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.

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.

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?

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! 😉