Just have fun and enjoy it. That’s what’s important.

It’s only one day away from my Summer Showcase Night where some of the workplace choirs I work with and a couple of students will be performing.

Performing is an exciting time, but it can also be very nerve-wracking. I like to arrange these nights as I feel it’s important to work towards something. It can be rewarding and can really bring people together in such a variety of different ways.

One of the big things I tell the workplace choirs is that having fun will totally rub off on the audience. Any feelings of nerves or panic will spread like wildfire and will probably mean that the audience will subconsciously feel a little bit tense. The best thing to do in this situation is to positively throw yourself in to the situation, embrace it and have lots of fun. Those feelings of excitement, energy and passion also rub off on the audience and the energy and enjoyment grows. It’s so amazing to watch.

It’s also the first time that Solent University will be singing as a choir in public. Naturally that’s quite scary, but the weeks of rehearsals will have gone in and everybody singing will know way more than they think they do.

The NETSCC staff choir and the Marwell Wildlife staff choir have performed before but nerves are still very present. I think it’s healthy to feel a little apprehensive. It’s good to have an adrenaline rush just before going on stage.

I’m also very lucky that Josh Wall and Amber Spencer are singing too. They’ve both had singing lessons with me for a number of years and are well up for performing and gaining more and more experience.

I’ll definitely be nervous on Sunday before the event starts but that makes it even more exciting and I know that everybody will do an amazing job!

If you’d like to come along, please get in touch with the Hanger Farm Arts Centre on 02380 667274.

Sing Now Choir. A new choir, for the community.

If you know me, you’ll know how much I believe in the ‘singing is for everybody’ ethos. If you’ve always wanted to sing in a choir but the thought of auditioning is a little scary or you sing with a choir but fancy something a little more contemporary, you should give this a go.

My very good friend Jack White has just started a new choir known as Sing Now Choir for anybody and everybody.

In a nutshell, there’s one core value – singing is for everyone. Whether you’re a professional singer, or you’ve only ever sung in the shower, you should have the opportunity to be part of a choir! Jack White has worked with pop & soul choirs for years and is now looking to work with passionate people in his new venture.

The rehearsals started back in March 2015, and it’s growing each week! There’s nothing like being right at the start of something new, this is your opportunity.

“I get great satisfaction out of taking a room full of ‘non-singers’ and creating an incredible sound!”

Please watch the video below, to find out more information about the launch of Sing Now Choir.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMKWPXyVSQo

Song choice. It really is important.

You know what it’s like, you have an audition to prepare for, a karaoke to sing at, a performance coming up and you really can’t decide what song to sing. There’s probably a part of you that thinks ‘oh, I’ll just sing anything’ but actually maybe a little bit of thought should go in to this decision.

You could go ahead and perform a Whitney Houston or Stevie Wonder song but that’s probably going to be a bit of a struggle and may not make you sound as good as you know you can sing in the shower. Sometimes it’s better to hold back, stop trying to impress and actually sing a song that sits in your happy place. You can work on the ‘big songs’ in your own time.

The more comfortable a song is when you perform, the more confident you’ll feel performing. It’s like a circle of positivity and growth. This is the reason why those hard songs should be worked on outside of the public eye. Chances are, a ‘big’ performance could potentially knock your confidence.

Song choice really is important. Pick something comfortable and something you enjoy singing. It’s a great place to start!

I’m really shy about my voice being heard when singing in a group. I want to sing out. Help!

I’m very lucky that I get to work in so many different group singing situations across the course of a week. I get to see some confident singers and some not so confident singers. So many people seem to think that singing in a group is all about singing well and sounding great. I don’t think this is the case.

If you were to join an auditioned group looking at performing regularly then you may have a point BUT in most group singing situations, the focus is fun and enjoyment which ultimately leads to a great sound anyway.

We know that the more you put in, the more you get out which is why slipping in to the background with the thought that ‘I can’t sing’… won’t necessarily help you feel more confident about your voice. We can all sing. Only a very small percent of the worlds population are clinically tone deaf which is why we should all sing out, embrace the moment and be proud of the voice we were given.

I promise it’ll make you feel different especially when you’re singing in a group.

Panic and anxiety.

This is a topic I don’t really talk about and that’s not because I want to keep it a secret. My closest friends and my family will know that I suffer with panic and anxiety and at times this can be in quite a big way. I want others to know that no matter how alone you feel, other people feel the same way.

Panic attacks are normal for me and increased feelings of fear or anxiousness are just part of my daily life. Most people laugh and say ‘you’d never know…’ and that’s that. But for me, it’s much bigger than that. There was once a time in my life when I didn’t feel I could get out of bed because I had convinced myself I had something seriously wrong with me. Crazy, I know.

Over the years, I have learnt ways to manage the feelings a little better and talks with the amazing Dr. Hannah Wilson (of Tempo Wellbeing) have helped me learn more about what anxiety actually is. That’s for a whole other blog. Most importantly, I now understand some of the triggers that set me off and this has helped massively.

It’s very easy for others to look at your life and not fully understand how or why things effect you the way they do. It’s also very easy for others to look at decisions you make and judge you for them. It’s hard for others to really appreciate what’s going on in other people’s lives, every single day. But it’s for this reason, that we should all pull together, put our differences aside and support one another in our decisions, feelings and lives. Life is for living.

Anxiety effects me every day, but it’s also made me the person I am today. For that, I’m grateful. I’m also thankful of the people closest to me who do understand and support me. I’m also very fortunate that I get to work with Tempo Wellbeing. We provide singing workshops to others who may be suffering with mental health issues.

Singing takes you to a different place. We should all sing, every single day… it makes you feel happy.

Why should I sing with others? I’m not very good.

Singing really is for everybody. There are so many people out there who would instantly dismiss the idea of singing with others in a group or choir because in their eyes they’re ‘tone deaf’. Hardly anyone in the world is clinically tone deaf. If you know when somebody is asking you a question because of the slight raise in pitch at the end of the sentence, you’re not tone deaf. Singing is like going to the gym. The more you work the muscle, the better you’ll become and then more ‘in tune’ you’ll be. That’s if you actually do find singing in tune hard.

On top of that, there is a huge social aspect attached to singing in a group or choir. Theres a real sense of social connectedness that comes from being a part of a group. My social enterprise project, Tempo Wellbeing, looks at how singing and music can impact mental health, dementia and general wellbeing. We’ve just submitted a lottery bid for funding to undertake our own research.

Honestly, if you’re offered the opportunity to join a workplace choir, singing group or anything along those lines, say yes. I guarantee it’ll change your life.

The year to try new things.

The beginning of a new year can be full of goals and plans and it’s the perfect opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

For me, I’m aiming to try to do something different every month. So far, I have plans to run a half-marathon, compete in a triathlon, do an indoor skydive and travel America. If I’m honest, most of these goals seem pretty huge but that’s what gives me the motivation and determination to just do it and enjoy it. After all, life is worth living, right?

Saying this, we’re all different and our goals need to represent our own aims and desires. With this in mind, singing can often be a stumbling block for some people. The pressure to feel ‘good enough’ or to be ‘a singer’ can sometimes be overwhelming. This is why I think this year, if you’re interesting in doing something outside the normal, do it! Whether it’s joining a choir, having a singing lesson or recording your favourite song – this is the year to just do it.

Life is for living, enjoying and sharing. As I always say… what’s the worst that could happen? You’ll probably end up loving it.

Happy New Year

I really love the feeling of a new year approaching. I’m not entirely sure why, but it feels like a great opportunity to set some new goals and push your boundaries. I know, for me, 2015 is set to be an awesome year.

I plan to travel, work hard and help influence more people through the power of singing and music than ever. I think it’s also a great opportunity to reflect and analyse the successes and failures of 2014. It’s good to see what can be improved on.

So much can happen in a year and I find that extremely exciting. Why not take the time to set some goals, set some aims and push your boundaries further than before. Life is for living and it’s up to you to make it happen.

Happy New Year and thanks for the support over the past 12 months.

Have a good one!

I really want to become a professional singer at weddings and events but, where do I start?

I have this chat with many of my students on a regular basis. Performing at weddings, parties, events or even pubs is not something that ‘just happens’…

Firstly, you need an idea of the types of performances/events you want to do. It then comes down to finding and creating a suitable list of material to perform. This is quite tricky. You HAVE to perform what the audience want to hear. This may mean singing a song you absolutely despise but if the audience like it, then it’s crucial.

Once you have an idea of the types of material you want to perform, you then need to learn the songs. This means learning the melody lines, lyrics… everything. A number of performers may well use lyrics but I don’t think this looks too good as it’s far better (and way more professional) to actually know the lyrics to a song.

Next up is finding suitable backing tracks and/or instrumentalists to sing to. If you decide to use backing tracks, it’s essential to use high quality backing tracks and knowing the format of your songs is crucial. If you decide to perform with an instrument, you need to rehearse with the instrument/instrumentalist until you feel 100% happy and comfortable with every single song.

Now, experience and exposure is key. This is why any open mic nights or jam sessions are so important to begin with. You need a real grasp of how to perform, entertain and interact with an audience. Without this, it’s hard to keep your audience interested. Once you feel comfortable enough, it’s all about putting yourself out there.

You may need to look at hiring or purchasing equipment which can initially be quite expensive. This cost is soon covered by gigs once you start booking them in your diary. On top of this, you want to look at recording some demo’s in order to promote yourself to potential clients.

The next step is, personally, the hardest part of the process, for me. I would recommend calling all the venues (pubs, bars, clubs etc…) that have live music in your local area and ask if they’re looking for any new acts. They may well ask for demo material (which you’ll already have) in order to see if you/your act fit what they’re looking for. The biggest thing about this is accepting that you may not suit every venue you try to call but also not to give up. From experience, so many venues just don’t respond which is why having a spreadsheet and calling/emailing a few times is never a bad idea.

You may start performing places at venues that may not be ideal but, before you know it (if you do a good job) word of mouth will spread and you’ll end up being booked for all manner of events in no time.

If you’re passionate about getting ‘out there’, you should take the first step today!

Are breathing techniques really that important for singers?

Yes and no. Obviously having the ability to take deep breaths, quickly, is helpful for singers but general vocal technique and development will help resolve any breathing issues.

If you’ve ever done yoga, you’ll be an expert at this. Ideally, when we breathe, we want our stomach’s to expand when we breathe in and deflate when we breathe out. Most people take short, shallow breaths and their shoulders and upper body will move when this happens. Short, shallow breaths won’t fill your lungs.

Saying that, if your vocal technique isn’t up to scratch AND you’re taking short, shallow breaths, welcome to the world of running out of air.

For those that don’t know, we generate sound when air passes through our vocal cords. If our vocal cord are too ‘open’ (abducted) you’ll notice that the sound is ‘breathy’ and as a result, we’re leaking air as we’re speaking or singing. This ultimately leads to a shortage of air and also the inability to sustain long notes.

Vocal Cords

Even if you take deep breaths, abducted vocal cords will lead to a breathy, inefficient sound.

If your vocal cords are too far the other way, this will also lead to other issues. This will lead to feeling strained or uncomfortable and you’d be using your extrinsic muscles (neck muscles) to try and force the note. You may have enough air, but you’d be feeling the burn!!

We’re always, as singers, looking for balance between cord closure and air flow to generate the perfect sound and feeling. Yes, being able to take deep breaths are important but the priority should always be vocal technique. A lot of things can be fixed with a little understanding on how the voice works.