The Music Within

October 27, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

The Music Within

Whenever it comes to sharing of experiences, I prefer writing it down rather than quoting the same through a verbal conversation for the simple reason that conversations may be forgotten but the writings cannot be written off the wall. With this in mind, I pen down my little enjoyable ‘student’ experience with the Academy of Western Music (AWM).

It would be a fact that majority of us would have thought of pursuing music in our younger days but due to lack of opportunities or other reliable amenities we would not have moved along the said lines. I am equally not alien to such a history.

Acquaintance with AWM

I had seen a music instruments showroom called Sterling Music in Nungambakkam, Chennai quite a few times while crossing that junction. My wife had expressed in our initial days of marriage that she had inclination to learn guitar. Hence, to surprise her I gifted her acoustic guitar. Obviously it cannot stop by giving a mere gift. Hence, I had to ensure that she is drawn to an institution which hosts wonderful teachers with a learning ambience for her guitar lessons. I made a casual enquiry at the showroom itself and was guided to the AWM. This was my first introduction to AWM.

Personal Meet with AWM

Sometime later I visited AWM to get a feel of the place. All along I had been interested in music myself. My interest ranged from singing to playing instruments like flute, guitar and violin. Of course, my entrance to the Academy triggered my subdued interest for a long time. Hence, while visiting to enroll my wife I ended up enrolling myself with the Academy for a guitar course.

The process of admission in itself is so attractive that whoever visits the Academy might prefer to experience the innovation over the traditional approach to music.

The CEO, Mr. John Sudhakar, engages himself in a personal conversation to ensure that whoever joins the Academy is not swayed by other factors than his/her own interest in music. This is because whenever people join due to peer pressures, friends’ influence the sustenance becomes questionable. To introduce, Mr. John Sudhakar himself is a musician and a teacher in his own rights.

My selection of guitar

Now, the big question comes, why guitar? Obviously, girls like guitar and the guys playing it J!!!! Jokes apart, string instruments have their own peculiarity when it comes to music. I knew I understood the sound. I realized having joined the classes that I need to feel the sound when it comes to learning music. There is very subtle difference between the two which I feel words fail to describe.

My interaction with Mr. John yielded me in taking classical guitar lessons, a different variant than the acoustic version.

How to learn a guitar

Learning guitar is a joyful experience. But it requires dedication, patience and perseverance. Above all, a wonderful teacher, a good learning institution and a respectable ambience! This is where the search ends with Academy.

The Academy hosts some of the wonderful teachers in Chennai and I can personally vouch for that given my experience with the Academy which is close to a year now.

The Academy is unique in terms of offering the learning experience. It offers both structured and unstructured way of guitar learning. The structured learning mechanism allows students to follow a set pattern of books which are very carefully selected. These set patterns give students a perspective of what is due to come. However, following a structured pattern is not at all compulsory.

This is where the teacher’s experience comes into play. The approach adopted by the teachers in the guitar classes is very simple. They assess the student so fast that they start structuring the learning process as they go along. If the teacher feels a structured curriculum is suitable then they suggest the student to follow the option. This also comes with advantage of holding certain qualifications in music from Trinity College London. My wife follows a structured pattern of guitar instruction and enjoys it.

I have for my own interest chosen to follow an unstructured way of learning to play the guitar. I am grateful that Academy has not forced me to follow a structured curriculum. This approach speaks a whole lot about independence required in learning music. It also reflects that the Academy allows students to follow their own course of action. This is also in my own interest as I am not keen in attending to exams considering that as a working professional there are too many challenges to handle and one more examination appeared to me as an overload.

Hands on guitar

The feeling of holding onto a musical instrument is by itselfquite amazing. Especially if you have been longing for it. My first experience was in my first class when I started to learn the basics of a posture required for learning classical guitar. This included growing nails, sitting with the left leg in an elevated position and holding the guitar in a 10:10 angle as is reflected in a clock. I recently read an article in the ISL Football league wherein one of the coaches said that the basics are learnt at a young age i.e. as early as 15-16. And I fully agree with that as the later we start learning, the longer it takes the time to learn the basics.

It took me almost a quarter to learn proper sitting position, holding of guitar and playing the strings. This is because sitting in a given position for an hour especially when one does not get involved in daily work out is very difficult. It also has its own pains. I may be a slow learner but these did not deter me from my determination.

If I had to go by my speed of learning, I was a sure drop-out by choice then. However, within myself I knew that time is not the criteria and this is where my choice of learning the unstructured way helped me. And I must admit that my guitar instructor Mr. Nandakumar is an amazing person and he allows the space required for a working professional to learn music.

Playing music pieces

To learn the basics and reach a stated level it took me some time. I was also not equally disciplined in putting daily ten minutes of practice given the work load and the responsibility I handle in my profile. But despite all this, I did put in time for practice whenever I could snatch some. I used to spend some extended time during holidays. This is keeping in mind that I am also pursuing another professional course simultaneously which requires certain amount of time. Now, I have developed myself to a level wherein I can play some small pieces. Precision is yet a distant start but the confidence is the ship sailing in the desired direction.

Teachers’ expectation

The basic expectation that teachers have from us as a student is to put in daily ten minutes of time for practice. This is similar to the homework we used to do during our school days J! But this time there is no hard and fast rule. The teachers do understand the work pressure and they rather help us practice during regular classes, which of course would be ideal to avoid as otherwise we would never graduate to the next level. The regular practice may be difficult for working professionals in the initial days but as we progress along believe me this does not appear difficult. Because as we go along, there will be a learning curve effect in whatever we do. Same is the case with the guitar classes. In the initial days the learning is slower but in the later stage it all boils down to handling the strings.

Concluding Note

I know lot of working professionals find it difficult to take time out for themselves due to work, family and kids. But if you ever feel living that portion of life which you wanted to, take the first step now. Because it is better late than never.

Music, if ever, had been on your wish list then you may wish to explore the Academy as an option. If not for you, then your loved ones may enjoy the pleasure of learning music. I do, including my loved one does – do you wish to share the same feeling J? Then you are welcome to join me in this pleasant journey!!

Anand

Guitar Student –Academy of Western Music, Chennai.


Sing Out

October 10, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Sing Out

I remember asking my Uncle about who created music, when I was probably 5 years old, and trying to learn the guitar. Also, why he always tuned my guitar before I started playing? And, why my Guitar had 6 strings and not 7 or 8?

My Uncle sat next to me and told me this story that happened long time ago when the world was just made and where people did not have a language to speak. It seems some people were carrying big stones and one suddenly fell on a man’s feet. He instantly screamed loud and sharp which the people around had never heard before. The man was very curious to know what had happened and how the sound came from his mouth all of a sudden. So, he took another stone and dropped it on his feet again but this time the scream was different. He became all the more curious and gathered more stones of different sizes. He started to throw them on his feet one after another, and started making sounds of different kinds. His curiosity further increased and he dragged another person who happened to be a lady and did the same to her. And, to his surprise the sound was different, which he felt was better than his own. He then decided to do this trick before the BIG Chief, and get rewarded.

Having gathered a few more people including men, women and kids, he tried and discovered that it worked on all of them. Now, he took them to the BIG Chief with a huge sack of stones, rocks, etc. He made them all stand in a group before the BIG Chief and started tossing stones one by one on their feet and each of them started to make sounds. The BIG Chief who was truly carried away by the act, rewarded him and also gave him a position called the “SOUND CREATOR”. His job was to entertain people whenever there was a feast or any kind of celebration. The group of people he used told him “buddy, all you need is a sound from our mouth, which we will do without you throwing stones at our feet as it hurts; all you have to do is stand in front of us, wave your hand and we will understand, and make the sounds that you want”. That is how the first CHOIR came to life.

Singing is a beautiful art. But, you need to learn how to sing the right way in order to sound beautiful. Else, it could sound odd…………. When you take voice lessons from a qualified and experienced instructor, you will be taught the basic things that can help you go a long way.  Before you start singing, you need to do a bit of warm up, and some work out, like how one does before playing a game. This is the first thing done in singing classes too.

Warm ups will gradually prepare your muscles for higher intensity of performance and help you sing higher notes easily. You will distinctly experience this when you go for singing lessons.

Breathing

The Four steps of Effective Breathing are

  1. Aligning your body with neutral posture (proper alignment, or keeping a “neutral” spine, placing the least stress on your muscles because you are balancing the effort among all your muscles to maintain your position)
  2. Inhaling, expanding around your waistline
  3. Exhaling with a firm abdominal
  4. Keeping your ribs open as you exhale (do not collapse your chest.)

A Quiet Breathing exercise

  • Stand in front of a full length mirror
  • Take a deep breath with no chest lift (don’t over fill), and hiss on sustained “S” sound for as long as you can
  • You will feel firmness in your abdominal muscles as you expel your air
  • At the very end of your air supply, be sure to keep your ribs open, and your chest in a comfortably high position

Repeat two or three times, watching carefully to maintain good form. When you memorize good form by watching yourself, you are teaching your muscles to “remember” this action for singing. This is best explained when you attend vocal lessons.

(Courtesy – Vocal Workouts for the Contemporary Singers, Anne Peckham, Berklee press)

For more details on the above topic, please refer to the book which is available at the Academy’s library.

Practice in front of a Mirror

Singers should constantly practice in front of the mirror. As soon as you finish learning a song, you have to put yourself in front of a full size mirror. This will help you express emotions in your music. The dramatic artist depends largely for his / her expression.

The singing mouth should always smile lightly. The light smile relaxes the lips, allowing them free play for words which they and the tongue must form, and together give the singer a slight sense of uplift for his / her expression.

The lips are of greatest aid in shaping and shading the tones. A singer’s mouth must always look pleasant, not only because it creates a disagreeable impression on the audience but also because natural and correct voice production requires a mouth shaped almost into a smile.

Good Diction

A good diction or the art of pronouncing the word properly and intelligently is very important. The same is sadly neglected by many singers, and is indeed not considered important by a large proportion of the audience, who do not understand foreign language. And in opera singing, where the language may not be familiar with the entire audience, sometimes it becomes unimportant whether the words are understood or not, as long as the music is good.  It is very important to learn how to pronounce the word correctly before you start to sing.

Essential Vocal care

  • Do not scream
  • Do not speak at the top of your voice
  • Do not speak when the music / noise level around you is high
  • Do not sing when you have a sore throat / cold
  • Do not smoke
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Avoid stress, as it is directly connected to your emotions
  • Avoid too much of dairy products, especially ice creams and chilled drinks

Some Hints to master the art

  • Practice daily at least for 30 minutes
  • Review the lessons taught in your previous class before you go for the next session
  • Sight read few pieces daily; reading sheet music is very important
  • Ensure the instrument used for accompaniment is in concert pitch and tuned well
  • Memorize the song; you can interpret the song well if you know the words by heart
  • Develop an ear for music; ear training exercises will be helpful in this regard
  • Do a little of back stage warm up before you perform

I would say to all young people who are ambitious to become singers, that it is a thoroughly hard-worked art, which requires long months and years of study. Daily practice is very essential. Practice on the diction; try to learn a few songs of different languages like-German, Italian and French. Daily workouts are very important. If you are given an opportunity to perform for an audience, just don’t hesitate, even if it is not the kind of crowd that will appreciate Western music. Performance opportunities for music in schools and colleges is also a great platform. Just get on stage and give your best shot. Someone from there will take you to the next level, trust me it has worked for me, and if it has worked for me it will surely work for all. When it comes to singing, you need to put your heart and soul, and bring life to the words of the song. And when you have put all of it together then definitely there will be magic in your voice. If you’re someone who’s looking for the right place for vocal music lessons, the Academy of Western Music in Chennai is where you need to go. It is the most sought after academy in town for music education, where training is offered in both classical and contemporary singing by experienced and qualified faculty.

Cheers!!!

David Devasahayam

Vocal Instructor –Academy of Western Music, Chennai.