.  There are several reasons for this.

1.  It costs me time and money.  Lessons at Brunner Studios are $26.25 for a 30 minute lesson.  If I have to drive to your house, teach a lesson, and drive home.  That is costing a lesson time on either side of the scheduled lesson.  Also, gas and wear and tear on my vehicle.  Gas is approximately 3.50 a gallon right now.  That can eat into my fees quickly.

2.  There are great resources that I’ve spent time building at my studio.  There are keyboards, computers, bookcases full of music that can be loaned, workbooks, reward charts.  These are all things that can’t travel for a weekly lesson.  If the student needs a new book or supplemental material, I am almost guaranteed to have it on my bookshelf.  You won’t find it dragging around in the trunk of my car.

3.  You forgot.  Way back when I first started teaching (in college) there was a family that I went to their house to give lessons.  It wasn’t close but there were multiple lessons and at the time gas was around $1 a gallon.  The family was always forgetting about lessons and leaving me hanging.  If you forget your lessons and are taking at my studio, I can still get work done if you forget or get sick at the last minute.  There is a lot of time involved in teaching lessons other than the 30 minutes you are here.

4.  Student don’t take the lessons as seriously as in a different environment.  My studio is a dedicated space for lessons.  It is a environment set aside for education.  Your living room with the siblings running through and the door slamming just doesn’t allow the same focus. 

So there are a few reasons that I don’t advocate lessons in the student’s home.  Now this isn’t to say that it would never work, but for me from a professional standpoint, I want a dedicated music space for educational purposes. 

Starting Piano Lessons or Any Type of Lessons in January

So you or your child or your spouse received a keyboard or piano during the holiday season.  Now what?  It’s time to find a piano teacher. 

Is it ok to start lessons in January?  The answer to that is yes.  New Year’s resolutions aside there is no reason not to start lessons now. 

Your schedule is established.  The kids have the hang of the school year and all of those sports schedules are pretty much known for the time being. 

Go ahead and call around.  Teachers should be willing to have a free trial lesson or meeting with a prospective student. 

Find the teacher that is right for you and get started.  There is no time like the present. 


Here at Brunner Studios in Charlotte, NC, I am looking for a few new piano, voice and oboe students.  Most teachers will have a few mid-year opening in there schedule.  There is still time to get started with lessons and participate in spring recitals and festivals. 

Voice Lessons Are Not For the Wimpy

As I add more voice lessons to my roster, almost every student presents one of two possible issues.  The first one being the giggles and the second one being over confidence.  Today we are going to talk about those students who giggle.


Do I have your attention now?


So many of my voice students come in and are overwhelming shy and unsure of what they want to sing.  The repertoire issue is usually pretty easy to solve.  What kind of music do you like to sing?  Do you want to sing at church or the school talent show?  Do you like broadway or jazz?  A few well placed questions will usually get you headed in the right direction.


It’s the shy and giggling group that gets my goat.  Voice lessons from the start are going to feel funny.  You are going to make odd noises and funny faces.  Sometimes sounds that really sound like a chicken are going to come out of your mouth.  Let me tell you something… IT’S OK!  We’ve all been there.  Sometimes, we are still there.  Learning new music and new skills always presents funny or slightly awkward issues.  The trick is you have to try.  If your teacher asks you to turn your head upside down and sing, do it.  If you are prompted to look in a mirror and yawn, get out your flash light for a better view.  Do you think that note is out of your range, go ahead and try to sing it.  If you make odd squawking noises, so what.  You have to try.  Teachers give you these exercises to help you improve.


If you spend all your time being embarrassed about the exercises you are wasting a lot of time and energy that could be used to work on perfecting those exercises.  When working on a song, sing confidently.  If I am accompanying you on the piano, it is hard to hear if you sing no louder than a whisper.  Sing out!  So what if you sing a wrong note or come it at the wrong time.  You are there to learn.  Let your teacher hear those mistakes loud and clear.  Then when your teacher offers you a way to fix your mistake, go ahead and give it your best shot.


Voice lessons aren’t for the wimpy.  Sing out, be confident that your teacher can help you.  Better a loud mistake in practice than in performance.  Give it your best shot.

Looking for Space

You would be amazed at how difficult it is to find a space to have a recital.  The good news is that I might have found a location for the winter and spring recitals.  So stay tuned for an upcoming announcement. 


It is so important for students to have a chance to perform on a regular basis.  If your church, community center or social club would be interested in hosting a recital or background music for an event please contact me. 

Does Your Piano Teacher Vacation?

Since summer is here.  Let’s talk about the subject of vacations.  As a piano teacher, my schedule has some flexibility.


My husband and I like to travel in the fall when it is cooler and crowds are lower.  Also, from about mid-January to the beginning of May, most of my weekends are filled with piano related activities that relate to my students.  Did I mention that all of those weekends are unpaid? Yes, that’s right folk.  Your piano teacher has to volunteer time so that your student can participate in festivals.  Now most of the piano teachers don’t mind working those weekends.  If you add in additional weekends for recitals and then for studio class, that is a lot of time outside of lessons that your teacher is dedicating to their students. 


So if you teacher lets you know well in advance and offers ample make up lessons or payment options for time that they will be away, please try to be understanding.  Most families are very understanding about vacation time away from the studio.  If your teacher has excessive absences on short notice, then that is a bird of a different feather.


Oh yeah, did I mention that Walt Disney World is offering free dining again in September? 


What Is a Good Age to Begin Voice Lessons?

With the popularity of shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent, voice teachers are getting more calls about voice lessons.  What information do you need to know when talking to a potential teacher?


The very first thing a teacher should ask you is how old is the person who is wanting to take voice lessons.  Every teacher has a different age range and there are good reasons for that.  Some teachers focus more on a pop style of music.  These vocal teacher tend to take students at a younger age.  Vocal instructors who focus more on classical training or who have a classical background like to wait until students are a little older and more physically mature to begin lessons. 


As a teacher who was classically trained, I see it as my job to preserve and protect young voices.  Learning to sing with proper technique will extend the range and the strength of the voice.  I break my students into 2 distinct groups.  Those who have gone through puberty and those who have not.  Why does this make any difference?  For a female singer, the changes that puberty brings allows the muscles to knit together and offers more support for singing.  Up to that point, a teacher is offering coaching and hopefully preserving the voice.  For male singers, the onset of puberty bring on that wonderful squeaky-squawky sound.  The teacher and student will not know the students vocal assignment and range until after the process is complete. 


So there isn’t an exact answer as to what is a good age to begin voice lessons.  Always ask if you can schedule a trial lesson with a potential teacher.  You only have one voice, so take care of it.  Find a teacher who is right for the vocal style that you are wanting to sing.