Monday, December 28, 2015

How men sing (Part 3) – amazing examples from across the globe #getmensinging

I’ve written two posts now showing amazing examples of men singing: Part 1 and Part 2 – now it’s time for Part 3. Given that it’s December I thought I’d throw a few seasonal songs in!

men singing

My hope is that if men see a huge variety of different kinds of men singing together, they might be inspired to get off the sofa and go and try it themselves.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Can singing together bring about world peace?

The world can be a terrible place sometimes as we’ve seen in the news lately. It’s hard to imagine how a single person can make a difference.

Chór aleksandrowa 2009 by Loraine

Can singing together or being in a choir bring about change?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Perfect presents for choral singers

It’s that time of year again (actually, it’s not: Christmas is 10 days away yet) and you still have time to shop for presents.


What on earth can you get for the choral singers in your life? Here are some super ideas for ideal presents.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Ideal presents for the choir leader in your life

It’s that time of year again (in case you haven’t noticed). The magazines are full of Christmas present ideas, but they always seem to miss out choir leaders.

photo by asenat29

So here are some perfect presents for any choir leaders in your life (hint, hint!).

Monday, November 30, 2015

How can I extend my vocal range as a singer?

I often get asked this, along with “How can I sing high without hurting myself?”

photo by Allisonnik

There is no quick fix, but here are some ideas that might help you.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Best laid plans – dealing with the unexpected in singing sessions

Always expect the unexpected. No matter how carefully you’ve planned your choir rehearsal or singing workshop, one day something unexpected will happen.

falling cannonballs

You can’t plan for every eventuality, but there are some precautions you can take. Here are some ideas.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why can’t I sing low notes with more power and volume?

Many men (and some women) complain about not having much vocal power on low notes.

double bass
photo by

If you have good power, control and volume in the rest of your range then there’s an easy explanation.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Only connect – a brief introduction to social media for choirs

In case you haven’t noticed: this is the modern world.

social media

If you’re not promoting your choir on social media, then you’re missing a trick. Here’s a handy introduction.

Monday, November 02, 2015

How to sing quietly (without running out of breath)

Some people find it hard to sing quietly. They seem to run out of breath easily and their voice goes all wobbly.

photo by Cristian V.

Why is this and how can you learn to sing quietly?

Monday, October 26, 2015

One recording is worth a thousand photos – use sound to promote your choir

Singing is all about sound, whether it’s a one-day workshop, a live concert or a CD.


I’m amazed at choir websites, concert promotion and singing workshop publicity which is full of photos, but have no sound clips. If you don’t have sound, you’re missing out.

Monday, October 19, 2015

6 ways to stop the strain of other singers relying on you (or you relying on them)

The rehearsal begins and the Altos looks around in panic: “Where’s Carol?” Carol is a strong, confident singer, but she’s not here this week.

Blind leading blind
Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind (detail)

The trouble is, the Alto section has come to rely on Carol, and now that she’s not here, they’re all a bit lost. How has this situation arisen, and what can be done about it?

Monday, October 12, 2015

10 choir website mistakes to avoid (or how to look professional online)

I was trawling through a bunch of choir websites the other day in order to send out some information about a workshop I’m running.


I was amazed how hard it was to contact many of them and in general how badly designed many of the websites were. I’ve come up with 10 mistakes that you should avoid.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Want to sing with more energy? – pretend to be somebody else

I ran a gospel singing weekend recently. One of the songs was flagging a bit so I suggested people ham it up a bit and be more “American”.

Miranda sings
Miranda Sings by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Suddenly the song came to life and everyone was energised. Playing some kind of ‘character’ when you’re singing can really enliven your singing. Here’s how ...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fit the song arrangement to your singers and not the other way round

Most singers in choirs don’t fit neatly into choral vocal ranges. Yet we try to squeeze them in to our off-the-shelf arrangements, chastising them when they can’t reach the notes.

community choir
photo by Garry Knight

How about thinking of your singers first and choosing arrangements that fit their voices rather than the other way round?

Monday, September 21, 2015

How to be a better singer if you’re a mere mortal

When you think you’re not singing well, you’ll often blame yourself. But what if it’s something else, something outside yourself that you can fix quite easily?


Here are some reasons why you might not think you’re a good singer and what you can do about it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Effective ways to recruit more men for your choir #getmensinging

Lots of mixed choirs don’t have enough male singers, and many established male voice choirs are not managing to find younger recruits (see my series of three posts Men and singing).


Here are some ideas to help you recruit more men and to get men singing in general.

Monday, September 07, 2015

How welcoming is your choir?

I bet you think your choir is a wonderful, friendly little community that welcomes newcomers with open arms.


What if I told you that new members might find your choir scary, cliquey and unwelcoming? Maybe it’s time to look at things from a different perspective.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sing something simple (and see if your singing is as good as you think it is)

If you’re like me, you’re always tempted to add harmonies to the simplest of melodies whether it’s singing along with others or arranging a song.


But don’t overlook the simplicity of unison singing and drones. These are great ways of finding out if your singing is as good as you think!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Planning ahead: leave space for the unexpected

Many choir leaders will be using the long break to plan their next season.

falling rock
photo by webmink

But be careful not to over-plan or you won’t be able to respond to the unexpected.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Get out of your singing rut and try something new – it will make you a better singer

I’ve written before about how you can use the long choir break to get better at what you do.

photo by troy

One way is to attend singing workshops lead by a variety of different leaders. It’s a great opportunity to try something new.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Choir leaders: who’ll replace you when you’re gone?

Nothing lasts forever. There will come a time when you will leave your choir and need someone else to take over.

When you're gone

Who will you hand over to and how easy is it to do? Let’s look at some options.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Making the most of your singing voice – it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it

We are not all born equal. Some have longer legs which helps them to win at hurdles or the high jump. Some have longer fingers which helps them to play jazz chords on the piano.

animal singing
photo by muzina_shanghai

But what you are born with need not limit what you do. It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Monday, July 20, 2015

What is your measure of success? – choir leading and self-reflection

How do you know if a choir session or singing workshop or performance has been a success?

photo by shadowkilla_tk

And if it has gone badly, how does that feed back into your teaching and choir directing?

Monday, July 13, 2015

How men sing (Part 1) – amazing examples from across the globe #getmensinging

Many choirs have a shortage of male singers. Most of my singing workshops attract just 10% men. Is it just a problem here in the UK?

photo by Matthias Zepper

In an attempt to get more men singing, I’m going to share some amazing examples of men singing together from all over the world.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The curse of confusion: why thinking is bad for singing

I teach a song by ear in less than an hour at a workshop. Everyone picks it up really quickly and then they sing it brilliantly.


We’ve been working on the same song with my very accomplished weekly choir for quite some time. They really struggle and it’s like plodding through mud. What’s going on here? It’s all about your head getting in the way.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chris Rowbury’s monthly music roundup

I thought you might be interested in a new venture of mine.


I’m about to publish a free, monthly roundup of music news delivered straight to your inbox.

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to pace a long singing workshop effectively

If a singing workshop is just a couple of hours long, then singers’ energy and concentration will probably be fine.

CCF 2010 (1)

But for workshops which last a whole day, energy, concentration, focus, boredom, etc. all become factors. What’s the most effective way to pace a long singing workshop?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Have you got what it takes to be a singer?

There’s a lot of nonsense out there about what it takes to be a singer.

child singing

The fact is, you already are one! Let’s unpick some of the myths and misconceptions.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Choir and workshop leaders: make sure you’re on the receiving end from time to time

I like being in charge, as do most choir and singing workshop leaders. Our job mainly consists of telling people what to do and helping them to sing the best that they can.

ABBA, Brussells May 09 (1)

Trouble is it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that. Which is why I always try to attend other singing workshops as a normal participant.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Coming back to singing after a long absence or a bad experience

Whether it’s bringing up a family or long-term illness or a bad singing experience, many people find it hard to get back into singing when they’ve been away for a long time.


Here are some ideas for ways of gently easing your way back into singing after a long break.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Singing with a group of strangers – mixing and mingling ideas for learning names

It always amazes me how surprised people are that a group of strangers can sing harmony together in just a few minutes. It’s not necessary to know the other singers to be able to sing well with them, but some people feel that they need to be introduced.

How can you get a group of strangers to get to know each other quickly without taking up too much time? Here are a few ideas.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Four powerful ideas guaranteed to help you learn to sing better

People are always asking me how they can learn to sing. Everyone is already a singer of course, but it’s always possible to learn how to sing better.


Here are four simple but powerful ideas that will help you be a better singer, whether you sing in a choir or a band or are a soloist.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How much should you charge singers to be in your choir?

Most choirs charge their singers to be a member (‘subs’). The amount can vary a lot from choir to choir.


What’s the best way to decide how much to charge your singers? Let’s look at some of the issues that can help you fix a suitable rate.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Stepping up – how to find the courage to volunteer for solo or small group singing

There are times in most choirs when a soloist or a small ensemble is required. These roles can be allocated by the MD but in many cases singers are asked to volunteer to try out.

choir soloist
photo by Paterm

What if you think you’re up to the job but lack the confidence to step forward? Here are some ideas that might help.

Monday, May 04, 2015

The challenges of running a drop-in singing group (and why you shouldn’t start one)

Some people run ‘drop-in’ singing sessions. People can drop in on any session they want, there is no commitment and no signing up for a ‘season’

Wivenhoe Jan 2014 (1)

It’s a nice idea: no commitment, no pressure, all very fun, sociable and informal. But there are plenty of good reasons why groups like this are hard to sustain. Here are ten of them.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What should individual singers focus on when performing as part of a choir or small group?

Whether you sing harmony in a small group or a large choir there are many things demanding your attention: other singers, conductor, audience, your own part, remembering lyrics, sheet music, and so on.

Magnifying glass
photo by andercismo

But what is the most important thing to focus on? It turns out that there are several.

Monday, April 20, 2015

10 great reasons why all men should join a choir – now!

Being in a choir is great (see The pleasures of being a choir member), but most mixed choirs never seem to have enough men.

Klapa singers
photo by Roberta F.

Here are 10 very good reasons why every single man out there should join a choir as soon as they possibly can. Use the hashtag #getmensinging on social media.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How to encourage regular choir attendance – balancing fun with commitment

Lately I’ve been wrestling with the problem of inconsistent attendance at choir. If not everyone comes each week it’s hard to do any development work and it means I have to keep teaching the same songs again and again.

sing for your life choir

Jane Christie-Johnston from Tasmania contacted me recently and we had a bit of an email chat. I asked her how she dealt with the challenge, and this post is based on her reply.

Monday, April 06, 2015

5 good reasons why joining a choir might not be right for you

We all know that joining a choir is a good thing to do. But it might not suit everyone.

Voicerox Choir, Southbank.
photo by Dave Pearce

Here are five reasons why it might not be such a good idea for you.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Should your choir perform live? – arguments for and against

When I started my most recent community choir The OK Chorale back in 2011 I decided it wasn’t going to be a performing choir.

Brighton Vox

But inevitably, over time, we have ended up giving local concerts. Not all choirs perform though. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How ill do you need to be before you cancel a performance?

I’ve been laid up for the past 10 days with a nasty bout of ’flu. For the first time in my 18-year career I’ve had to cancel a choir concert.

Cancelled concert

In this case it was an obvious decision, but how ill do you need to be before you cancel a performance?

Monday, March 16, 2015

When you don’t feel like singing, that’s the perfect time to do it – sing yourself happy!

Many of us wait until the mood hits us before we do something. But often the doing something is what changes our mood for the better.


The saying “Don’t sing because you’re happy, be happy because you sing” hits the nail on the head. Here’s why.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Copying music – how to stay on the right side of the law

I get regular emails from people asking questions about songs and copyright. I’m certainly no expert, but I have written a few articles that you might find helpful.

behind bars

I’ve also just discovered something called The Code of Fair Practice which (in the UK only) allows people in certain circumstances to get around copyright issues.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Less is more: don’t feel you have to teach or learn new songs all the time (by Betsy Sansby)

Many choir leaders end up feeling like song factories because we feel that our singers crave novelty. If we don’t keep giving them new things, they might leave.

One World Community Choir
One World Community Choir conducted by Betsy Sansby

Actually most singers in a choir welcome singing the old, familiar songs and find it hard learning new stuff all the time. It’s important to find the balance.

Monday, February 23, 2015

If you don’t feel nervous before a concert or a singing workshop then something’s wrong

I never sleep the night before running a singing workshop and I always feel terribly nervous before a concert – whether I’m singing or conducting.

photo by Francesco

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. The day you stop being nervous is the day you should give up. Here’s why.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What if the singing session is a success, but you feel like a failure?

Sometimes we’re asked to lead a rehearsal or run a singing workshop or perform a song and we do our job very well. But afterwards we don’t feel particularly good about it.

success failure

What’s going on here? Is it possible to be successful, but fail at the same time?

Monday, February 09, 2015

What’s the best recording device to use in a choir rehearsal or singing workshop?

How long’s a piece of string?! There are so many options that I’m not going to specify any particular type or model.

tape recorder
photo by svennevenn

However, here are some of the things you need to consider.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Recording during singing workshops and choir rehearsals – why, what and when?

Despite my strong belief in the oral/ aural tradition, there is an increasing number of handheld recording devices appearing in my singing sessions!

People ask if they can record during a singing workshop; choir members record their parts on their phone whilst learning a new song; I record the songs we’ve learnt at the end of each workshop I run.

But what’s the best, and most appropriate way of recording during singing workshops and choir rehearsals?

Monday, January 26, 2015

The singers who didn’t like warm ups (and what became of them)

Once upon a time there were two singers: Olga and Little Erik. They  did not like choir warm ups. Olga always came late so she could avoid them. Little Erik did them in a half-hearted way with a scowl on his face.

boy and girl

What became of these two reckless singers? Read on to find out.