It’s one of the oldest bad jokes around…

A tourist walking down 5th Avenue in New York sees a man carrying a violin case and, as they near each other on the sidewalk asks, “Excuse me but how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” Without breaking stride or the direction of his gaze the musician replies simply, “Practice”.

Actually some pretty good advice if you think about it. We gather every Tuesday to do just that and over a period of a few months progress from a full-on train wreck (remember the first time we sang the jazz mass…?) to a concert-ready group of singers. We’re at least one or two steps closer to Carnegie Hall (I know, I know, there are a LOT more steps but you get the idea).

So here we are in June with several months ahead of us not practicing with the gang. That doesn’t mean that practicing has to come to a screeching halt, it just needs to be personal. Take the opportunity to add a few more of the aforementioned steps so that you start our fall semester a better singer than you are today.

So how exactly do you accomplish that? Here are a few suggestions.

Your car is your concert hall – part one: Make a point of keeping your voice limber by doing some of Susie’s whacky warm-ups from time to time. You won’t look too awfully goofy making motorboat noises or singing scales and you won’t even get a second glance when you yell, “NEXT STOP ZIPPY’S!!!!”

Your car is your concert hall – part two: Chances are that the position you sit in while driving is also a pretty good posture for singing. Feet on the floor, back straight, etc. So let fly and sing! We all have a radio station or two that play songs we either know all the words to or at least know the tune (I’m a classic rock guy so 107.9 and 101.5 are my go-to stations). Sing along. It’ll make your drive a whole lot more enjoyable and it will give you practice matching pitches. If you don’t know the words to a song but you know the tune, you can sing “la-la-la” or “doo-doo-doo” but it’s a lot more fun to just make something up. Try singing the contents of your fridge to a melody line you know. Hilarious. Of course, throwing in your favorite CD is always a good thing.

Your care is your concert hall – part three: Harmonize! Sing along with your favorite radio station but either 1) sing the harmony line in the chorus or 2) make up your own harmony (ya’ might want to roll up the windows for that part). Yet another way to improve your tone matching as well as making you move with the groove as you try to find something that sounds reasonably good.

The internet is your concert hall: Speaking of concerts, if you go to YouTube and enter the name of virtually any musician or band followed by the word “concert” you’re going to get one…or 20…or more. Plug in the title of any musical and you’ll get all of the individual songs as well as multiple versions of the entire thing. I will unashamedly admit that I’ve sung the entire soundtrack of “Mary Poppins” EXACTLY the way I did when I had that exact record when I was a little kid.

The internet isn’t all cat videos and recipe blogs: There are a zillion online resources for improving your voice. I particularly like Eric Arceneaux’s style of teaching. He’s created dozens of instructional videos to explore and they’re all excellent.

So there you have it. If you make an effort to do any of the above as well as you possibly can the only possible result is that you’ll be a better singer when all get back together.

And for what it’s worth, not all jokes about Carnegie Hall are bad. This one is actually pretty funny:

A violinist is playing a concert at Carnegie Hall. He finishes the piece. Voices in the audience shout, “Again! Play it again!”

The violinist is pleased. He plays the piece all the way through a second time.

“Again!” the voices shout once more. “Play it again!”

The musician’s self-satisfaction knows no bounds: this is Carnegie Hall, and I’m asked to play not one, but two encores? When he finishes, the voices rise yet a third time, and the same thing happens after several more repetitions. Incredulous, the violinist finally walks to the front of the stage and addresses the audience: “Seven encores of the same piece at Carnegie Hall? It’s unheard of! Am I that good?”

The audience members shout as one voice: “You’ll do it until you get it right!”