Monday, December 31, 2018

Taking stock – self-reflection for choir leaders and singers

In order to develop as a singer or choir leader it’s important to take stock from time to time.


People often use the New Year as a time for reflection, but you can take stock at any time.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas comes but once a year — so when to learn all the carols?

Christmas is coming. Time for concerts liberally sprinkled with seasonal songs.


But when do you start learning your Christmas repertoire? It takes a lot of work to add songs to the repertoire and then might only sing them once!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Have you become too dependent on your choir leader? You might be denying your own abilities

I’ve been noticing something interesting recently: when I move away from a part when I’m teaching them a song, they tend to fall apart.


Since I’m not actually doing anything for them at this point, I wonder what’s going on.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Choir anniversaries – and how you might celebrate them

I’ve just realised that this blog is 12 years’ old! Amazing how time flies. I was wondering how I might mark the occasion.


Then I realised that I’ve been hearing a lot recently about choirs who have been celebrating their own anniversaries. Which got me thinking: what’s the best way to celebrate a choir anniversary?

Monday, December 03, 2018

The hardest thing about going to choir is leaving the house!

Humans – dontcha just love ’em?! They say they really want to do something, then they don’t turn up.


What is that about? How come it’s so hard to leave the house when it’s choir time?

Monday, November 26, 2018

Singers, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s the only way to learn

Many singers hold back because they’re afraid of getting it wrong.

wrong way

But if you never make mistakes, you’ll never learn what getting it right is.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What to do if you think someone in your part is singing it ‘wrong’?

There are times when you hear someone in your part singing something different from you. Especially when you are learning a new song.

photo by Peter O'Connor

What’s the best thing to do in this situation? Let’s look at some of the options.

Monday, November 12, 2018

How to work with a mixed group of music readers and non-readers

I always teach songs by ear. As a member of the Natural Voice Network, our ethos is to make singing accessible to as many people as possible. This means we never assume any prior musical experience or knowledge.

Handel and Haydn society 1893

But, sometimes there are music-readers in my singing groups who ask for the sheet music. How can you accommodate these demands whilst keeping the work accessible to everyone?

Monday, November 05, 2018

Why do I sound much lower (or higher) than the person next to me when singing the same part?

In choral singing, you often hear the term blend. Much attention is given to the shape of vowel sounds to help achieve blend.


However, the timbre of voice is perhaps even more important than vowel sounds. Why do two singers sound so different when singing the same thing?

Monday, October 29, 2018

How to find the balance between easy and challenging songs in a drop-in singing group

A drop-in singing group is exactly what it sounds like: singers don’t need to make a regular commitment, but can drop in any time they want to.


I’ve written about before the pros and cons of these kind of groups. But here is what I’ve learnt from leading a monthly drop-in group for the last few years.

Monday, October 22, 2018

How to cope with too many male singers (a rare and unusual problem!)

It’s very common for choirs to be short of men. Most of my singing workshops attract far fewer men than women.

Mixed choir

But sometimes – very occasionally – loads of men turn up unexpectedly. Which can be a problem too. Here are some ideas for what to do.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Why you need many different ways of telling your singers the same thing

As I started yet another singing workshop, I realised that I say pretty much the same thing in the introduction each time.

repeated words

That got me thinking: if singers hear exactly the same thing too many times, they’ll just zone out. How can we avoid that?

Monday, October 08, 2018

Why are some ‘easy’ songs hard (and vice versa)?

Sometimes I start a singing session off with what I consider to be an easy song.

photo from Wellcome Images

But the group end up struggling and it turns out to be really hard! What’s going on here.

Monday, October 01, 2018

If you’re a man, do you have to be a ‘bloke’ in order to sing?

There are plenty of opportunities for men to sing together these days. They are called things like “Sing like a bloke” or you can even go to ‘BlokeFest’.

barbara furtuna

Does that mean that men have to be ‘blokes’ to sing? Of course not!

Monday, September 24, 2018

New singing weekends and new website!

I'm delighted to announce that  a brand new, full responsive version of my website will go live tomorrow, Tuesday 25 September 2018:

New website screenshot

This will coincide with my twice-yearly newsletter going out to my mailing list where I'll be announcing all my singing weekends up until next June 2019.

The weekends will go on sale on my new website the same day.

If you'd like to go on my mailing list, just pop over to my website to sign up: sign up to Chris's mailing list.

I'd be grateful for any feedback you might have about my new website. It's lovingly hand-crafted by me from a responsive template that I bought. I hope it's easy to navigate and look at on mobile devices.

Do let me know if find anything clunky or can think of any improvements.

Many thanks.

Chris Rowbury



Monthly Music Roundup:

How to bring harmonies to life when teaching a song

To teach a harmony song to a group, you don’t want whole sections standing around waiting their turn.

choral singers (duetting)
photo by COD Newsroom

Not only should you break the song into chunks, but you should build the harmonies as you go along. Here’s how.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Keeping it fresh: 5 ideas to keep regular choir attenders engaged

We all have our favourite warm ups and our favourite jokes. But if someone comes to choir every week, they may soon get weary of our patter.

photo by Tobias Toft

How can you keep things fresh so choir members stay engaged? Here are some ideas.

Monday, September 10, 2018

How to prepare new choir members for their first visit

No matter how hard you try to make your choir a friendly, welcoming place, joining a new choir is like starting a new school. It can be frightening.

photo by Capture Queen

Here are some ideas that may help prepare new members for their first visit to your choir.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Getting ready to go back to choir: 5 ideas to help singers and choir leaders

Many choirs start back in September after their summer break.

Members of the 52nd CBCS do stretching exercises during PT June 10. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Here are five things you can do to prepare yourself for a smooth re-entry, whether you’re a singer or a choir leader.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Choir leaders, are you doing too much for your singers?

I’m not looking for sympathy, but leading a choir can be hard work!

photo by Jean-Marc Volta

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe you’re working too hard. It’s possible to do less and get the same results.

Monday, August 20, 2018

New season, new songs – how to find new repertoire for your choir

Here in the UK autumn is in the air. Choirs often start back in September, a time when new songs are needed.

choir songbook

I’m here to help! Here are some resources for finding new songs for your choir.

Monday, August 13, 2018

How to cope with singing in the heat

There’s been a real heatwave across Europe this summer. Which is great for those on holiday, but can be a bit much when we have to sing in such heat.


Here are a few things that might help you cope with the heat whilst singing.

Monday, August 06, 2018

How to find the right choir to join 2: is this the perfect choir for me?

Last week I looked at how to find choirs in your local area.

community choir
photo by Tom Brogan

Having found a potential choir to join, how do you know if it’s right for you? In this post I’ll help you find out.

Monday, July 30, 2018

How to find the right choir to join 1: finding choirs in your area

It’s summer break in the northern hemisphere and many singers are missing regular singing opportunities. They might be considering joining a new choir after the break.


September is also a time when adult education classes start up and people’s thoughts turn to trying new hobbies. If singing is your thing, how do you go about finding a suitable choir?

Monday, July 23, 2018

How to sing better 4: getting down to it, putting the hours in and professional help

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 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 up 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.