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.

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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?

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.

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?

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.

My Recording Session with Dan…

I have sung with Love Soul Choir for 2 years, under the guidance of Dan and have also uploaded cover videos on to YouTube in the past.
My first ever gig was in 2013 and since then, my confidence has grown as a singer and a performer.

I’ve been wanting to record a more professional song recording for a while and with Valentines Day coming up I thought that there was no better time to do it then now.

I was pretty scared and worried about doing the recording at first, as I was completely stepping out of my comfort zone, in addition to the fact that I was recording a song for my Valentine.

Dan made me feel at ease as soon as I entered the room. Dan taught me singing techniques throughout the recording, in order to create a more pure and comfortable sound, when hitting the higher end of my vocal range. Suggestions made by Dan to add in backing vocals to the track, really enhanced the recording, which without his guidance wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

From the very beginning to the end of the recording session, I felt like a more confident singer, than what I felt I was in the buildup to the recording.
With Dan’s knowledge of singing, creativity, relaxing persona and recording skills, the recording sounds great. I really believe, it wouldn’t be as good, if I had done it either myself, or in a private recording studio.

Luke Raggett
Recording Client

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.