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.

Singing makes me feel happy but I don’t think I can sing in tune!

This is a statement heard time and time again in the singing world. Firstly, being tone deaf isn’t as common as you may think. Being tone deaf means that you wouldn’t be able to hear pitch in anything! For example; if somebody asked you a question, you would be able to pick up the slight raise in pitch at the end of their sentence. What this means is that pretty much everybody can sing and that you’re probably not actually tone deaf.

There are a number of different points I’d like to cover in this blog. Firstly, finding singing in tune hard is something that can be worked on. You may find there’s a discrepancy between the note you hear and the note you’re singing. With time, training and practise, you’ll pretty much be able to amend this issue.

Secondly, if singing makes you feel good and it’s not in tune, so what?! I believe that in life we must do things that make us happy. Singing is proven to improve general wellbeing and really does give that feel-good factor so, why wouldn’t you sing? There is so much pressure in today’s world to be good, that we often forget the basics. We forget that singing can make you happy! There are so many health benefits to singing and music in general. I am very fortunate to be part of an organisation (Tempo) who specialise in the mental health side of singing and it’s true, singing can be a very important part of your life. For more information on Tempo, visit our website (www.tempowellbeing.co.uk).

If you feel like singing in tune is hard, spend a little time working on it. It wouldn’t take too long to start to notice some changes.

To summarise, sing every day and have fun. It’ll make you feel good, I’m sure of it!

I love singing but performing really scares me. Will it get easier?

This is much more common that you may believe. It’s understandable that performing in public is a terrifying thought as people will be watching, right?

For me, I like to look at the reasons why individuals feel scared about performing in public and nine times out of ten, it’s down to their individual expectations tied in with the age old issue of ‘what will people think of me?’.

Is there an answer? Yes, I think there is! I personally feel that if the focus of the performance shifts from being flawless to having fun and enjoying the experience, there is more chance that a performer will feel less nervous and in turn more confident about the situation presented to them.

Let’s face it, we are up against a critical audience now a days, but the more experience we get at performing live tied in with feeling happy with our own individual performances, the whole scenario feels more ‘normal’.

Give it a go and let me know how you feel. After all, singing is about feeling good and having fun!!

 

I want to sing in harmony but I find it hard. Will it get easier?

The simple answer is yes. For those that don’t know, singing in harmony means that you’ll be singing different notes (which are in tune) to others, to create a pleasant sound. It’s a skill that needs to be developed and is an important, but often overlooked element of any singing career.

The bottom line… harmony singing isn’t easy. Harmony singing takes years and years of practise and understanding. Like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes and also, some songs are much easier than others.

I spent a lot of time in my teens trying to work out, and record, various harmony lines of songs to consciously improve my ability to hear and sing harmony lines. I strongly encourage you to try to do the same. You’ll make a number of mistakes and this is useful. I really believe that we learn from our mistakes and for that reason, don’t be scared to make them. The beauty of harmony singing is that you’ll know when you’ve made a mistake because it’ll sound awful.

Another way to try and hear the harmonies of a song better is to search YouTube for acapella versions of the song. Acapella means ‘without music’ so this way, you’ll just be able to hear the vocals and the harmonies within the song. It’s still tricky but slightly easier.

I’d love to hear how you get on! For inspiration, listen to Boyz II Men. Their harmonies are incredible.

How important are song lyrics?

I have been asking this question in workshops a lot lately and have had a mixed response from most people.

Ultimately, I think that lyrics are important. The lyrics of a song can really touch a person and this is often why somebody may feel so inspired or moved by a particular piece of music. Saying that, the instrumentation also plays a huge part.

I also think a lot also comes down to the specific genre of music. I doubt many people would listen to the meaning of lyrics in a club song. This is because the purpose of the music is for people to dance to.

It’s also interesting how a number of fast, up-beat and seemingly happy songs have a conflicting message in the lyrics. Believe by Cher, Stop In The Name Of Love by Diana Ross along with Love Really Hurts Without You by Billy Ocean are perfect examples of this. Once you change the musical arrangement of a song, it suddenly takes a completely different spin.

On the other hand, songs with meaning, emotion, brilliant lyrics and instrumentation to suit the lyrics are powerful. If you listen to ‘Dance With My Father’ by Luther Vandross, you’ll know what I mean.

What songs mean the most to you?

Why are so many singers ‘auto-tuned’ these days?

This is a question that I hear time and time again and it raises a few interesting points.

Firstly, auto-tuning and pitch correction are very different things. Auto-tuning is the thing that makes a singer sound like a robot or more specifically, the singer “T-Pain”. Most of the time this is added to a vocal recording intentionally. It’s a stylistic and an artistic choice. It can usually be found on more contemporary R&B songs.

Pitch correction on the other hand is a process that takes place on almost every commercially released song. This is down to a couple of reasons. To begin with, our expectancy of singers in this day and age is so high. Programmes like ‘The X Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ have turned us into very critical listeners. If a singer was to sing a slightly out of tune note on a recording, we’d probably say ‘wow – they’re not very good!’… which isn’t actually the case. Every single singer in the world will occasionally hit a bum note. It would be weird if they didn’t. Either way, the pitch is altered on a recording to ensure that it sounds the best way that it can.

Secondly, it also makes the song sound more polished. If a harmony vocal was fractionally out of tune, it would still sound good, but not as tight and as impactive as a pitch corrected, perfectly in tune note.

I actually think that pitch correction is a really great way of making sure that a recording sounds the best way it can. After all, that’s the point of a recording, right? To create the highest quality version of a song.

I don’t however agree with using pitch correction on singers that aren’t very good live. When the music industry uses singers that look the part over their vocal ability, we have a problem. I’ll use Rhianna as a perfect example here. When she’s recorded and is in tune, she has a very distinctive sound, which sells records and therefore generates money and income for the record labels, distributors, her and her team. Rhianna live, is a different matter altogether. She has a real issue staying in time and in tune. This raises a completely different point, money or music?

To summarise, I think that pitch correction used on great singers who can also sing live is brilliant!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2014

I’m sure that many of you spent your Saturday evening watching the Eurovision song contest, right? This event is interesting to say the least.
I think it’s really great that we get to experience music from various cultures and it shows a real insight in to the types of music that each competing country is capable of producing and there were some great singers. The winner, ‘Conchita’ is truly talented, vocally. Conchita hit some high notes with incredible delivery, control and balance.
I must say, I really enjoyed the UK’s song entry this year; ‘Children of the Universe’ by Molly not only because I know one of her backing vocalists, Katie Holmes, but because I think the song was catchy and well put together.
It is a shame that politics contribute to the competition to a degree but on the whole, it’s always an interesting watch… it wouldn’t be the same without Graham Norton would it?
Bring on next year I say!

Marwell Wildlife: DreamNight

Friday 9th May 2014 saw the return of DreamNight at Marwell Wildlife. This event is a very special complimentary evening for children from registered local charities. Children, who otherwise might not be able to enjoy the park, have their very own exclusive look at the animals after hours when our staff, who volunteer their time for this event, will be on hand to make the evening enjoyable for all.
The Marwell Staff Choir had been planning to sing at the event since the beginning of the year and I must say that the two performances the choir put on were very touching. As you’re probably well aware, I have a real passion in the way that music can help touch others. To see the smiling faces of children dancing and singing along made the performances even more worthwhile. It’s times that these that make me appreciate how short and special life it. For this reason, I feel that we all need to take more time out of our busy, stressful lives to enjoy the beauty that is life, to listen to some music and to sing for no other reason than to feel happy.
The highlight was seeing a young boy (in the picture) come up to the choir to take the microphone from us whilst singing and dancing to ‘Something Inside (So Strong)’ originally by Labi Siffre. To see the children singing the words of ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry was also a touching moment.

Christmas Eve at The Queens Head!

If you’re free on Christmas Eve, be sure to head to the Queens Head in Burley to catch my 2 sets of live music from 8:30pm.

It would be great to see you there!