Singing your way to success: 3 ways to use singing to improve performance

Did you know that if you can sing the tunes or the pieces you are learning you actually are able to perform them better? As Miles Davis said, you need to know the words to any song you want to play if you really want to “get it right”.


Miles Davis

Miles Davis

Yes, but you say, I can’t hold a tune in a bucket, how am I going to do this? I must be doomed to be a mediocre player the rest of my life. Well, my friend, that is not true. It doesn’t matter how well you actually sing, or if you sing in tune, or it you have a “nice” voice, it only matters that you are able to embody the music so when you approach your instrument, the music flows through your whole body.


The first way to use singing to improve the performance of a piece is to learn all the words. The words hold the key to understanding the emotion the composer was trying to convey. It might be an upbeat happy song about new love, or possibly a song about grief and loss. Knowing what the music is about gives meaning to the way you play it.


But you mention, there are no words to the piece I’m working on. This is where you get to be creative and come up with your own words. How does the music make you feel? Do you think of places and times when you listen to the song? Make up a story to go with the music, then, remember the story and the emotions you feel about the story as you play the piece.


Secondly, you learn the song/piece and are able to sing it without looking at the music. The simple act of singing it, whether you are able to sing in tune or not, helps you memorize the music. Memorizing the music to the extent that you are able to sing it as you go about your day, getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, etc. makes the piece become embedded in your body. Then when you go to play, it’s as if the music begins to flow and becomes more emotionally poignant.


Last, and most important, singing the piece you are learning brings a sense of familiarity; the piece becomes your long lost friend. You realize how much the piece has become part of your life; part of your world and now you can tell the story to others, your listeners. When you sing the piece through your instrument the story is told to your audience and they will “get it”.


This completes the cycle of the music. The composer writes the piece to convey his emotions and thoughts. Next, you, the musician, learn the piece and bring it to life by understanding the words, the inflections, and creating a deep knowing of the piece through singing it. Finally, the audience listens, absorbs, and is touched by the piece and is enriched.


These are three ways that singing a piece of music you are learning improves you ability to perform it and touch hearts. Finding the emotional center of a song brings it to life and creates a satisfying experience for both you as the performer and the audience who listens.



erika may & Tom Byrne @ Kitchen Sink

coming attractions!

I’m looking forward to performing with Tom Byrne, Carol Eder, Aalim Dance Co, and Jamie Zane Smith during the coming month.

Friday, Feb 13th, 1:30pm – 3:30pm: Carol Eder and I will perform jazz / Latin standards and classical flute and guitar duets at the Stone Spiral Coffee and Curios

Saturday, Feb 14th, 5 – 9pm: Tom Byrne and I will perform jazz and blues at The Kitchen Sink to celebrate Mardi Gras. The Kitchen Sink has some great New Orleans styled cuisine to let “le bon temps roullez”!!

Saturday, Feb 21st, 8pm – ? Aalim Dance Company is hosting A Night at the Casbah, I’ll perform (vocals and guitar) some sultry jazz numbers between belly dance sets.

Friday, Feb 27, 1:30 – 3:30pm:  Carol and I will return to the Stone Spiral for another afternoon of flute and guitar ~ sit in the big sunny window and warm up with a coffee and lunch with us.

Thursday, March 12, 7-10pm: Jamie Zane Smith will join me at Evangeline’s for my originals, Spanish songs, and Jazz Standards using cello, flute, guitar and more! Check out their menu to choose what you want to eat from their New Orleans style offerings.

erika may & Carol Eder flute and Guitar

erika may & Carol Eder flute and Guitar

erika may & Tom Byrne @ Kitchen Sink

erika may & Tom Byrne @ Kitchen Sink

erika may @ Evangeline's

erika may @ Evangeline’s

Tomatoes All Winter Long

Colleen grows some fantastically tasty tomatoes!



by Colleen Smith

Canning tomatoes is something that my family just does. My dad started using an outdoor propane cooker to heat the hot water bath. This keeps the house a bit cooler in the heat of the summer. This year I blanched them out doors and brought the operation inside. It was easier to keep track of my sweet one year old, Leonora. Every year I think to myself, “Is this really worth it?” In January I always answer back, “yes it is.” Opening up a can of tomatoes in the middle winter can ward off the winter blues while feeding the family. I canned a hot and mild salsa this year. I also canned a tomato sauce.
I always enjoy talking to my dad this time of year to see what he has canned and what heirlooms are ripe in his garden. After all…

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what Halloween is over?

Boil and Toil, and witches brew is the holiday already over? Well, this is a TBT shot from the Farmer’s Market in Silver City two years ago.

erika may performs at day of dead

erika may performs at Farmer’s Market in Silver City, NM on Halloween, or Day of the Dead



This year I brought Oca and Violet to a Day of the Dead celebration at the St. Louis History museum.

Oca and Violet at Day of Dead Celebration


plus some country celebrations

Day of Dead

Day of Dead


Halloween in the country

Halloween in the country

Jamie at Halloween

Jamie at Halloween









Witchy Colleen

Witchy Colleen

hope your Halloween was safe and fun!!


this week in St. Louis!

first things – come out to the Stone Spiral this Thursday from 7p – 9p. I’ll be doing a solo show with all the bells and whistles! this sweet venue is located at 2500 Sutton, 335-7388

Oh what an adventure life is, St. Louis is a great big playground – Friday I sat in with my dear friend Farshid and Aron at Remy’s Wine Bar

Last night after a dinner of Brazilizn fish lovingly made from scratch by Alma! I went to the Rock House and heard two infectiously funky jazzy bands. Snarky Puppy and Banda Magda at the Old Rock House,

That’s what I’m talking about!!

Snarky Puppy

Banda Magda



Traveler’s Table End of Season Picnic

I’m so happy to tell you about this fun event, the Traveler’s Table is hosting a picnic on their grounds. On Sept 7th, from 1 – 6pm, they will prepare special picnic foods for sale, have musicians, and venders. I hope you can make it!!

Traveler's Table PicnicBliss Hippy is one of my favorite bands in the area. I performed with them last Friday, Aug. 22, at the Focal Point in St. Louis to an enthusiastic crowd. Check out their cd “Buddha Face“, my flute playing is featured on several tracks, I especially like track #5 “What’s this Desire”.

Chris Case and Tim Bond will each be playing old timey and bluesy originals, with their own special take on this classic sound.

Azaima Anderson brings her finely crafted songs. Azaima’s music is lyric-driven. Drawing from her country, pop, folk, rock, blues and jazz influences, she selects the style that will best serve the story.

I’ll be performing with the Ozark Gypsy Tribe. my family tribe including Jamie, on sax, mandolin, flute, and guitar, Colleen Smith, vocals and percussion, and their children adding a wonderful joie de vivre singing and dancing.  Plus, of course, there will be some special guests.

There will be cool and fantastic venders selling their artistic wares, look for Carney Dirt, the Ozark Wildstead, and others. Don’t forget to bring your hoop, Cara Snyder!!

Summer @ the Traveler’s Table and to worlds beyond

This summer has been a bounty of peaceful scenery, music making and listening, and lots of communing with friends and family. I’ve been performing only my original songs at the Traveler’s Table. This has helped me to delve deeper into my personal repertoire and has inspired me to continue writing new songs. It has been so exciting to add the cello to more songs.

erika may @ Traveler's Table

erika may performs @ the Traveler’s Table









Greg Kirlin and Chris Johansson continue to serve tasty home made creations at the Traveler’s Table. This week saw a batch of Gazpacho made with locally grown organic tomatoes, a multi-layered Greek Salad, Teriyaki bowls with chicken or steak, and a bountiful pork rib dinner!

Traveler's Table sign copy

Traveler’s Table cafe sign









Traveling across the country to Eugene for the Faerieworlds Festival, I saw and heard many wonderful musicians. here are some photos of the bands I heard. The inimitable Jessica Star and Woodland. Woodland is responsible for starting and continuing with many successful years of Faerieworlds. This year’s headliners were the Pagan folk band Omnia. Unfortunately my photos didn’t do them justice. Brother is a highly contagious band that features the bagpipes and didgeridoo. Plus I had to get a special braid in my hair to be in the spirit.

Jessica Star and Joseph Blackfeather

Jessica Star and Joseph Blackfeather at Fairieworlds july 2014

fairieworlds Woodland

Woodland at Fairieworlds July 2014












Faerieworlds my braid

My hair is braided at Faerieworlds


Brother from Australia at Faerieworlds

Brother from Australia at Faerieworlds













Getting into a car and driving to Seattle to re-connect with friends and extended family meant a lot to me. I met cousins I haven’t seen for a gadzillion years! and dear sweet friends!

Karen Jensencousins Karl Rsisters Chris and Anna




















Reverbnation is addicting!

Several years ago I discovered the music site called reverbnation and thought, it’s free, I may as well sign up. A few other musicians in the Silver City area had made reverbnation profiles and it seemed like a good idea. I put photos and music, created a little bio, listened to the other musicians in Silver City and thought . . .  now what?

Then one day somebody I didn’t know came along and became a fan of my music and recommended me to his list. Wow, I thought, who is he, he’s from London! How did he find my music? So I went to his reverbnation site and listened to his music, looked at his photos, and wrote a nice comment on his wall about his lyricism and musical style. He returned the favor and wrote nice things on my wall!

I looked through the musicians he recommended on his site and began to listen to music, look at photos, and “fanned” and recommended. Many of them returned this favor and I was hooked! I spent hours listening to music from musicians all over the world, running the gamut of styles, from rank amateur to amazing artists who had finely honed their skills and craft. We exchanged encouraging comments and recommendations and my fan list began to build. Many signed up for my mailing list.

I was hooked, line and sinker. I would get home and run to my computer, pull up my reverbnation site to see who else had “fanned” me, who else could I find to enjoy their music; hours were spent. Who knew that so many people love music so much to learn to play instruments, write songs, record themselves, and make videos. It is a magic world!

musically! erika may

some fun june happenings!

It’s already been a fun filled month and there are still a few weeks to go!

This month includes moving to the Traveler’s Table. I’m living in a cute Avion trailer. It looks like an Airstream. I’ve been told this is called “Glamping” in other words, Glamor Camping. It is a sweet trailer with room to set up my flute, cello, guitar, and loopers.

It was such a wonderful experiences performing as the Artist in Residence at Gallery Zeke and the Tavern of Fine Arts, and more is on the way. Put July 4th on your calendar as I will be performing from 6p – 10p at the Meramec Winery. There may be some special guests.

Last night I had the opportunity to perform with Clay McKinney at the Plein Air painting event at Sander’s End hosted by Gary Sanders and his wife, Beverly Kincade. Clay plays the cello so we did flute and cello duets, some Teleman and celtic tunes, and he improvised while I sang some jazz numbers. How fun! This is another event STARCO, the Steelville Arts Council puts on.

Put July 4th on your calendar as I will be performing at the Meramec Winery from 6 to 10pm. I may have some special guests.

Bliss Hippy invited me to come to the studio and lay down some flute tracks for their upcoming cd. It is always a pleasure to play on their original songs.

Here I am with Bliss Hippy, Maureen and Richard Hall in the studio taking a group selfie in the recording studio!

Plus I’ve heard some great music this month. Tuatha Dea, who perform a celtic world style music, and  Sharon Knight with Winter, who describe their music as Neo-Folk Romantique were highlights of a concert at the Focal Point in St. Louis. I love the tribal sounds of all the percussion Tuatha Dea use, it really gets one up dancing. They started out as a family drum circle and have grown into an exciting energetic band with great vocals and super tight drumming. Plus they have a didgeridoo . . . swoon! Definitely check out their music.
Also on the bill were Murphy’s Midnight Rounders and Brian “Boo” Greenway.

Look at this line up of percussion, instruments, singing and more!
Sharon Knight sang her heart out with her partner Winter!

Sharon Knight and Winter

How do you make money as a musician?

Music and Money Quizzes

How much do you know about money and music, and the copyright laws, licenses and agreements that frequently determine who gets paid, and how much? Take one – or all – of these quizzes and see how you measure up!

Here is a little quiz to test your knowledge on how musicians make money. I took the first level and got %80, now I’m wondering what the next levels will show me.