Sunday, May 29, 2011

How to be a confident singer

When I was much younger I used to think that once you knew everything and were vastly experienced, only then would you become confident.

rock star baby

Rock star baby by fmgbain

But one day I was in a singing workshop when I realised that this is not true. You just have to decide to be confident! Behave as if you are and the rest will take care of itself.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Do you care what songs you learn in a workshop?

I’ve been creating some new singing workshops for next year.

Janice Joplin

Janice Joplin by Patrick Pearse

Last week I wrote about how to create snappy, attractive titles. But what about the content – does the theme of the workshop actually make much difference?

I’ve come to believe that it’s irrelevant what songs you teach in a workshop.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What’s in a name? Creating good singing workshop titles

Like a newspaper headline, or title for a blog post, a good name for a singing workshop can make all the difference.


Queue for the Banksy Exhibition (Nigel Mykura) / CC BY-SA 2.0

I’m constantly wrestling with titles for new workshops. I’m always on the lookout for that killer title that will get the punters flocking in. In the process I’ve discovered a few guidelines that I’d like to share with you.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

How to move forward when you’re uninspired

I’m having a tough time writing this blog post.


Colleen is bored by scragz

I didn’t sleep well last night, I’ve been over-doing it, I have too much on my plate, and I have no idea what to write about.

Actually, I have plenty of ideas what to write about. I have a file with hundreds of ideas for blog posts, but none of them appeal to me today, and the ones that do will take a long time to write and I want to do them justice.

But I have to write a blog post because I’ve promised you – my readers – that I will publish one post every Sunday.

Or it could be a song I promised to arrange, or a choir rehearsal that I have to run, or a workshop that needs planning, or a song that I agreed to write. It’s no use waiting for the muse to appear or to be in a better mood, it needs to be done now, today, this minute.

The answer is simple: JUST DO IT.

You don’t need to feel inspired to begin the job at hand. Just get started. No matter how tired you are or how rubbish you think the result will be, by just getting on with it some weird alchemy happens: you will begin to feel inspired.

Desire follows action, not always the other way round. Start to go through the motions then you will begin to feel like doing what you’re doing. No need to wait to feel motivated or inspired.

We often read about professional song-writers or authors or painters who tell us that they just work every single day, no matter how they are feeling. As professionals they can’t afford to sit around and wait for the muse to appear.

The results may not be the best (or they may be), but that’s not important. Just get on with it regardless.

So next time you don’t feel like going to choir or planning that workshop or doing your vocal warm up (or writing that blog post!), ignore that feeling and just do it. The creative juices will soon start flowing and you will end up with good results and feel better.

What are you waiting for??!!


Chris Rowbury's website:


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Do you need perfect pitch to lead a choir?

Question This post is part of a series of occasional Questions and Answers. Just use the contact form if you want to submit a question.

A budding choir director writes:

“Last year I got involved with helping to lead a community choir. I have a musical background in that part of my degree was in music and I play the piano and cello. However, I have never had any singing lessons or led a choir before or even been in a choir — except a school choir — so when I was asked to help I was quite nervous!

“I found that I really enjoyed conducting and teaching new songs. However, I’ve been getting a little stressed recently because when I come to teach parts, I can’t always think what the note is that I need to give the section of the choir when we’re rehearsing. Or when I need to help out a part by singing along with them, I can’t always come in with the correct note.

“Does this suggest that I haven’t got a good enough ear to lead a choir? I’m beginning to fear this is the case. I can usually pitch A and get a note from that, but I certainly haven’t got perfect pitch.”

My first response is “Gosh, you’re more musically trained than I am!”

Just like you, when I first started leading choirs I had never had singing lessons and hadn’t been in a choir since school (and even then we didn’t sing in parts)

I too was very nervous when I first started out, but it does get easier. Even so, I still get nervous before a new season or a one-day workshop. I think that’s healthy as it means I never get complacent and keep doing the same old stuff.

I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “I can’t always think what the note is”. I always, always write down the start notes of each part of the song I’m teaching. I have a chromatic pitch pipe that has all the notes in the scale and I just dial up the appropriate note and blow into it.

I don't have perfect pitch by any means and, given an ‘A’ for example, I’m rubbish at finding, say, an ‘F’. In which case you are far more accomplished than I am!

Use an instrument to get the start notes and write down what they are. Even the best professional conductors do it!

Even though I teach by ear and don’t hand out sheet music, I always have a copy of the score myself when I’m teaching. I often don’t have to refer to it, but it’s good to have it in reserve if I get confused or make a mistake. I’ve taught over 600 songs in the last ten years so it’s very hard to keep every part of every song in my head. The score is useful if you need to find the right note to come in with a part half way through a song, say.

If you need to, just stop, check the note on an instrument or pitch pipe, and then carry on. It will get easier as you (and the choir) become more familiar with a song.

I think you’re being far too hard on yourself. You don’t need perfect pitch to lead a choir.

You might like to check out an earlier post: Start as you mean to carry on (about giving out starting notes — read the comments!)


Chris Rowbury's website: