Music Connection Magazine Features Miguel

By Lis Lewis

I’m excited and so thankful to Music Connection and Dan Kimpel for including me in this interview with Miguel. I’ve had many great experiences working with Miguel and I want to thank him for such high praise. I’ve been called a lot of things, but it’s not often I get the title of ‘The Shit’.

Read the interview below to find out how Miguel warms up his voice and how he prepares to perform on Saturday Night Live, Madison Square Garden, the BET Awards, The Grammy’s and just about everywhere else.

Miguel_Cover_SideBar

Read the full interview with Miguel from Music Connection Magazine here: Miguel: Soul Ascending

A Little Music Theory For Songwriters: Understanding the Circle of Fifths

by Freelance Writer Sally Writes

If you have spent even a little time exploring the murky waters of music theory as a vocalist, you will have come across the Circle of Fifths. Yet while it is a hugely useful concept once you have got to grips with it, it is not always the simplest thing to get your head around from first principles.

So sit back, while we explain exactly what it is all about and how understanding the Circle of Fifths opens up the whole relationship between the major and minor keys in music that will help across a variety of musical techniques. From the perspective of the vocalist, it is the perfect way to get to grips with keys and melodies – give it a try!

Major and minor keys

Each major key has a relative minor, and both use the same key signature – in other words, they use the same sharps and flats when you go through their scales. When you look at a diagrammatic representation of the Circle of Fifths, you will see the major keys on the outside of the circle and the relative minor keys on the inside.

So at the top is the key of C major – as we know, this has no sharps or flats in its key signature. As you progress clockwise, each key has one more sharp than the last. And as you go anticlockwise, each has one more flat.

Using the Circle of Fifths

You can soon memorize the Circle of Fifths, or keep a picture handy, and use it to instantly work out what key any given song is in. Just count how many sharps or flats are in the key signature and move that number of steps around the circle, always starting at C.

So if, for example, there are three sharps in the key signature, go three steps clockwise and you’ll find that the song is evidently in A major or F# minor. Likewise, if there are four flats, it must be in A?major or F minor.

Using the Circle Of Fifths In Writing

As a songwriter, you have probably noticed that the most popular songs have very simple and predictable progressions. For this reason, the Circle of Fifths is a perfect tool in creating catchy, memorable melodies.

You can create a simple Circle of Fifths progression by choosing a key and identifying the seven chords that naturally exist in that key. Start your progression on the chord of your choice, build the next on the chord that is next to it and their relative minors higher or lower. So you might choose the key of G major, with the chords G, Em, D, C, Am, B minor and so on.

You will notice a sense of repetition as you play through the progression, giving you an ideal framework to construct your melody.

Once you have the Circle of Fifths committed to memory, you will feel as if the scales have been removed from your eyes, whether you are trying to get to grips with the best key for singing a particular song, or working on your own composition from scratch. So print out a copy, and have it with you wherever you go!

Voice Council interview with Lis

New Vocal Coach in Residence

Lis Lewis went to Brittany Spears’ house to give her voice lessons, went to the Grammy’s to warm up Rihanna, and worked with Miguel for his Saturday Night Live performance.

We invited this true coach-to-the-stars to be our first Vocal Coach in Residence of 2017.

Read the full article on Voice Council Magazine >

Lip-syncing: An Unnecessary Evil

By Lis Lewis

There has been a lot of press about the fact that artists lip-synched at the BET Awards show. The fans are disappointed and other artists are disapproving. So am I. Why sing to a recorded performance when there’s an audience hoping to hear an impassioned LIVE version of your song? It’s cheating. I understand it’s risky – you might miss a note or make a sound you didn’t intend. But the audience wants to get to know you, not hear the record they already have at home. If the song is too high, change the key. If the melody is too demanding, simplify it. But at least sing. We buy your music because we love the way you sing; that’s why we go to your shows (or watch you on TV) – we want to hear you. It should feel immediate and inspired, not phony.

The performances that were live – Miguel (of course), Charlie Wilson, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, India Arie – were moving, exciting and electric. JT was playful, changing the melody and improvising with the other artists he performed with. India Arie played guitar and sang with authenticity. Miguel showed off his range and flexibility singing not once but three times with three different artists. It was so exciting to hear the great vocal variety he brings to his shows along with his sexy physicality. I’m hoping that other artists will take their cue from them and work hard to perfect a live, real vocal performance.


Ready to take your singing to the next level? Take private voice lessons in Los Angeles or online with Lis Lewis!
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The Singers Workshop Named ‘Best Voice Lessons in Los Angeles’

By Lis Lewis

cbslaI’m so grateful to CBS Los Angeles for naming The Singers Workshop ‘Best Voice Lessons’ in Los Angeles. It’s been my pleasure to provide voice lessons and vocal training to incredibly talented artists for over 30 years. 

From CBS Los Angeles:

“If you aspire to be a pop singer, Lis Lewis may be able to help you fulfill your dreams. The celebrity voice teacher coaches some of today’s popular recording artists in the music industry, including Britney Spears, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani and Colbie Caillat. The Singers Workshop provides private lessons, recorded to a study CD, that pinpoint major voice expressions – from range, pitch and tone to breath control and tension release. Lewis collaborates with record producers, bands, songwriters and major televised music competitions to help artists extract only the best from their presentations. Holder of a master’s degree in theater and music, Lewis has taught or lectured at a number of specialty schools, including Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts in England. Singing lessons via Skype are also offered.”

Find out more about taking lessons with me here.

See a list of all my wonderful past and current clients here.


Ready to take your singing to the next level? Take private voice lessons in Los Angeles or online with Lis Lewis!
Learn More.

 

Why I Say ‘Yes’

By Lis Lewis

I don’t like to say ‘no’. I just cleared my entire calendar for the whole week in order to get on a flight that just landed (12:00 AM EST). I’m here in New York City to work with Miguel for his performance this weekend on SNL. I didn’t actually know I was going until just three days ago.

The entertainment business operates at the last minute; nothing gets done until it’s on fire. For example, I actually have no idea what my schedule is going to be for the next three days. However, I do know where I’ll be from 11:30 PM to 1:00 AM on Saturday night.

This business runs on a last-minute basis and that’s true for the artist too. There is a six hour rehearsal tomorrow, but even Miguel doesn’t know when he’ll be onstage. He only knows that he’ll have to leave 30 Rock by 5:30 because he has a show at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. And I don’t know if I’m supposed to go with him to the show or not. But I will say ‘yes’ whenever I’m asked to do something and so should you.

Sing at someone’s party this weekend? Yes. Learn to dance by Friday? Yes. I’m not saying you should ever give up your character or become a person that someone else wants you to be. It’s your uniqueness that is the most compelling thing about you. But be flexible too. It’s okay to not know what’s coming next. It’s okay to take a risk. If they ask you to co-write with someone you don’t know, say yes. If the recording studio offers you free time, realize they might have to bump you for a paying client. In my experience, things don’t always happen the way you plan; sometimes it’s even better.

My Five Favorite Grammy Moments 2013

Miguel and me at 2013 Grammy Awards

Miguel and me at 2013 Grammy Awards

I watched last weekend’s Grammy Awards twice through, if you can believe it – all three and a half hours of it. Here are my favorite performances.

1. Miguel, of course, (not just because he’s my client). His vocal was smooth and silky and he was completely comfortable and assured.

2. Justin Timberlake – sepia suave with Jaye Z as a guest on the verse in front of a hot big band

3. Alicia Keyes playing drums, throwing her head back and wailing. I wouldn’t call it a duet; I didn’t even look at Adam Levine.

4. Black Keys, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Dr. John in full Margi Gras regalia

5. Bruno Mars and Sting. Sting should have gotten a writing credit on Locked Out of Heaven, it sounds so much like Message in A Bottle.

And if I can just add one more
6. Jack White and the all female band and then the all male band

And a non musical event that was so much fun
JLo read the memo: CBS had sent a letter to all participants demanding no breasts, no buttocks, nothing transparent. And she still looked provocative.

Five Touring Tips

By Lis Lewis twitter-logo-square-webtreatsetc@elislewis mail-square-webtreatsetclis@thesingersworkshop.com

almostfamous

Cameron Crowe’s tour digest film Almost Famous

Beyoncé just announced she’s doing a world tour. Miguel just returned from one. Some singers tour the country in a van and some fly from city to city; however you travel, touring is essential to a successful music career. But how do you keep your voice in shape during a tour?

It’s exhausting. Not only are you traveling all the time, you’re singing almost every night and sometimes doing radio or Internet interviews during the day. Here are five tips to getting the most out of your voice.

  1. Drink water. You need to stay hydrated. Travel, especially plane travel, is dehydrating. Try to limit your salt and alcohol intake and drink lots of water. The rule of thumb is divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water a day. You should drink even more if you’re sick.
  2. Sleep. It’s not easy to get enough rest when you’re sleeping in a different bed every night and playing shows till 2AM. But when you’re sleep deprived, you use more external muscles to control your voice, which wears it down.
  3. Rest your voice. Talking is almost as tiring as singing. If you’re talking all day, or shouting over the band playing before you in the club, you are wearing out your voice.
  4. Warm up. You are an athlete. Don’t even think about singing without stretching out your voice first.
  5. Don’t shout over the band. If you can, invest in in-ear monitors. If you can hear yourself, you won’t be tempted to yell. Shouting is your enemy.

Happy travels!


Ready to take your singing to the next level? Take private voice lessons in Los Angeles or online with Lis Lewis!
Learn More.

The Charisma Factor

By Lis Lewis

Whether you are trying to get signed to a record label or are creating a career for yourself independently, in order to have musical success you have to develop an audience who identifies with you. You need great songs and a great voice but there is another more elusive element, sometimes called charisma. This other skill is hard to put a finger on, but it has to do with the force of your personality and how it affects your singing, your songs, your interaction with your band and your audience, your photos and press releases – in fact every element of your band’s image and concept.

As the frontperson of your band, you are the one the audience comes to know first. Through you they become familiar with the material and the other band members. You set the tone. Are you deep and gentle like Sarah McLaughlin, introspective and intense like Thom Yorke of Radiohead, or aggressive and dangerous like Pink?

Where do you fit in? Or rather, what makes you stand out? How do you become intriguing enough to be considered a star? How do you create a concept around which to shape your songs and your band? Let’s take a look at a few people who have accomplished this feat and see how they did it.

Mythic Artists

Lady Gaga

The most mythic artists, like Lady Gaga, have such a strong persona that you could actually sum them up pretty easily. Gaga is provocative and outspoken, infusing her electronic dance music with glam. She pushes against the values of society in many ways: with her sexuality, her dark lyrical perspective, her outrageous clothing and her mash-up of musical styles. She rebels against any kind of limitation. When you think of Lady Gaga, a very clear and strong image comes into your head. She has created a myth and it shows in every element of her work – from music to clothing, from lyrical content to video content.

Gwen Stefani of No Doubt

Gwen Stefani is also a rebel but in a different way. She is street smart and uses humor to defy the restrictions set by society. She is definitely not “Just A Girl”. She is glamorous even while wearing track pants. Although the lyrics might be intimate, there’s an aggressiveness in the music that keeps her from getting too close or being too sweet. She’s tough and vulnerable at the same time and plays these contradictions off in her clothing, gestures and movements.

Even artists who aren’t as radical as these two have honed their message down to its essence. Sheryl Crow was once described as the ‘thinking man’s party girl’. She’s tough and she’s smart with a vulnerable side you only rarely get to see. She’s a cynic and nothing is going to get past her. You would probably never hear her sing a lyric that is as confessional and intimate as a Colbie Caillat lyric nor will she use that kind of sweet vocal sound. Even though Sheryl Crow is certainly capable of singing with a beautiful tone, she chooses a more conversational, undersung style, whether consciously or unconsciously. This is because it mirrors her personality and her view of life, which is not sweet, not pretty. Her guitar sounds, her clothing, her attitude, all reflect the same concept.

 

No matter who you respect as an artist, whether they are flamboyant like Adam Lambert or completely unglamorous like Dave Matthews, you can still see who they are and what they represent in the way they bring life to the songs, the musical style, the stage show, the photos, the press and all the other elements.

Your Own Myth

Where do you begin to find your image, your onstage persona? Start with yourself, your history and your real personality. You can’t pretend to be an angry young man or a sexy babe if it isn’t what you really feel – you won’t do a very good job of it. Who are you really? It’s hard for us to know who we are and how we appear to others. Here is an assignment to help you get started: ask five of your friends to write down a list of your three strongest personality attributes. They don’t have to be nice things because if you are a troublemaker, for instance like Pink is, that might play very well on stage. And they shouldn’t be characteristics like ‘nice’, ‘smart’, ‘talented’ or ‘creative’. Those things won’t set you apart from anyone else. We are looking for the things that make the people who know you recognize you. Maybe you are a caretaker type of person or maybe you have a lot of energy. Maybe you are a geek or a loner. If someone says you are sexy, ask them to be more specific. Are you sexy in a ‘girl–(or boy)–next–door sort of way? Wholesome, brazen? Sensuous? Are you funny? Is it dry humor? Bawdy humor, adolescent humor? Try to get your friends to be specific. When they are done you will have fifteen words or phrases that are descriptions of your personality as others see you. Some of them may overlap. If you are very funny, probably everyone will include it. But the point is to see yourself from the outside. When you start to have an idea of what image you present to the world, you can begin shaping that image.

From The Inside Out

Image is not something you apply from the outside. Sure some producer can tell you to wear certain clothes and act a certain way and sing his songs and then he will make you a star. But it rarely happens that way (with a few exceptions) and it isn’t very satisfying. You aren’t you. You are pretending to be what he has created. You feel like a fraud. Even the boy groups that have been created by a producer have later gone on to take a strong stand on what they really want and who they really are. Image comes from the real you. It comes from the inside out. Look inside yourself for your opinions and feelings and then write about them in your songs. When you sing them the force of your convictions gives you great energy and stage presence. This is the start of charisma.

If your material is socially conscious, then your band shouldn’t be dressed like they’re going to Mardi Gras. If you’re writing romantic songs about the joys and sorrows of love, then your band will probably not be covered in pierces and tattoos. If you are singing blues songs, chances are you won’t have a cellist. If you’re a garage band then you probably won’t want to look like you stepped out of business meeting. Of course there are exceptions to all of these and the exceptions are sometimes the most interesting. Contradictions can be fun. But it’s still a choice based on what you want your audience to perceive.

When you go to a concert of a person you admire, you come away feeling that you’ve gotten to know that person. How did that happen? What did they do to express who they are? Were they shy? Talkative? Angry? Arrogant? Bubbly? Silly? Serious? What about you? Who will you be? When your audience walks away from your concert, who will they have seen? Remember, this is a longtime process. You will always be creating yourself. As your beliefs and attitudes become clearer to you, your concept will evolve. And as you take a stand on those beliefs you will develop the confidence and clarity of purpose that leads to charisma.

Read part 2 – Charisma, The Sequel


Ready to take your singing to the next level? Take private voice lessons in Los Angeles or online with Lis Lewis!
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Advice for ‘The Voice’ Auditions

My client, Loren Allred, from NBC’s The Voice

By Lis Lewis

I was the vocal coach for two singers who were on a recent season of The Voice and several others from prior seasons. After watching them go through the audition process I have some thoughts about how to survive and endure.
Pick songs that reflect your personality. Just because you like a song doesn’t mean it shows who you are. Also prepare a lot of songs; they might throw something at you at the last minute.

As a contestant on the show, you aren’t just a singer. You are a character and a story. Try to shape that story yourself so you have some control of it. Rather than being the guy whose wife left him, try making it positive – the guy who turned his life around. Adversity in life makes good television but don’t be a victim. Phillip Phillips, who won last season on American Idol, had multiple surgeries while on the show, but that was never part of his story.

The audition process is high stress. Get enough sleep, eat at regular intervals (bring snacks), dress in layers (you might be waiting in line outside) and most of all prepare. Know your songs, practice being interviewed, warm up your voice and then let go and show them who you are.

It’s hard not to take it personally if they don’t pick you. Your goal should be to do your personal best whether you’re chosen or not. You don’t know what they’re looking for – they may already have picked their ‘rocker Mom’, or their ‘soulful country’ voice. All you can do is be the most authentic ‘you’ you can be.


Ready to take your singing to the next level? Take private voice lessons in Los Angeles or online with Lis Lewis!
Learn More.

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