Monday, December 30, 2019

Is it time to widen your musical horizons?

Many of us are in choirs which sing a particular kind of repertoire.

But it’s good to get out of our comfort zone now and again and see what else is out there.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Singing and hydration – myths and recommendations

As singers, we’re often told to drink plenty of water.

But why is that, and how much is ‘plenty’?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Booze, cream and other vocal dangers

It’s the festive season, a time for (over) indulgence.

There’s nothing wrong with moderation, but some of your indulgences can be bad for your voice.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Does interval training work?

There are many interval training exercises to help singers distinguish between, say, a perfect fourth and a minor third.

But do they actually work? Do the exercises carry over into the singing?

Monday, December 02, 2019

Why choirs may choose not to sing Christmas songs

‘Tis the season to be jolly (apparently) and to sing Christmas carols.

But some choirs choose not to include Christmas songs in their repertoire. Why might this be?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Easy Christmas carol arrangements for choirs and audiences

If you’re anything like me, you leave everything to the last minute.

In which case, you might be short of simple arrangements for your Christmas concert. Well, I’m here to help!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Mind the gap between warm up and song: how to ensure vocal technique gets applied

I know an experienced choir leader who has developed problems with his voice.

Although he was aware of his vocal technique during warm ups, it all went out the window when he came to sing. How can you avoid that?

Monday, November 11, 2019

The long and the short of it: height differences in singing groups

I was teaching a group about what might affect the vocal blend when singing harmony in small groups.

Somebody pointed out that it’s much easier if everyone is the same height. This got me thinking …

Monday, November 04, 2019

Let your choir leader know if you have any special needs – they won’t know otherwise

I’m just back from leading a weekend of singing. One of the singers couldn’t read the lyrics I’d provided.

photo by Ian Watson

If only they’d told me beforehand I could have provided large-print words.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Don’t forget the basics when welcoming people who have never sung in a choir before

I started a new pop-up choir project last week. Several of the people who came had never sung in a choir before.

At the beginning of the first session I always try to make everyone welcome, and go through a series of pointers for those who might not have done much singing before. But I was surprised that I left out some of the basics!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Not done it for a while? Can you still do it? – the worries of singers and choir leaders

We’ve all been there. We don’t do something for a while, then start to believe that we’ve lost the knack.

It applies to singers, workshop leaders, song arrangers, choir leaders, song writers – in fact, pretty much all of us! How do we deal with this worry?

Monday, October 14, 2019

How to manage when your choir becomes too popular: waiting list or a new choir

Over the last two weeks I’ve looked at whether you can have too many singers in your choir and, if so, how you can cope with that situation.

In this final post on the subject, I want to look at two further strategies: closing your choir to new members and starting a new choir.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Strategies for coping with too many singers in your choir

Last week I asked Can you have too many singers in your choir? and gave several reasons why this might be the case.

This week I want to look at strategies for overcoming these.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Can you have too many singers in your choir?

Choirs are often looking for new ways to recruit more singers.

photo by

But will there come a time when you choir is too full?

Monday, September 23, 2019

What’s the best way to present lyrics when teaching a song?

Unless a song has only a few words, singers will need to see the lyrics in some form.

What’s the best way to present lyrics for the most effective learning?

Monday, September 16, 2019

How to squeeze singers into a rehearsal space that’s too small

It’s not something that happens out of choice, but sometimes we end up with too many singers for the rehearsal space available.

photo by Bryan Ledgard

Here are some ideas on how to deal with the situation.

Monday, September 09, 2019

The importance of breaks in rehearsals and singing workshops

I read two separate articles last week, both about the importance of taking breaks whilst you’re working.

It seems to be counter-intuitive to “waste time” by taking a break, but read on and find out why it’s important.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Think you’ve forgotten how to sing or conduct? It happens to us all!

Many choirs are starting back after their long summer break.

photo by Eric Kilby

Do you ever worry that you’ve forgotten how to sing or lead a choir? You’re in good company.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Turning bad singing experiences into good singing lessons

Things go wrong from time to time, but it doesn’t have to be a bad experience.

It’s possible to consider things from a different perspective and find the positive. Here’s how.

Monday, August 19, 2019

What I did on my holiday: tapping into your problem-solving mind without even trying

You’re finally on holiday and have truly switched off.

But did you know that this is a great time to do some work without actually making any real effort? Here’s what I mean.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Stopping singers from zoning out when saying something important for the hundredth time

Nobody likes to hear the same old stories and jokes time and again.

photo by James Brooks

It’s the same with instructions you give to your choir. How do keep stop people zoning out, even though you need to say the same thing week after week?

Monday, August 05, 2019

Monday, July 29, 2019

Dreaming of the perfect choir (a light-hearted fantasy)

Last night I dreamt of leading a choir where everyone turned up on time every week fully prepared.

Unfortunately it was only a dream, but it got me thinking: what would the dream choir be like for choir leaders and for singers?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Choir’s on a break, so where do you sing?

Most choirs take a long break over the summer (which is currently here for a few days in the UK!).

But many singers complain: “What am I going to do without any singing for so long?” Don’t worry, there is help at hand.

Monday, July 15, 2019

How slow can you sing? – using speed as a rehearsal tool

Doing anything too fast can result in errors and inaccuracies.

By slowing a naturally fast song down, you can reveal all kinds of mistakes and problems.

Monday, July 08, 2019

When did you last tell your singers how grateful you are?

Your singers turn up to choir week after week without fail. It’s very easy to get caught up in the music-making and forget that they don’t have to be there.

It’s good to show your gratitude to your singers from time to time. Don’t take them for granted!

Monday, July 01, 2019

What do you do if you’ve not finished teaching a song before the end of the session?

Last weekend I ran one of my monthly drop-in sessions. I had underestimated the time it would take to teach a song so couldn’t finish it by the time the session ended.

What can you do in situations like that?

Monday, June 24, 2019

Why are so many people afraid to open their mouths and sing?

I believe that everyone can sing. But despite encouragement, there are many people who think that they can’t.

photo by Sophia Spring/The Observer

For them, just opening their mouths can be scary. Why is that, and what can be done about it?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Why alcohol and good singing don’t mix

Performing in public can be nerve-racking. Some singers have a drink to take the edge off their nerves.

But that often results in very bad singing. Here’s why should avoid it.

Monday, June 10, 2019

How to stand and sing without getting backache

I always encourage my singers to stand. It’s the most effective body position for singing.

However, some older singers or those with back problems can be resistant. Is it possible to stand and sing without getting backache?

Monday, June 03, 2019

How to adapt singing warm ups if you have limited mobility

Like many choir leaders, I get people to loosen up their bodies as well as their voices when preparing to sing (see Preparing to sing: what should a warm up consist of?).

But we also need to be aware of those who have limited mobility. Here are some ideas for making sure your warm up is as inclusive as possible.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Having a “no music day” can improve your music-making

I’ve just returned from a week away. During that time I heard virtually no music and didn’t sing a single note.

It got me thinking about how having a break from music can reinvigorate our music-making practice.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Choir leaders: how to give yourself a break and not feel guilty

We all need a break from time to time. Even choir leaders.

But some of us find it hard to prioritise downtime. Here are some ideas for how to take a break without feeling guilty.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Why I record the songs at the end of every singing workshop I lead

Some years ago I began to record the songs learnt at the end of each of my singing workshops.

Here’s why I continue to do it, and what the benefits are.

Monday, May 06, 2019

What to do with your hands while singing – 5 ideas for singers in choirs

If you’re not holding sheet music, what should you do with your hands while singing?

photo by mr. throk

This can be problematic in a choir. Here are some ideas.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Why ‘learning by rote’ can be an insult

Somebody asked on Facebook the other day for suitable songs to ‘learn by rote’.

I imagine they meant songs to ‘learn by ear’ rather than by reading sheet music. I must admit, I was insulted. Here’s why.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A little rant: don’t diss those who don’t read music

Somebody wrote to me recently about how other choir members look down on them because they don’t read music.

It made me very angry that this sort of thing is still happening.

Monday, April 15, 2019

How to warm up your voice on the bus (or any other public space)

Sometimes we don’t get the chance to do a full warm up in private before a performance.

photo by Justin Morgan

Here are some ideas for warming up your voice in public without drawing attention to yourself.

Monday, April 08, 2019

How to know which harmony part to sing – a guide for new singers

Many people who attend my choirs and singing workshops have either not sung since school or have never tried singing in harmony before.

I am often asked “Which part should I sing?” Here are a few ideas which might help new singers.

Monday, April 01, 2019

How to put on a successful concert 2: songs and concert structure

Last week we looked at planning and asked a series of questions like why? what for? when? who’s coming?

This week we’ll look at the how: how you actually put a concert of songs together.

Monday, March 25, 2019

How to put on a successful concert 1: planning

It seems such a straightforward idea: learn a bunch of songs then find some people to sing them to.

photo by Nick Youngson

But planning a successful concert involves a lot of planning. Here’s a guide to how you might approach it.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Why altos are often timid and nervous

Over the years I have noticed that the least confident part of my community choirs is often the alto section.

photo by simpleinsomnia

I can only speak from my own experience, but I’ve heard others tell similar stories. Why might this be?

Monday, March 11, 2019

How to keep your warm ups and singing sessions fresh and engaging

I teach singing workshops across the UK. I’m lucky to get a lot of the same singers turning up each time.

Which means that I can’t keep on using the same old jokes or worn out warm up routines. Here’s how I keep things fresh.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Learning songs by ear: what should you do while other parts are being taught?

When a harmony song is being taught by ear, you can find yourself not singing whilst other parts are being taught.

Rather then zoning out or getting bored, there are plenty of things you can do which can help your learning. Here are some of them.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Singing in harmony as a metaphor for life

Singing together is known to have many benefits, for both mental and physical well-being.

photo by William Murphy

But if we think about it, singing together is also a wonderful example of how to live a harmonious life. Here’s how singing in harmony can be seen as a metaphor for life.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Does singing have to have an end goal?

Some people sign up for classes because there’s a goal to work towards.

But surely it’s possible to do things just for the sake of it? Does singing always have to have a goal?

Monday, February 11, 2019

Feedback is vital – even when things are going well

If you’re like me, you read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon before you buy.

But how many times do leave reviews yourself? For systems like this to work it’s important for everyone to give feedback, especially positive feedback. The same applies to choirs and singing.

Monday, February 04, 2019

When patience wears thin – 5 strategies for choir (and other) leaders

Patience is one of the most useful traits a choir leader can have.

But sometimes – despite your best efforts – you become impatient. What can you do to prevent taking it out on your singers?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Finding song information – Chinese whispers, wishful thinking and the oral tradition

I was choosing songs for a project the other day when I remembered one that I really liked from way back.

However, with a bit of further research I discovered that it was a very lewd song and not suitable. So how come girl guides all over the world are singing it?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Tell your choir leader what you’re struggling with, otherwise they can’t help you

Sometimes one section of the choir struggles with their part. I ask what the problem is, but am faced with a sea of blank faces.


If I don’t know what the difficulties are, I can’t help. Why won’t singers say why they’re struggling?