Monday, December 26, 2016

Singers and choir leaders: what bad habits have you got into?

We are all creatures of habit. Which is no bad thing until it starts to affect what we do adversely.

picking nose
photo by CTRLF5

How many bad habits have you got into this past year and how might you change that?

Monday, December 19, 2016

How to care for your voice over the festive season

Christmas is a time for singing. It’s everywhere. Sometimes it seems that Christmas is the only time that many of us sing!

christmas singers
photo by Richard Towell

Whether you’re in a choir or just singing carols with friends, you need to look after your voice. Here are some ideas.

Monday, December 12, 2016

How men sing (Part 4) – amazing examples from across the globe #getmensinging

This is the fourth in a series of posts which features amazing examples of men singing. Here are Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Men singing 4

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 05, 2016

10 ideas to keep you going when you feel like giving up

I’ve been writing this blog now for 10 years. My first post was on 3 December 2006 when I declared that Choirs are becoming cool! (this was the beginning of all those choir programmes on British TV, before even Gareth Malone).


How is it possible to stick with something for the long run without getting bored, disillusioned, diverted, lost, setback or running out of ideas?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why my choir doesn’t sing carols at Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly! Most choirs are busy rehearsing for their Christmas concerts.

Carol singers
photo by Prayitno

But my choir, The OK Chorale, isn’t. Here’s why we don’t sing Christmas carols.

Monday, November 21, 2016

6 facts about singing to help first-time singers

At my monthly singing session recently someone came up to me at the end to say she was worried about not having enough breath for the long phrases.


It turned out she was new to singing (it was only her second time!). I realised that a lot of new singers come with many preconceptions, some of which can put people off coming back. Here are six facts that may help you stay with it and not get discouraged.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Does your choir need ground rules?

Occasionally somebody in your choir may behave in a way that is not acceptable. It could be inappropriate language, disrupting a rehearsal or simply singing louder than everybody else.

Choir rules board
Example of choir rules used by Brigid Sinclair from New Zealand

If you don’t have any ground rules in place, it makes it harder to deal with such behaviour.

Monday, November 07, 2016

How to introduce harmony to a group of novice singers

I’m often asked for examples of simple harmony songs that might work with a group of inexperienced singers or people who have not sung before.


Rather than recommending specific songs, I always suggest a particular path into harmony. I thought I’d share that with you.

Monday, October 31, 2016

How to draw out the reticent singers in your choir

When a nervous singer turns up to your choir or someone comes to your singing workshop who’s never sung in public before, it’s all too easy for them to hide at the back.

photo by Homini:)

Here are some ideas for encouraging under-confident and first-time singers.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Make singing part of your five-a-day for wellbeing

Are you doing your five-a-day for wellbeing?

Buttermere walk (9)

Here are five things that can help with your feelings of wellbeing if done daily.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Don’t let your choir leader do all the work – realise how capable you are as a singer

There are some great choral conductors and singing workshop leaders out there. They get the very best out of their singers.

photo by U.S. Army

The downside is that singers can end up believing that they can’t do it without them. It’s time to acknowledge how capable you are as a singer in your own right.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The choir leader’s guide to catching a cold

Here in the northern hemisphere it’s the season of coughs and sneezes.

photo by Allan Foster

In case you’ve not managed to catch your first cold of the season at choir, here’s a handy guide to get you started.

Monday, October 03, 2016

What to do when only one man turns up to your mixed choir

There’s a mixed voice singing workshop with plenty of women singers, but only one man turns up. A new community choir starts and only one man comes to the first session, vastly outnumbered by the women.

men wanted
North Walsham Community Choir, Norfolk, UK

How do you deal with the massive imbalance? Here are a few ideas.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The non-technical guide to becoming a singer

Some people get put off by all the technicalities of singing: music theory, diaphragm, larynx, vocal blend, head voice, legato, etc.


But singing is much easier than you think. Here’s how to get started.

Monday, September 19, 2016

“I’m a choir leader and sometimes I hate my job” – but that’s OK!

Sometimes the last thing I want to do is to drag myself off the sofa and go to choir.

photo by Ed Van Brunt

But it’s my job so I make the effort and usually it’s worth it. I used to worry that everyone else loved their job all the time, but that’s not the case!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Integrating new choir members: a guide for new singers, existing members and choir leaders

Most choirs take new singers on at the beginning of a season. Joining an established group can be quite scary and new singers need to find a way of catching up quickly.


Here are some ideas for how best to integrate new members into your choir.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Has your voice gone rusty over the summer?

Choir members all over the country are gearing up for a new choir season. Many of you might not have sung at all over the long break.

wolf howling

How can you best prepare for getting back into singing without damaging your voice?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Finding songs for the new choir season

A new season kicks off for many choirs in a the next few weeks. I don’t know about you, but I always seem to leave it to the last minute to find new repertoire for my choir!


Here are some ideas for finding new material for your next choir season.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Just because a song is hard or you don’t like it doesn’t mean you should give up on it

Last week I looked at why singers might be finding a song hard going: If a song’s not working, when do you stop flogging the dead horse?

photo by Tanya Little

I suggested easy solutions to most situations, but what happens if the singers don’t like the song or are finding it harder than you thought they would? Give up or soldier on?

Monday, August 15, 2016

If a song’s not working, when do you stop flogging the dead horse?

Sometimes I bring a great song to choir and for some reason the singers really struggle with it.


How do you decide whether to persist with a song until it comes right, or just abandon it and move on? Let’s look at the options.

Monday, August 08, 2016

If the energy in your choir is low do you go with the flow or wake everyone up?

I ran a whole weekend of singing recently and when the Saturday evening session rolled round everyone was understandably very tired.

photo by Son Lee

This slot has always been problematic: do I do simple songs, slow songs or high energy wake-up songs? Do you go with the flow or try to wake everyone up?

Monday, August 01, 2016

You can’t avoid feelings of apprehension at the start of a singing workshop

I’ve just come back from my annual visit to the English Lake District to run my summer singing weekend.


On a weekend workshop I always find the first session on the Friday night tricky. There is an air of trepidation and hesitation that’s impossible to avoid. Why is that?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why do some audience members insist on sitting at the back of concerts?

[Spoiler alert: I don’t know the answer!]

Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor venue, unless there are allocated seats there will always be a few audience members who insist on sitting as far away as possible.

back row

They sit there straining to hear and see what’s going on. Why on earth do they do it?

Monday, July 18, 2016

How to find a suitable choir to join

Someone was looking to find choirs in our area. They Googled a bit, but they didn’t find my choir even though it’s mentioned on several websites.

Hackney Singers

This made me realise that there’s an art to Googling choirs and maybe some directories that people don’t know about. Here’s a guide to finding the right choir for you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

“This is the right space, and these are the right people” – working with the singers you’ve got, not those you hoped for

A singing session is coming up and you’re excited. It will be in a grand hall with loads of singers!

photo by Pierre-Henry Muller

But the day comes and it’s a tiny space and only a handful turn up. How can you manage your expectations and work with what you’ve got?

Monday, July 04, 2016

Why singing together is a great healer

The world can be a scary and upsetting place. Here in the UK we’re witnessing political infighting, uncertain futures, austerity measures and a rise in racism.

photo by Dainis Matisons

But singing together can be a great antidote. Here’s why.

Monday, June 27, 2016

How to plan a singing workshop when you don’t know who’s coming

Most weeks when I lead my choir I know which singers are going to turn up.

ABBA, Brussells May 09 (1)

But when I run a one-off workshop, I often don’t know who will be coming. How can you be prepared for the unknown?

Monday, June 20, 2016

What you can learn from singing workshops to become a better singer or workshop leader

None of us is perfect. There are always things we can do to improve our singing or teaching abilities.

Felden 2016 (1)

We can learn how to do that at every single rehearsal or singing workshop we attend. Here’s what I learnt from a recent singing workshop – and how you can too.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Choir committees and how to handle them 3: the advantages of a good committee

I’ve written about the things that can go wrong with choir committees, now it’s time to celebrate the good bits.

show of hands

A good committee can be a huge benefit to any choir.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Choir committees and how to handle them 2: when committees go bad

Having a good committee can be a huge benefit to a choir.

Цифровая репродукция находится в интернет-музее

But having a bad committee can be horrid and even destructive. Here are some common problems and how to deal with them.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Choir committees and how to handle them 1: what is a committee for?

Many choirs have committees. These are usually made up of choir members and exist to help the choir run smoothly.


At least that’s the idea, but sometimes things can go wrong and your committee can become a hindrance. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your committee.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Front, back or side? The best place to stand in your choir

When you first join a choir it’s very tempting to stand on the back row and hide until you feel more confident.

odd one out
photo by Pam Fray

But did you know that’s the worst place for a beginner to be? Here’s why.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why learning songs with foreign lyrics need not be scary

I teach songs from all over the world, often in foreign languages. But people are always asking me for more songs in English.


Why is this? Especially since singers usually find the songs with English lyrics harder!

Monday, May 09, 2016

How male singers can successfully pitch from a woman (and how women can pitch from a man)

As we saw last week, many singers struggle with finding (and keeping) their starting notes.

photo by Albin Olsson

What can make it even harder is if a man is trying to pitch from a woman, or vice versa. Here’s what happens and how you can overcome any difficulties.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Finding (and keeping) your starting note

Many singers struggle with finding their starting note. Once they’ve nailed that, they’re off and it’s no problem.

piano keyboard

How can you make sure you’ve got the right starting note and, more importantly, how can you keep hold of it before the song sets off?

Monday, April 25, 2016

I know over 600 songs so how come I can’t think of one when someone asks?

I added it up the other day and I’ve taught over 600 songs in 3- and 4-part harmony over the last 15 years or so.

scratching head
photo by Eric Kilby

But when someone unexpectedly asks me to teach or sing a song, I can’t think of one! What’s that about?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Neither fish nor fowl – why most singers don’t fit neatly into SATB boxes

You know the situation: one harmony part goes too high for you, but the other option goes way too low.


The fact is that most of us don’t fit neatly into SATB boxes. What are we to do?

Monday, April 11, 2016

When nobody comes to your concert or workshop – how to avoid or recover from a marketing fail

You’ve put all the time and hard work into publicising your next concert or workshop, but then hardly anybody turns up.

empty room

How do you figure out what went wrong? It’s all about the what, the when and the where.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Stuck in a rut? 10 ways to revitalise your choir

It happens to the best of us: choir used to be fun, but now it seems to have lost its sparkle.

stuck in rut

What can we do to get out of a rut? Here are 10 ways to revitalise your choir.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Why returning to your choir after a long absence need not be difficult

Sometimes life intervenes and singers need to take a whole term off or even longer. It could be illness, bereavement, job demands or just that it’s good to have a break from time to time.


But when it’s time to return to choir there can be all sorts of psychological obstacles, and some singers never make it back. How can you avoid this?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Singing in a group is a learnt skill – if you find it hard, it doesn’t mean you can’t sing

Many people won’t consider joining a choir or going to a singing workshop because they believe they can’t ‘sing’.


Yet ask them to sing something familiar like Happy Birthday and they have no problem. What’s going on here?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Does your choir need a conductor?

The OK Chorale had their annual concert this weekend. There were over 40 singers squeezed into quite a tight space and I stood out front and conducted them. We were supported by the 13 women of Heartbeat who had no conductor.

Children in Need Community Choir  - Chris Rowbury

How big does your choir need to be to warrant someone being out front? Can a large choir do without a conductor?

Monday, March 07, 2016

The costs of cancelling a concert or singing workshop (and ways to avoid it in the first place)

I wrote recently about how to decide whether to cancel a concert or singing workshop.

It’s a difficult decision to make, but even when you’ve made it there are plenty of repercussions to take into account.

Monday, February 29, 2016

How to be a bad choir director (it’s easier than you think)

Ann read my post The six qualities need to be a good choral director and it sparked off a quite a rant.

photo by bagogames

She has obviously had a bad experience. I thought I would share it with you.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How to decide whether to cancel a concert or singing workshop

It’s your worst fear: despite all your hard work publicising the event, only a handful of people turn up. Or the musical director is taken ill. Or perhaps the venue burns down.

empty seats
photo by B Rosen

The difficult question is: can you continue or should you cancel? And if you do decide to cancel what’s the best way to do it, and what are the implications? There are no easy answers, but here are some things to consider.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Your job as a singer is to get out of your own way and be in the moment

I’ve just run a workshop for members of my choir to help improve their singing technique.

in the moment

I realised whilst teaching that all the singers had the necessary knowledge already, it was simply a matter of reminding them to put it into practice. I’ll explain what I mean.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Money matters 2 – online payments and ticketing systems

The other week I wrote about practical solutions for dealing with choir finances.


This week I want to look at the many options for using online services to collect payments and set up box office systems for concerts.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Sing the intention, not the meaning

We’re always told to focus on the meaning of the lyrics when singing a song in order to communicate it properly and to give some emotion to our delivery.


But what if the lyrics are “lully lullay” or “fa la la” or what if the context seems to contradict the meaning or what if any ‘meaning’ is ambiguous? Then you need to sing your intention. I’ll explain more below.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Money matters 1 – practical solutions for dealing with choir finances

Whatever kind of choir you run, at some point you’ll have to deal with money. Whether it’s hiring a rehearsal space or paying an accompanist or collecting members’ subs.

cash register
photo by nikoretro

Money and finances can be scary though. Here are some practical steps you can take to ease the pain.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What to expect at my singing workshops (and those run by other Natural Voice Practitioners)

I started a brand new project last weekend called Sing Out Saturdays. It’s a monthly drop-in singing session for anyone who loves to sing.

SingWiv January 2016 (2)

It was quite clear that many people came with little idea of what was going to happen! I thought I’d answer some frequently asked questions about what to expect at one of my workshops.