Justin Timberlake Looks to Top Billboard 200 for Third Consecutive Week

Well it looks like Justin Timberlake’s third album, “The 20/20 Experience,” will continue to sit atop the Billboard 200 according to billboard.com wrtier Keith Caulfield.  Caulfield’s article states that the album is projected to sell between 150,000 and 170,000 copies after debuting at over half a million sales.  Timberlake is the first artists to sit at no.1 for the first three week since Taylor Swift’s “Red” in November of last year and the first male artist since Eminem’s “Recovery” in July 2010. 

JT’s debut single off the album, “Suit and Tie,” is currently stuck at no.3 on the Hot 100 behind “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Bruno Mars’ “When I was Your Man.”  My favorite song on the album (and possibly favorite JT song ever) “Mirrors” sits at no.11 and “Pusher Love Girl” is currently no.87

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This is why we do what we do.

Some wise words from David Ackert of the LA Times:

singers and musicians

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Looking Back: My First Choir Rehearsal

The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue! The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue!  Annunciate! Articulate!  Exaggerate!  “Sing it faster now!”

I’ve been here for less than five minutes into the warm-up and already I’m overwhelmed by my surroundings.   70 voices chanting this phrase on pitch over and over and faster each time.  There I stood; a shocked freshman in the front row dwarfed by the wall of sound around me and wondering to myself, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

A day or two earlier I met with my Theory professor, Don, to ask about taking voice lessons the next semester.  I was feeling quite insecure with my vocal abilities at the moment (I was pretty bad) and was in need of help, lots of it.  After a quick little walk through of some vocal exercises, he invited me to attend University Chorus rehearsal that evening.  He had asked me earlier in the semester at the a Capella auditions and I kindly declined the offer.  I thought of myself as a pop singer, and couldn’t be bothered with that classical crap.  But this time I was desperate for help and I was willing to do anything to improve my voice.

So that Thursday I went to my first choir rehearsal in the Ochre Court ballroom (the university’s main building) which had been converted into a chapel years ago and is now our rehearsal room.  The molding trimmed in gold and the fresco on the ceiling are remnants of the Gilded Age and a small Holy Water font is still mounted to the wall is one of a few remains of the old chapel.  If only those walls could talk; I’m sure they’d have plenty of stories to tell.

After quite the interesting warp-up experience it was time to start singing.  Don had already tenor section next to a tall, goofy freshman named JB and handed me this massive book of music, Vivaldi’s Gloria.  Before I knew it we were flying through the music so fast an auctioneer would have trouble keeping up (or at least that’s what if felt like).  The notes and Latin text grazed by my head like dodge balls in gym class.  The rest of the chorus had been working on this piece for several months and had a pretty good handle on it.  And here was I, a pop singer who just belly flopped into the world of classical music.  Needless to say it was a bit much to take in all at once.

This was also my first real attempt to reading and singing sheet music on the spot, aka sight singing.  I had some previous experience with reading music, but nothing to this extent.  I compare it to learning a foreign language.  You could learn in a classroom, but it’s better to experience it first-hand in a foreign country.  I tried to keep up with the rest of the choir the best I could.  Every now and then I would lose my place as expected, but the other tenors would pick me up and carry me back to the right spot.  JB was singing everything loud and proud with lungs of steel which cut through the rest of the voices like a guitar solo.  I tried to follow suit, which eventually turned into a shouting match.  Looking back I’ve come to realize he didn’t have a clue what he was doing and was confidently making everything up the way he assumed it was supposed to sound.  We worked on Mark Hayes’ take on Cantate Domino and the Hallelujah from Handel’s Messiah among a few other songs and in the span of an eighth note the hour and a half rehearsal was over.

Aside from being quite overwhelmed with every aspect of my first choir rehearsal, I enjoyed it.  I liked how different this style of music was from pop but at the same time would assist the development of my voice.  It presented a new challenge I so desired to tackle with a newfound sense I had something to prove; that I could fit into this new world.  Two years have passed, and University Chorus has become a massive part of my life.  Not only am I one of the top male singers, but I’ve grown to love and appreciate the classical voice as much as pop music.  My fellow choir members have become my closest friends and Don has become a mentor to me.  Joining the University Chorus is one of the best decisions I have ever made and I encourage all inspiring young singers from all genres and hobbyists alike to consider joining your school choir.  It may be quite overwhelming at first, but stick with it for a few rehearsals and you may just fall in love with it like I did.

Salve Regina University Chorus

Salve Regina University Chorus

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How to: My Vocal Warm-up

Almost every musician practices some sort of ritual or routine to “warm-up” before a lesson, rehearsal or performance.   One’s warm-up usually consists of exercises inherited from current or previous instructors and personal practices which target the specific needs of the musician.  Just as athletes lift weights and undergo countless repetition to develop both physical muscle and muscle memory, a musician’s exercises do the same thing to a different set of muscles.   Here is, essentially, the vocal warm-up I’ve developed with my voice instructor, Don St. Jean.

Stretching and Abdominal Lifts

I have gotten into the habit of stretching the second I step into my lessons and rehearsals, just like an athlete does.  I roll my shoulders and stretch the back of my neck to release any tension built up around my vocal chords and larynx and is followed up by stretching my jaw muscles.

Next we perform abdominal lifts.  This is done by making a series of quick “hisses” while lifting my lower abdominal muscles followed by a long hiss where my abdominal lift is controlled to sustain my breath support.  The lower abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles are highly involved in controlling a singer’s breath support and it is key that these muscles be strong but more so flexible since releasing the muscles is just as important as their contraction.  My instructor talks about trying to teach bodybuilders and gymnasts who struggled with releasing these muscles because they were “stiff as a board.”  To apply this exercise to singing, we perform these lifts on pitch with a “ha” sound throughout my range.  Getting into the habit of incorporating the abdominal muscles into your singing can be difficult at first, but after a while it is set into your muscle memory and becomes second nature.

Lip Trills

Next, I perform a lip trill starting on one pitch, sliding up to its octave, and back to the first pitch and make my way up by half steps.  Personally, I hate this exercise.  I’m not very good at lip trills (I couldn’t even do them my first two semesters ) and after about 3 of them I’m out of breath and light headed; but nonetheless I understand their importance.  Lip trills not only loosen up your lips, but really work your breath support, and in time I hope to grow and learn to love lip trills.

Middle Voice and Head Tone

After I’m completely out of breath we work through middle of my range with some humming with emphasis on good breath support and looking for resonance or vibration in my cheek bones.  After a while I’ll switch to a “ma” sound still emphasizing good support and crisp, bright tone.  When descending down a scale, it is important to maintain support and keep your tone bright so you don’t drop off on the lower notes, resulting in a flat, heavy pitch.

To work my head tone, I will sing a series of intervals within a scale on “n” with a relaxed jaw and my tongue touching the back of my front top teeth and work my up by half steps.  If done correctly, you should be able to feel the top of your head vibrate.  After a few I switch from “n” to a “nu” sound and drop my jaw on the higher notes of the scale.  In this exercise I look to have a somewhat hollow tone that is still resonant (coming from the roof of my mouth) and not in the back of my throat.

The Passagio

Now we work the passagio, also referred to as one’s “break.”  The passagio (Italian for passage) are the notes in between the middle of my voice and high notes and is very significant portion of the tenor voice.  For me this occurs between F5 and Ab5 on the piano.  These notes need a mix of both mask resonance and head tone and the goal is to make the transition through this part of my voice as smooth as possible.  We perform several exercises developing the muscle combination for the passagio from scale work and long arpeggios using combinations of five vowel sounds (E, A, ah, O, and oo).  Passagio work can be quite difficult at first.  I didn’t even practice these exercises until my second semester of lessons.  In time, the necessary muscles will begin to develop and passagio exercises become much easier. 

Vibrato

To practice vibrato I sing the same five vowel sounds on one pitch throughout the middle of my range.  For beginners, this is a great exercise to learn the proper positioning of the tongue and jaw for vowel sounds.  A natural vibrato, or pulsating change in pitch, should be the result of proper technique.  Since I came from a background in pop music, I had much difficulty developing and being comfortable with my vibrato.  Although everyone develops vibrato at a different pace, this is still a good exercise to maintain consistency in one’s voice.

Lower Voice

Finally I do a little bit of work in the lower part of my range.  I’ll sing a descending diatonic scale (sol, fa mi, re, do) usually on “zoi.”  In the lower voice, resonance comes from the chest, but like the middle voice, it is important to keep your tone in a high place keeping your throat open.  Since I’m a tenor, I don’t really work this part of my voice very much since this is the least comfortable part of my range and rarely sing low notes.  Nonetheless it is important for tenors to develop these muscles as well.  Baritones and basses are much more likely to work this part of their voice instead.

Like I said earlier, this is the warm-up I’ve developed with my voice instructor and targets my specific needs.  While these are the essential parts of the voice all singers need to develop, there are several different exercise to achieve results, and each singer will put emphasis on certain exercises based on their needs.  Most importantly, find a routine that you are comfortable with which help your voice the most and never stop singing!!

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Hey Guys!!

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while, it’s been a crazy week.  Anyways, I came across a

Blues musician Eric Tessmer at SXSW 2013

really good article by TIME journalist Melissa Walker recapping the the most noteworthy scenes of SXSW 2013 which took place this past week.  For those of you who don’t know, SXSW (South by Southwest) is a massive music, independent film and technology festival and conference in Austin, TX started in 1987.  This year the “live music capitol of the world” hosted the likes of Justin Timberlake, Prince, and Green Day as well as countless no-name artists looking for their big break.  Wish you were there?  The LA Times put together this photo gallery of the festivities which officially put SXSW on my bucket list of must-see festivals in the near future.

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Eric Whitacre Wow’s again at TED2013

Virtual Choir creator Eric Whitacre is no stranger to the TED stage and his presentation last Friday was quite the finale to this years TED conference in Long Beach, CA.  According to TED blogger Ben Lillie, 100 singers from nearby universities sang Whitacre’s composition, “Cloudburst” and were joined by 32 singers from 32 different countries via Skype.  Whitacre, one of the most

Ewcolor_cropedsuccessful composers and conductors of the 21st century first introduced the world to  his Virtual Choir project in 2010, connecting 185 YouTube singers from 12 countries sang his composition of Lux Aurumque.”  His ensuing projects, “sleep” and “Water Night” (which I’ve sung) have gathered thousands of singers from hundreds of countries virtually through YouTube which he discusses in his Ted2011 talk.  Whitacre is currently preparing for his fourth Virtual Choir project called “Bliss.”

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Hello Fellow Musicians!!!!

Opening for Sum 41 as lead guitarist/vocalist for unsigned artist, Alec Ciambriello

My name is John FitzGerald and I am a junior music major at Salve Regina University in Newport RI.  Over the past seven years I’ve worn countless hats in the world of music and performed on a variety of stages in both pop and classical styles.  As an amateur musician, I’ve done everything from local open-mic nights to small gigs and even opened up for punk-rockers Sum 41.  As a student I’m involved in voice and piano lessons, two choirs, opera workshop, and direct and arrange music for the school’s student-run a Capella groups.  One might argue that I live in two completely different worlds, pop and classical.  But no, I’m just a music major at a small liberal arts college who has acquired an appreciation for classical music and enjoy it just as much as today’s commercial hits.  In this blog I hope to touch on my many experiences in the wide world of music performance as well as other timely topics in pop and classical music.  If you have any topics you would like me to discuss, feel free to comment as I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

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