Monday, July 16, 2018

How to sing better 3: breath control, vocal range and singing in tune

I get asked questions like these a lot: “How can I be a good singer?” or “How can I sing better?”


Of course, it depends on what you mean by ‘good’ and ‘better’. In this series of four posts I’ll outline a few things that might help.

Monday, July 09, 2018

How to sing better 2: discovering your own voice and learning to love it

I get asked questions like these a lot: “How can I be a good singer?” or “How can I sing better?”


Of course, it depends on what you mean by ‘good’ and ‘better’. In this series of four posts I’ll outline a few things that might help.

Monday, July 02, 2018

How to sing better 1: getting started and not making excuses

I get asked questions like these a lot: “How can I be a good singer?” or “How can I sing better?”

monkeys singing

Of course, it depends on what you mean by ‘good’ and ‘better’. In this series of four posts I’ll outline a few things that might help.

Monday, June 25, 2018

To mic or not to mic? – that is the outdoor choir question

At this time of year many singing groups are asked to sing outdoors.


Whether it’s on stage at a noisy festival or a pop-up choir at your local village fete, the question of amplification will arise. Let’s look at the pros and cons of using mics for your choir when performing outdoors.

Monday, June 18, 2018

When teaching a new song goes horribly wrong

I taught a new song to a group on Saturday. It was a bit of a car crash!

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano

What can you do when teaching a new song goes horribly wrong?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Rehearsing and singing in a circle: the pros and cons

Many singing groups work in a circle when learning and rehearsing songs.

Singing in Wivenhoe

There are some advantages, but also downsides. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Monday, June 04, 2018

What is harmony singing?

I had several new members join a singing project recently. I quickly realised that they didn’t really know what they’d let themselves in for!

It’s so easy to bandy words around without realising that they have a particular meaning and are ‘jargon’ to anybody outside the singing world. In this post I’ll consider our use of the word ‘harmony’.

Monday, May 28, 2018

10 golden truths I have learnt from 20 years of choir leading

I started my first choir WorldSong in Coventry back in September 1997. Which means I’ve been in this choir leading lark for just over 20 years.

photo by Alex Ristea

Here are some of the things that I’ve learnt on the way.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Does God mind if you sing badly in church?

I’m not a religious man, but I often get emails from church choirs.


Recently I’ve had a few such enquiries asking what to do about singers in the choir or congregation who sing too loudly or out of tune.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Why my singers don’t use recorded parts to learn songs

Some choirs make recorded parts available to their singers and expect them to know their part when they come to the first rehearsal of the song.


For me though, learning together in the same space is more important so I don’t use recorded parts. Here’s why.

Monday, May 07, 2018

How do you know if you’re singing the right thing?

Often, at the end of a singing workshop, someone will tell me that they didn’t think they were singing the right thing and ask if there is anything they can do about it.

do the right thing
photo by Xavier Vergés

It’s often people who have only recently started to sing with others, but this doubt can hit at any time. How can you tell if you’re getting it ‘right’?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Finding your voice can be scary – but don’t let that stop you

I’ve heard a couple of stories this week from otherwise confident individuals who find it scary and embarrassing to sing with others.

make your voice heard
photo by Howard Lake

What’s going on here? And is there a connection between our singing voice and “having a voice” in the wider sense?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Why do choirs stand in sections to learn songs? Here’s an alternative that might work better!

Most choirs rehearse and perform with voice parts standing together in blocks: all the sopranos will be together, all the basses together, etc.


But there are other ways to rehearse (and perform) songs which might make learning easier. Here is something you might want to try.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The 7 elements of vocal blend and how to control them

There is a balance in any choir between individual voices and the overall sound. Most choirs aim to blend voices so that there is a cohesion rather than individual voices sticking out.

photo by pinkbelt

If this is taken too far however, I believe that you lose the humanity in the choir. It’s still a good thing to aim for though. Here’s how to go about it.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Audition or self-selection? – how to select singers for specific projects

Most of my work is carried out using Natural Voice Network principles. That means my singing projects are open to anyone who wants to sing.

audition sign

Occasionally though I do side-projects which involve selecting singers. What’s the best way to do this?

Monday, April 02, 2018

What to do when you run out of ideas

It comes to all of us at some point. We sit down to plan a warm up or rehearsal or singing workshop and we just go blank.

no ideas

That’s exactly how I’m feeling now writing this blog post! Here are a few ideas that might help.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Lip trilling and bubbling – is it useful and how to do it properly

I use lip trills (or lip bubbles) as part of my warm ups. Some singers find them hard to do. Others don’t see the point.

horse lips

I’m going to share some expert advice so you can do lip trills properly then make your own mind about their use.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Should conductors mouth the words for their choirs?

I’ve often mouthed the words for my choirs. I’d rather singers don’t use lyric sheets when performing, so it’s a kind of security blanket for them.

monkey mouth

But it can be considered patronising or even a way of letting singers off the hook. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Monday, March 12, 2018

When singers don’t show up – how to rehearse effectively

The other week it snowed quite badly where I live. I held a rehearsal as usual, but only 23 singers turned up out of 56.

Munich uni choir

We have a concert coming up soon. What do you do when so many singers are missing?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Should choir leaders socialise with their choir members?

Many choirs hold social events throughout the year. It helps build a choir community and encourages team spirit. That can only be a good thing.

office party

But should your choir leader be invited along, or should they maintain a professional distance?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Effective ways to make a song more interesting for your audience

Sometimes choirs think it’s enough to sing a song well. They stand in static rows and sing the whole thing from start to finish.

choir on steps
photo by John Cummings

But that can be like watching paint dry. You need to create some interest if you’re going to keep your audience interested. Here are some simple ideas that might help.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Making the space work for you – how to cope with unusual venues

I have run several singing workshops recently in less-than-ideal spaces.


Rather than being a problem, I found ways to embrace the situation. Here are some ideas you might find useful.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Leading your first ever singing group – a complete beginner’s guide

I am often asked for advice from people who want to start a singing group, but have absolutely no experience.

kids singing
photo by The U.S. Army

Or sometimes people have been asked to start a workplace choir or to take over their church choir activities. Here are some tips to get you started.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Why being ‘pitchy’ can be in the ear of the beholder

Sometimes when I watch TV singing talent shows like The Voice or X-Factor I think that the singer is out of tune, but the judges don’t seem to notice.

cleaning ear

At other times the judges point out that a singer is ‘pitchy’, but I think they’re perfectly in tune. What’s going on here?

Monday, January 29, 2018

What do singing and sex have in common? – more than you think!

Sex is (mostly) a private activity. If somebody were to observe you, you would (probably) find it embarrassing.


Singing with others is an acceptable public activity, but it too can be embarrassing. Often in surprising ways.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A little self-doubt as a singer can help – especially if you’re a man!

There was an article in The Guardian about how women tend to experience more self-doubt than men.


I’ve noticed that the men who come to my singing weekends are often not as good as the women. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s because men over-estimate their singing abilities.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Not everyone will like your singing voice – but that’s OK

Your friend plays you one of their favourite singers and you just don’t get it. To your ears it sounds pretty awful.


Liking a singing voice is very subjective. We all know that. However, it can get us down when it’s our voice that’s being considered.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Can you join a choir if you can’t hit a note?

I had an enquiry this week: “Am I correct in believing that, to join your choir, it isn’t necessary to be able to hit a note?”


I said that yes, that was the case. But it’s important to unpick what “unable to hit a note” means.

Monday, January 01, 2018

New year, new plans – how to get what you want

Many people use the turning of the year as an opportunity to reflect on the past and make plans for the future.

new year resolution

It’s easy to go overboard though and end up trying to become a completely different person or making unrealistic plans which will inevitably fail.