Traveling On An Overgrown Path

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the blog On An Overgrown Path this week. I stumbled upon this United Kingdom music blog site while doing Taize music research recently. I am excited by the variety of topics on music from all over the world and the many podcasts available. Two posts caught my eye that I thought I would share with you. The first one, is The Music of Taize. This post shares with us the history behind the church of reconciliation at Taize where prayer is held three times a day and the music of Jacques Berthier that has helped to make the Taize community worship well known throughout the world. The second post of interest is There is a Green Hill Far Away Called Taize. I am dying to travel to Taize and see this magnificent place. Until I do I live vicariously through the people who have. This article contains gorgeous photographs of the various sites located at Taize and the many people who take pilgrimage there and talks about what it means to be there and share in this amazing community. Enjoy!

Quote of the Week "Doubt is a pain..."

"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother."
~Kahlil Gibran


Quote of the Week "Take a music bath..."

"Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body."
~Oliver Wendell Holmes


Music Selections with Meaning

Music can evoke so many emotions and memories for people. You can trace my life's time line with the songs that I have sung. I can remember certain key times in my life by the songs that were on the radio or in my tape or CD player. Making music selections with meaning during times of sorrow can be difficult but essential for celebrating the people we love. I could go into a long list of hymns and songs that would be appropriate for a funeral or celebration of life service but I will leave that for another time. I thought I would share just two of the songs that have recently touched me while thinking about loss and working with families in their time of grief. Enjoy!

"Angel" -Sarah McLachlan

This song has been playing in my head this morning so I had to find it on YouTube. Whenever I think of Katie Mika I am reminded of this song and how magical it was in our lives when it came out on the radio. Katie and I would sing spontaneous harmony parts and all time would stop in the car until that song was done. In the spring of 2001 I lost my singing partner in a car accident. She will be forever missed.

"I Can Only Imagine" -Miller/Bryson/Cochran/Graul/Kipley/Scheuchzer/Shaffer

This song is fantastic! I recently was asked to sing at a celebration of life service for a long time member of our church that had been away for the past couple years. I so wish that I had had the opportunity to meet the man we were celebrating that evening. It was one of the most moving services. I was asked to sing "I Can Only Imagine". I learned it in a week with the help of this video on YouTube and I have been changed ever since. The lyrics of this song are perfect for any service really. I can't wait to sing it again.


Training Your Musical Ear

Ear training has come up in several of my lessons in that last couple weeks. Sharpening our ears to better hear intervals, chords and scales is so important. When learning new music it helps sight-reading go so much easier and shows strong musicianship. So, how do we sharpen are ears for listening? We must become familiar with each of the intervals and how they sound harmonically and melodically. Learning how each of the different kinds of scales sound is also essential for strong listening skills and music making whether singing or playing an instrument. Repetition is the key to building and keeping those skills fresh.

Let's start with what's an interval? An interval is the distance between two notes either sung or played on the keyboard. Each interval is given a number, 2nd - 8th or Octave. During music theory class in high school I received a great handout that I continue to reference today about all the intervals in music. Did you know that you can memorize all of the intervals by using famous songs? Check out this list and see how many you know.

Songs for Teaching Intervals




minor 2nd

“Stormy Weather”


“Button Up Your Overcoat”

from Follow Through

(Deslya, Brown, Henderson)

Major 2nd

from The Sound of Music

"Mary Had a Little Lamb"


Minor 3rd

"So Long, Farewell”
from the Sound of Music

"The Star Spangled Banner"


Perfect 4th

"Bridal Chorus"

from Lohengrin


(Folk Song)

Augmented 4th/

Diminished 5th

from West Side Story


4th Theme from The Incredible Flutist


Perfect 5th

"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"



minor 6th

"Go Down, Moses"


Theme from Love Story

Major 6th

"My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean"

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"

minor 7th


from West Side Story

"How Am I to Know?"


Major 7th/

Diminished Octave

“I Love You"


"Back in Your Own Backyard"
(Jolson, Rose, Dreyer)


“Over the Rainbow”

from The Wizard of Oz


“It's D'Lovely

from Red Hot and Blue


I will admit that I didn't know all of these songs at first but they were a good starting point for memorization. Later, I added a few that were more familiar to me and you should do that, too. Personalize the list to include your favorite songs for even easier memorization.

My new favorite way to practice all aspects of ear training is with the many free online ear training websites out there. Here are a few of my favorites.

Web Resources for Ear Training

EarToner EarToner is a program to download that helps you learn all the aspects of ear training. I currently use this one and find it pretty easy to use. Let me know what you think.

Perfect Pitch I wish I had perfect pitch but I don't. Perfect Pitch is a website game for those wanting to test their sense of pitch. There are three levels, easy, medium and hard. Give this one a try for fun!

Ear Plane With the Olympics in full swing I thought we could get in the competitive spirit with ear training. Check out Ear Plane to compete with other musicians around the world in ear training exercises. there is nothing to download. Comment here and tell me how you do.

Good Ear I love the simplicity of this website. The ear trainer on Good Ear is similar to many of the other trainers out there but the site is clear of clutter and easy to move around. I like having choices and a change of pace every now and then so I don't get bored. This is a good one for that.

GNU Solfege GNU Solfege is another one that you have to download but I would highly recommend it especially if you are a singer. It has more bells and whistles than EarToner and includes reading intervals on the staff and gives you time to sing them before the answer is played. I will be downloading this soon.

This list is by no means complete but will get you started practicing ear training at home. Add 5-10 minutes a day of ear training along with your regular practice and I can guarantee you will see results. Happy ear training!


Quote of the Week "Our deepest fear is not..."

"...Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson


Healthy Voices

Taking care of one's voice is essential for any singer. Your voice is your instrument and you only get one, so treat it well. Here are a few tips for keeping good vocal health.

Water, Water, Water - Make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Water works to lubricate your vocal cords and protect them from harm. Dryness effects the mucous membranes that cover your cords, causing redness and swelling. Dry air can also dry out your vocal cords. So, if just drinking more water is not helping, try using a vaporizer during the day and even at night.

Reduce Vocal Stress and Misuse - Look at places in your life where you might be overworking your voice. Speaking for long periods of time on the phone in the office with no relief or excessive yelling with friends at your favorite late night hot spot can ware on your vocal cords over time. Throat clearing and coughing also effect the voice negatively when it becomes a habit. Be mindful of how loudly you are speaking and try to keep yourself on the lower end of your volume. If you are vocally taxed, make sure you talk in a low voice but not in a whisper. Whispering doesn't help the voice and can make it worse.

Avoid Vocal Irritants - Smoking and heavy use of alcohol are terrible for your vocal health. They both irritate your vocal and respiratory tract tissue. When you inhale heated smoke it is extremely drying to the tissue and nicotine works to constrict the blood vessels, reducing the overall blood flow. If you hang out in smoky places and you add excessive talking to that mix this can be extremely harmful to your voice. Alcohol can be dehydrating and cause engorgement of blood vessels in the throat as well. This doesn't mean that you can't go out and have a good time. It just means you have to be conscious of your surroundings and choose places that will limit your smoke exposure. Make sure that you read the side effects of any drugs you may be taking and ask your doctor about the possible side effects and how they may relate to your music performance.

Use Vocal Rest and Pace Yourself- There will be times when your rehearsal and performance schedule will be taxing on your voice. This happened to me quite frequently in college around the holidays. Don't forget to take vocal rest whenever you can. I know its hard not to talk to your friends when you are off stage but if you don't give your cords time to rest in the in between times you will regret it and your performance will suffer. Make a game of vocal rest and learn some hand signs or bring a pad of paper with you where ever you go. In this day and age with cell phones and texting being so popular it shouldn't be too hard not to use your voice every once in awhile. Pace yourself as you rehearse and make sure you are mindful of the frequency, intensity and duration of your rehearsal. Do your most vocally challenging pieces during the middle of your rehearsal when you are warmed-up but not worn out.

Don't Forget to Warm-up & Sing in Your Voice Range- Warming-up the voice helps the singer to take stock of their instrument and see how its performing that day. Warming-up can also enhance performance and may help prevent vocal injury. All good vocal warm-ups should include exercises in relaxation and breathing. The warm-up should be completed before each performance and rehearsal time and should be tailored to the vocal demands of the given production. Make sure you sing pieces that are in your vocal range and that you can sing comfortably. Straining yourself can have negative effects over time.

Don't get Sick - Now I know that's easier said than done but believe me take some preventative measures when you can to ensure that you stay healthy for as long as you can. Staying in good health means making sure you eat a balanced diet, exercising and getting enough sleep. If you do feel yourself coming down with a cold, make sure you hydrate and get lots of rest. Avoid coughing as much as possible. If you are congested try a warm drink like tea or my favorite hot chocolate. That helps to open things up a little and may help calm any irritation in your throat that can cause you to cough.

For more information about how the voice works and your vocal health check out The National Center for Voice and Speech website.

Quote of the Week "Every time you don't..."

"Every time you don't follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness."

~Shakti Gawain


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