Eden Casteel Music Studio

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Filtering by Tag: breathing

My Happy Apps

I am selective about my smartphone apps: No to Angry Birds or Tetris, yes to Couch to 5K. No to Minecraft, yes to Vine. I only keep apps that I really like and use frequently. These apps make me happy! My music apps. . . some of them

Pandora reminds me of the summer I sold actual physical CDs and cassettes at Camelot Music. We sat around the break room digging through the large cardboard box filled with free promotional cassettes and CDs (okay, only I did that). I scored Madonna's Immaculate Collection, which was a big deal at the time.

I'm always justifying looking for apps for music education. My hardworking ClearTune app helps singers (including moi) figure out how to make the small changes that lead to more accurate pitch, and it's a godsend for nervous new sight singers and pianists ("Was that an E flat? It wasn't? I could have sworn it was. Are you sure?").

Being from the Dark Ages, I learned music theory the traditional way, with workbooks and flashcards. Writing out the scales is always a good idea, but apps are great for drills on note names, intervals, and chords. I like Musicopoulos for straight theory and straightforward practice. If you don't have a smartphone, Theta Music Trainer is a good place to practice.

My perfect pitch made ear training very easy for me, but I have begun to recommend these two solid apps for musical mortals: PlayByEar asks you to sing or play back chords and melodies accurately. EarTrainer shows intervals being played on a piano keyboard.

Blob Chorus by Lumply

For sheer fun, the best ear training app is The Blob Chorus. Groups of blobs sing individual pitches, then a purple King Blob repeats one of the previous pitches. Match the blobs, and King Blob gets a crown. Get it wrong, your blob explodes! This is great for singers who are learning to hear their part inside a choir.

I have loved the public radio show Music From The Hearts Of Space since I was a teenage waitress at Elby's. The program aired on WCBE every Sunday night at 10pm as I drove home from the night shift, and I would keep listening as I changed out of my 100% polyester uniform and speed-read some Faulkner for the school week ahead. I use the show's app frequently and also listen to their online archive at www.hos.com

My senior high prom date turned me on to the SomaFM website years ago, as we exchanged one or two perfunctory emails to catch up and therefore avoid meeting up at reunions. He remembered my teenage love of Hearts of Space and recommended this. It was the last I heard of him but thanks, Dean, and I bet you have the app now too! SomaFM is a collection of 15 quirky, well-curated online stations (and that's the last time I will use "curate" in a post) ranging from NASA beeps and blips to bachelor pad jazz. I always wrap presents from Santa while listening to "Xmas in Frisko," their not-safe-for-children radio station.

I just downloaded the Inception app and . . woah. Wierd and wonderful to have music played according to your own movements! When I miss Michigan or DC, I listen to the local traffic report through my iHeart Radio app and then I'm glad I don't live there anymore. I also use a couple of lolofit apps, including the 7-minute workout and Jeff Galloway's Easy 10K. They always make me feel like an Olympian, no matter how infrequently l use them. I wish the 10K app had more variations in run-walk ratios. I don't see why I can't run for one minute and walk for ten, and still have Jeff tell me "great job!" in his Southern twang.

Running is slightly easier with this app

Even on the worst day, my Random Gratitude app asks me to think of something good and type it in. The best feature of this app is that it randomly scrolls through my previous posts, reminding me of so many wonderful little things that I might have otherwise forgotten.

So, what apps should I add to my collection?


Good singers act

Exhibit A: Ellen Greene performing "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors. I cringe as I listen to her, but I can't stop watching. She is heartbreaking to behold. Every note, gesture and expression delineate the character she's playing. She is Acting The Song. Exhibit B: This lovely young lady is singing "Somewhere That's Green," at her school talent show. She's blessed with a healthy voice that's pleasant to hear. She's dressed in a charming outfit just right for her age, and she's performing with poise and grace. She is singing, but she is not Acting The Song-- Thank God she's not!

Isn't singing a song more important than acting it? Good singing is the fruit of good acting. Good acting demands that a performer understand the history of a song and a show, its characters, plot, and lyrics. Good acting communicates physical and vocal cues that reveal and underline a character's thoughts and emotions - her voice. Good acting heightens high notes, deepens sighs, lengthens fermatas and expands rests. Good acting also makes vocal performances more believable, as singers discover aspects of themselves in the character. (Can a pubescent middle school Gleek successfully mine the emotional core of a downtrodden, centerfold-shaped floral shop worker who's being abused by her sadistic dentist boyfriend? Lord, I hope not.)

And yet, good acting is something that we barely have time to cover in voice lesson and rehearsal. We have to focus on good technique, learning the notes, blocking the scenes, and following the spots. So, when you have a chance to delve into Acting the Song outside of recital or callbacks, you should take it. . .

Which leads me to my shameless plug: On October 27, I'm teaching a one-day course on Acting The Song at Courthouse Center For The Arts in West Kingston!

I taught a one-week version of this course at CCA last summer, including some wonderful resources from Tracey Moore. There were exercises, improvisations, character questionnaires, research assignments, free writing and coaching. Some students learned new music, some worked on their standard repertoire. Everyone improved concentration and focus, and their understanding of character, and yes - they just sounded better. The final performances were impressive. As soon as it was over we all knew we wanted to do it again! Contact the Courthouse now to reserve your spot: 401-782-1018 or kelly@courthousearts.org

In mid November I'll be back at CCA, teaching a two-day "Broadway History For Non-Dummies" course. . . but that's another post!



Bad breath(ing)

One of my students brought the Colbie Caillat song Realize to a recent lesson. She kept running out of breath before the ends of phrases, and that wasn't really like her.  

We listened to the mp3 together. Amazing! There is only ONE place to breathe in the chorus: If you just realize what I just realized/ then we'd be perfect for each other/ and will never find another/if you just realize what I just realized // (BREATHE!)// We'd never have to wonder if/we missed out on each other now


I wondered how Miss C would ever be able to manage this feat in live performance. So, my student and I checked out  Realize live, and we realized (ha!) that even Colbie herself couldn't sing the long phrases in one breath! One of her bandmates harmonizes the melody on the choruses and sings a little longer than she does, so Colbie can get a breath. If he didn't harmonize, there would be a little gap in the song and in the "rushed" mood.

Girlfriend wrote the song by herself, presumably for herself (along with Jason Reeves and Mikal Blue)! I think she was trying to make the chorus sound like a rush of words, the kind that come with the


Okay, you're the artist, it's your call. The miracle of music track editing can cover up the fact you have no place to breathe in your own song. No one else can sing the song quite like Colbie . . .even she can't really sing it.

Taylor Swift likes to breathe in unexpected places, and seems to avoid breathing in the logical ones. (And Caillat has written songs for Swift; what a perfect pair of blue-lipped maidens!) Listen to her sing the chorus of Love Story: "You'll be the prince (BREATHE!) and (BREATHE!) I'll (BREATHE!) be the princess." She sounds like a four year old running up three flights of stairs to tell her friend how to play Make Believe Castle. But the ending will leave you . . . . . .uh . . . . . .breathless: RomeosavemeI'vebennfeelingsoaloneIkeep (BREATHE)

waitingforyoubutyounevercomeisthis (BREATHE!)

inmyheadIdon't know (BREATHE!)

whattothinkhekneelstothegroundandpullsoutaringandsaidmarrymeJulietyou'llneverhavetobealoneIloveyouandthat'sallIreallyknowItalkedto yourdadgopickoutawhitedressit'salovestorybabyjustsayyes.

The girl's in love! Oxygen! STAT!

Alanis Morrissette paved the way for the Bad Girl Breathers with lyrics that have been called "a mangled web of garbled syntax, overheated metaphors, and mystifying verbal contortions." She doesn't engage in the kind of melodic rushing that Caillat and Swift (and Sara Bareilles) do. Instead, she messes with beats and so-so rhymes and emPHASis. Like a Pied Piper of Lyrical Grammar, Alanis has led many astray; I still like her. My favorite song of hers is "Uninvited", from the City of Angels soundtrack. She knows when and how to breathe, even if she's not so careful about pronounCIation: Like anyone WOULD be/ I am flatTERED by your FAScination WITH me. . . .you're uninVIted, an unforTUNate slight."

So if you want to sing one of these one-breath-per-stanza songs, what do you do? 1. Slow it down, so the time between rhymes and words is slow enough for you to take some quick breaths. 2. Sing it with a group of singers, so you can all stagger your breaths. 3. Feign a dramatic emotional breakdown if you have to breathe and miss a few words. If all that fails . . . .  4. Sing something else.




Voice Lessons, Vocal Coaching, Piano Coaching, Performance Coaching, and Musical Production.

Eden Casteel Music Studio, 81 Post Road, Wakefield RI 02879. Phone: 401-932-5589.