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!

Should I see live music?

Live music is great. If you like music, you must experience live music and you must also see your favourite artist live. I never used to really go to shows or gigs because the cost of the tickets were always quite high and I didn’t think I could justify it. In the last couple of years, I’ve seen a number of singers and it has been amazing. It’s made me think… why do we have to justify spending money on tickets? We don’t. And why do we have to justify spending money in general? We don’t. Everybody says it but life really is too short so do it… I really think you spend your money on these sorts of experiences. After all, memories are what we’ll remember forever.

Seeing a famous artist in a big venue is incredible. The atmosphere in the venue, the loud music, the bass lines you can feel and the live arrangements. Hearing a live arrangement of one of your favourite songs is the best. Even if you’re not really in to music like that, you’ll feel the differences and you’ll know that it’s just awesome.

In the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to have seen the likes of Justin Timberlake, Celine Dion, Clean Bandit, Tori Kelly and others. Every single performance has been incredible. This year I’ve already booked to see Beyoncé and an Elvis Presley show (with a live orchestra). I’m looking forward to other opportunities that may arise too.

In short, you must see live music. I’ve added a video to this blog of one of the best live arrangements I think I’ve ever seen. And I was lucky enough to experience this live too. What are your thoughts?

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.

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.

Is a balance between work and life really that important?

For me, 100% yes. I do believe that the more you put in, the more you will gain but with that, you absolutely need to find balance between work and a social life.

There have been a number of occasions in my life where people have said ‘Wow… it’s amazing you’re doing the stuff you’re doing at your age.’ This phrase, despite being meant in a positive and encouraging way, often feels a little strange. The reason for the way I feel is that I have been working incredibly hard since leaving college back in 2009. I didn’t go to university and instead jumped head first in to my work. For me, this hard work was absolutely essential to my progress and development. Without this, I would not be where I am today… no way! I spent the first few years of my working life being accessible all the time. I had emails on my iPhone, I would work all the way through the night and would regularly check emails when out with friends and ‘work mode’ would be pretty consistent… Obviously this does have benefits but the negatives became more and more obvious as time went on.

I’ve learnt over the years that balance is essential. Since the start of 2014, I have made a conscious effort to have more ‘Dan time’ as I like to call it. I now have no emails on my phone and have a much more structured week with time off being in my diary. This has actually in turn made my working week way more productive. I also have more time available to see my friends and family and has really started to shape the way that I work.

If you’re feeling a little stressed or over worked, I’d definitely recommend setting time for you and turn your phone and laptop off. The world will carry on and you can continue when you feel more rested. Usually after a little sleep.

Sleep is good and I like it.

I want to record myself. How can I make it sound professional?

I have been really busy with recording sessions over the past few months and I must admit, it can be a really rewarding experience for all parties. Creating professional recordings means a lot of experimenting, time and also a lot of listening to other artists and their production.

When I was about 14, I’d spend my evenings listening to my favourite songs (usually R&B) and then trying to recreate the vocal sound and production on Logic. I started with just vocals over backing tracks and I really cannot recommend that process enough. This taught me loads about not only recording, but also harmony singing too. I’d try to replicate every single vocal part and harmony line exactly to the recording which obviously took a lot of time but I definitely wouldn’t change a thing.

On top of this, more often that not, people may focus on what the effects and volumes ‘should be doing’ instead of what it sounds right. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge of both is crucial but for me, I learnt how to use the built in tools whilst my primary focus was on exact replication of the original song.

This then naturally led on to production of original songs and compositions. There are no rights or wrongs in recordings and often the ‘different sounding’ recordings can be stand out and end up being more popular.

At the end of the day, investing time in learning how to record, edit and mix is crucial but also trust your ears and be picky. It works. I think! 😉

 

Are they a good singer?! What do you think of them?! They can sing well can’t they?!

It’s these sorts of questions that get asked a lot. The most simple way to answer it is, if you like their music, they’re good! Music and singing is hugely based on personal opinion and the beauty of the industry is that nobody likes exactly the same things. Variety is so important.

When it comes to technique, you can indeed tell that some singers are technically better than others but that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily bad. Make any sense? Ha.

If you were however to copy a singer with bad technique, chances are that you’re going to struggle and potentially cause some damage. If you get to a place in your singing career where you can create the sounds and style you like without damaging your voice, you’re winning. This is everybody’s ultimate goal, right?

Singers like Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, Whitney Houston & Javier are pretty good in terms of technique. You can hear that breathiness or power are choices made by the performer as these stylistic choices are not present at all times through every single one of their songs.

If you listen to Alicia Keys on the other hand, you’ll hear that she is pretty strained when reaching the high notes in her songs. Some of her stuff actually sounds quite cool and this is obviously the sound that she’s aiming for, but trying to replicate that will potentially cause some damage.

I guess what I’m trying to say is enjoy the singers that you like but just be aware that they might not be on form, technically and therefore try not to copy their style. Find your own way of doing things. That’s much better for you!

Is there a quick and easy way to learn song lyrics?

If you’re reading this and you’re a participant of one of my various work place choirs, you’ll probably be able to have a good guess at what I’m about to say! Ha. I strongly believe that putting yourself in uncomfortable situations can make you learn things quicker. This applies to everything by the way, not just singing.

Obviously everybody learns differently and there are a number of ways to learn efficiently.

An approach that I have seen huge success with is the ‘no lyrics are allowed’ system. Okay, jokes aside, this is what I use regularly with the NETSCC Staff Choir. We learn the song without having any lyrics to look at. It’s hard to begin with and some look panicked, but this does mean that more attention is being spent on actually learning the lyrics rather than just reading them off a piece of paper. After a few weeks of repeated going over the song, it’s suddenly locked in. This then means that more focus can be spent on the delivery of the song as the lyrics have been learnt. The more this process is repeated with different songs, the quicker the lyrics can be learnt and therefore the songs sound more finished, much sooner.

The other way I like to learn the lyrics of a song is by creating visual pictures in my head relating to each line of the song. The key to this is making sure that the visuals are a little odd. You may find visually recreating the actual story of the song helpful but for me, drawing random images in my head which are related to each individual line seems to stick more.

If I personally have to learn a new song for a gig, I will listen to it once and then sing along making every single mistake possible (it sounds awful!)… after that, I’ll attempt the song, alone, time and time again until it’s correct.

If you have a moment, try some of these methods and see which you feel is most effective.