How often should I have singing lessons?

This is a question that gets asked all the times and the answer comes down to how regular and often you can work on your voice. Fortnightly lessons are generally the best time frame. It’s enough time to work on the exercises from the past lesson and means that things can start to develop too before coming back for a top up of exercises.

Saying that, every singing lesson gets recorded and the exercises are sent to you via email. These exercises are obviously totally tailored to your voice. The more regularly you do these, in your own time, the quicker your voice is going to develop and therefore, the less frequently you’d need to book in.

Everybody is different, everybody’s goals are different and therefore the answer lies with you. To summarise, the more time you spend working on your voice in your own time, the quicker you’re going to feel progression.

We should never overlook low notes.

It’s very easy to think that singing low is easy and that hitting the high notes is all we need to focus on. It’s so important that we really spend some time getting used to singing low. Low notes help support the higher notes.

If we can sing notes in the bottom end of our register with no issue at all, that will support and encourage the high notes. It also helps ensure that our technique is correct even when we’re singing in the ‘easy place’. I can also guarantee that some of the best vocal progress happens when working on the low notes.

One Sound Choir Collaboration

Wow. What a weekend. It’s been months of rehearsals and planning and what a success it was. Jack and I decided last year to bring all of the choirs we work with together to sing in one joint show. We had Love Soul Choir, Jack’s community choir ‘Sing Now Choir’ and workplace choirs from West Quay, Marwell Wildlife, Wessex Institute and Solent University that I work with.

It’s been quite stressful at times. Trying to organise and co-ordinate 150 singers was always going to be a bit of a mission. We spent time organising everything. Every single detail was planned.

It then came to the day of the rehearsal. We had planned an evening rehearsal. It was an opportunity for the performers to watch the other choirs and also go through the running of the show. I was feeling particularly stressed during the day. Not down to the set lists but down to the number of people we had to organise and the potential that it could go very wrong. What a rehearsal. We had such a supportive positive atmosphere in the room. People were up and dancing to Love Soul Choir’s set and when it came to ‘The Climb’ and ‘Star Girl’ where all groups were singing together, the sound was enormous. I had an incredible sense of pride. All of these singers we spend so much time working with were sounding so incredible and were able to do something so fun!

The show was incredible. Such an amazing buzz and some incredible feedback from audience members. There really is nothing better than singing in a choir. We’ve already started to plan next years show! Bring it on.

Thanks once again to everybody involved and thanks for making my work so enjoyable. I have the best job in the world and work with the best people too!

Latest Recording!

Today, I want to share the most recent recording I have finished working on with the awesome Jenni Monday. We love recording together and always look for challenging songs to cover to help us both develop our skills.

This song; ‘Should’ve Been Us’ (originally by Tori Kelly) is particularly hard to sing. I’m sure you’ll agree that Jen does an awesome job. When we record a song like this, we aim to replicate everything. All vocals (lead and backing) are Jen.

The main challenge for me (aside from recording and mixing the track) is working out all of the various backing vocal parts. For those of you that will just listen to the song without paying too much attention, you might be surprised to hear that there are 24 different tracks of vocals in this recording. At some parts of this song 17 vocal lines are playing at the same time. These parts are made up of 4 different harmony lines (which are double tracked), double tracked lead lines, the main vocal and ad lib parts too. For those that don’t know, a double track is a recording technique used to help beef out recordings. It’s where you’ll get the singer to sing the same thing a number of times. This makes the recording sound bigger than what can be achieved with a single voice.

When you listen to it this time, try to think about what’s going on behind the lead vocal. It’s a whole new world to discover and I love it. Hopefully you will too. I’ve also attached an a cappella sample (below) so that you can really try to hear what’s going on. Let me know how you get on.

Do I really need to drink lots of water if I sing?

The simple answer is yes. Like any exercise, you need to keep your body hydrated. Singing is the same. Our vocal folds are being used when we sing and we also expect quite a lot of them… especially when we sing high.

A lot of people thing that hydrating the voice means just drinking as you sing but the water actually needs to get in to your system to hydrate the voice properly. This is why drinking enough water, all day long, is crucial if you use your voice a lot.

This isn’t just for singing, this also applies if you use your voice a lot. Teachers, who speak all day long, should really be drinking lots of water too. Is it sad that I actually love water? You’ll always see me with (or near) a big bottle of water.

Why is singing high so hard?

This is an interesting topic and one that’s very hard to answer in a short blog.

Singing high notes can be hard because it requires a little more skill in terms of how your vocal cords are working. When you sing a middle C your vocal cords will vibrate over 440 times a second. The higher we go, the faster your vocal cords will vibrate. This can potentially lead to lots of problems if technique isn’t quite right.

Being in control and allowing your vocal cords to function as they want is crucial to hitting those high notes well. If we try getting too loud, we’ll probably end up straining and the extrinsic swallowing muscles will engage which won’t be very comfortable and can be damaging. If we go too soft, we’ll end up with a weak, breathy tone that again isn’t ideal.

Balance is key. The only two things we can control when singing are the vowels we sing and our airflow. Airflow meaning how much air we blow… which is linked to volume as the more air we blow, the louder we’ll become. As long as you’re hitting the right vowel with the right amount of air, you’ll be fine. Sometimes less is more.

Let me know how you get on.

Help?! How can I learn lyrics?

Learning lyrics isn’t always the easiest of tasks but there are ways to tackle it! Lots of people like to read the lyrics however I don’t necessarily think this is the most efficient way to actually learn them… for most people anyway.

Obviously, everybody learns differently and some of you may find that the only way to learn is by reading but, I think one of the best ways to actually learn the lyrics is to not depend on reading them. A slight glance every so often may help remember the odd line but on the whole to throw yourself in the deep end and trust that you’ll pick them up works better in the long run.

With the workplace choirs I run, I will talk through the lyrics of a certain section line by line and will repeat this with the group until we’ve almost got it. After that, we’ll introduce the melody. For some reason, putting the words over the tune of the song also helps it stick.

It’s funny because repeating this over and over again (even if there are mistakes along the way) really helps us actually learn the lyrics. It removes the dependence of having them in front of us which means that we can then spend more time focussing on how we’re singing them and creating a bigger and stronger sound.

It can sometimes take a little longer but once the song is complete, the lyrics seem to stick.

It’s also really interesting because you only really need the starting word of the next line to recall the full sentence. For me, I like to create silly stories in my head to help me remember the next line. The more crazy, the better!! It definitely helps.

It does take time to learn, but it’s far better than reading words from paper… in my opinion anyway.

What do you think?

Why I love workplace choirs.

I love running workplace choirs for so many reasons. One of the big reasons is that I get to bring a bit of fun and enjoyment to lots of people within their normal working day. I also love meeting different people, visiting a variety of organisations and feeling part of an extended family.

I’ve said it so many times but singing in a group makes such a difference to the way we feel and I am so lucky to be able to run weekly sessions designed at making people feel better. In return people have fun and leave, ready for the rest of their day totally energised.

I also love being able to teach some really cool songs. I create all of the vocal arrangements and hearing these come to life is pretty amazing. On top of this, being able to put on shows especially for the choirs is an added bonus. Performing is something that pulls groups of singers together and knowing that I’m able to make this happen once or twice a year is great!

I’m looking to start more workplace choir sessions. If you or anybody you know is interested in starting a choir at work, please get in touch.

Jess Glynne, Sam Smith & Adele… who next?!

There seems to be a trend that a number of ‘famous’ singers are suddenly coming up again some serious vocal health issues. It’s all down to vocal technique and of course the pressure of being a mainstream singer.

I always like to compare singing to going to the gym. The muscle needs to be exercised and it needs to be exercised correctly or you could cause some damage.

Remember, your vocal folds are two muscles the size of your thumb nail. The vocal folds are responsible for singing and speaking so looking after them is essential.

So the big question… why? Why do these well-known singers come up against some real issues? This is mainly down to their intense schedules. Let’s use Jess Glynne for example. Now as much as I LOVE her, technically, things aren’t working as they should. She’s slightly tight when hitting the top notes. If this occurrence happened once every few months, chances of vocal damage are less. Imagine being slightly tight when singing and then try singing for an hour every single day. Then you could add some radio and TV interviews to the mix and of course some rehearsal time too. Repeat that every week and that equates to a HUGE amount of time using the voice in a slightly inefficient way. Of course some issues will arise.

It’s tricky isn’t it? Management won’t want our most loved singers to break between tours and festivals as the more exposure an artist receives ultimately leads to more songs being sold and then more income.

It’s always going to be tough to fix because even the most technically correct singers in the world will come up against issues when singing so much especially if they’re flying all over the world. Tiredness can make things tricky.

Technique wins but also taking some time out every now and again never hurt anybody.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard somebody say that they don’t like the way their voice sounds, I’d be a multi-millionaire. Well, maybe not quite but I’d be pretty rich!

It’s such a funny thing. How many times have you heard your singing, or speaking voice, back on a recording and have absolutely hated the way it sounds? As well as this, as vocal technique improves, quite often (more so for female singers) singers dislike the way their voice sounds inside their head at the higher end of their range.

Why is this? I think we should explore.

Firstly, sound creation is all about resonance and vibration. The sound waves are literally bouncing around inside us. This creates a physical sensation. We may not always be aware of it, because it’s happened our whole lives but, it’s there. When you listen to your voice back, for the first time, you’re hearing your voice without feeling anything. That’s going to be a little strange! This can often mean that we think our voices sound really nasal or just quite harsh and more often that not can think we sound higher in pitch.

When it comes to singing, the more technically correct we sing, of course, we’re going to sound a little more squeaky in our heads. If the resonance is moving from chest voice to mix or in to head voice, the sound is literally bouncing around closer to our ears. This can sound harsh and loud. As well as this, the rate of vibration will be quicker, the higher we go.

The bottom line is that inside your head, you may not like the sound of your voice but outside things sound totally different. Have you ever actually wondered what Beyoncé might hear inside of her head when she sings?