Monday, December 26, 2022

Coming down after a big event – how to land softly

It’s the day after Christmas Day and, however well or badly it went, there can be a sense of a let-down.

After any big event like Christmas or an important choir concert, there needs to be a transition back to ‘normal’. This is not always easy! Here are some ideas of how to deal with the come down.

Monday, December 19, 2022

“It’s only a show!” – keeping perspective when preparing for a concert

Rehearsals can become somewhat fraught when a concert is coming up.

It’s easy to become fixated on the work and to lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s only a concert after all. Here’s how to keep a sense of perspective.

Monday, December 12, 2022

10 tips for singing outdoors in the cold, dark, damp winter

It’s that time of year when choirs get asked to sing at all manner of Christmas events. 

Htm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some of those will be outdoors. How best to deal with the challenges?

Monday, December 05, 2022

What is the right balance between new and old songs in your annual concert?

Many choirs are gearing up for their annual Christmas concert.

photo by Dick Thompson

Do you repeat the same songs each year or add new ones to your repertoire? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Work with what you’ve got and not how you want the world to be

There are choir leaders who are disappointed that their singers aren’t doing enough homework in the run-up to a big concert.

There are singers who try in vain to reach the high notes of the melody and who constantly complain about the songs in their choir’s repertoire. But this is what is on offer and fighting against it will always lead to unhappiness.

Monday, November 21, 2022

A concert is coming, but singers have missed rehearsals and not done their homework! What to do?

We’ve all been there: a big concert is coming up, but the singers just aren’t ready.

photo by Allan Harris

What can you do?

Monday, November 14, 2022

Why hiring a choir or singing workshop leader can seem so expensive

When people ask me how much I charge to lead a singing workshop they are often surprised by how high my fee is.

It works out as an enormous hourly rate. Here’s why it’s not as expensive as it seems.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Singing with the dirt left on

I was honoured to be invited for a video interview/chat recently with New Zealand singer, musician and composer Tony Backhouse.

One of the things we discussed was how we like music to be honest, gutsy, muscular and authentic. But how to describe exactly what we mean?

Monday, October 31, 2022

Working with an established group (who are set in their ways)

No matter how flexible and self-aware we think we are, inevitably we all end up becoming a bit set in our ways.

photo by Social Gabe

This can particularly apply to any choir or singing group who’ve been together for a long time. What happens when a new leader comes along and tries to change this?

Monday, October 24, 2022

How those little social interactions in choir make your happier

We’re often told of the many benefits to our physical and mental health of singing together.

What is not often mentioned is the benefit of the many small social interactions that occur.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Winding down after a singing session

I don’t know about you, but when I get home late after a singing rehearsal I find it hard to sleep.

I don’t feel particularly over-excited, but something inside me must be! What can we do about this?

Monday, October 10, 2022

When men and women sing the same harmony part

Often, when I’m teaching a song, a man might ask to sing the tune, or a woman might ask to sing the bass.

I usually say no, as I don’t like mixing men’s and women’s voices in the same part. Why is that?

Monday, October 03, 2022

Don’t chase fame – singing is reward enough in itself

You don’t have to be the best, or famous, or sing to a professional standard.

Singing is reward enough in itself.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Are warm ups necessary for singers?

In a recent blog post, Robert Sussuma urges singers to “stop warming up, doing exercises, and practising.”

see source, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

He is being a little provocative, but it has prompted me to reflect on whether singers need to warm up or not before singing.

Monday, September 19, 2022

You sing with your whole body – not just your vocal apparatus

As a member of the Natural Voice Network (NVN), I share a belief that our voices are rooted in our bodies.

But it’s not just the NVN, most professional singers believe this too.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Slow and steady wins the race – it takes time to become a singer or choir leader

We live in a fast, short-attention span world. People expect instant gratification.

photo by Rose Davies

But becoming competent at something takes time.

Monday, September 05, 2022

Why be perfect when you can be great?

We all strive for perfection in our singing. At the same time, we realise that being 100% perfect is impossible.

By aiming for perfection we can become blind to our achievements and how good we actually are.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Recordings of concerts may sound disappointing at first – give it time

I often record the songs I teach in workshops and the concerts that my groups do.

But when I listen back a few days later, I’m often disappointed. Why is that?

Monday, August 22, 2022

Singing allowed

Many people feel that they need permission before they can sing.

Somebody needs to tell them it’s OK before they can even open their mouths. What’s going on here?

Monday, August 15, 2022

You need to dance, then you can sing

There is an old Zimbabwean proverb that says, “if you can walk, then you can dance; if you can talk, then you can sing.”

But I believe that you need to be able to dance in order to sing well. It should be: “if you can dance, then you can sing.”

Monday, August 08, 2022

Explanations for singers need to come in many different forms

Sometimes when we’re learning a new song, a singer might ask a question because they’re having difficulty.

photo by ywammadison

I will then offer what I believe to be a helpful explanation. But sometimes this won’t help every singer.

Monday, August 01, 2022

When conducting a concert, less is more

Many choir leaders over-conduct in concerts.

But if you’ve done the work in rehearsal, you should hardly need to conduct at all.

Monday, July 25, 2022

It’s good to fail as a singer (and you should do it more often)

Most singers starting out are terrified of getting it ‘wrong’. They hold back in all sorts of ways and approach singing hesitantly. 

But if you’re not ‘failing’ and getting it ‘wrong’, then you’ll never progress.

Monday, July 18, 2022

When a choir rehearsal is cancelled, should singers get a refund?

When you have a salaried job and get sick, you can usually claim sick pay for a day off.

But if you’re running a choir and are self-employed, what happens then? Do your singers still need to pay?

Monday, July 11, 2022

Vocal exercises to help singers tune into a cappella harmony

I thought I’d share a few vocal exercises that I use to help singers tune in to a cappella harmony. 

I often integrate these into the warm up sessions to get people listening more closely before we move on to learning harmony songs.

Monday, July 04, 2022

What’s more important: your well-being or the next concert, rehearsal or singing workshop?

We’ve all been there: we’re feeling a bit rough, but we soldier on any way.

photo by Peter Reed

A big concert is coming up so we can’t let people down. But is that the right way to think?

Monday, June 27, 2022

How I teach harmony songs

An interesting question popped up on a Facebook group: How do you teach harmony parts to your singers?

There were several different approaches, some of them using recordings or keyboards. Here is how I do it.

Monday, June 20, 2022

How your performance can be a disaster, but the concert a huge success

We had a concert recently where pretty much every song went wrong in some way.

Yet we ended up having a fantastic evening and the audience enjoyed it enormously. How is that possible?

Monday, June 13, 2022

Companion Voices: singing for the end of life

There are several singing groups in the US, UK and beyond which specialise in bringing songs of comfort to the dying.

Watford Companion Voices

You may have heard of the Threshold Choir network in the US. Here in the UK we have Companion Voices founded by Judith Silver in 2014. I asked Judith to write this guest post to tell us more about her work in this area.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Singers’ big mistakes in performance usually go unnoticed by the audience

A choir concert is never 100% perfect. There are usually one or two minor errors, or even big mistakes.

photo by Alex Proimos

But what might feel like a huge disaster on stage is often not noticed by your audience.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Why you shouldn’t rely on another singer in your section to know the songs

I wrote last week about what to do when important singers are missing and a concert is due.

photo by Ben W

I mentioned the drawbacks of singers relying on others in their section to know their part. I’d like to go into that in a bit more detail.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A concert has arrived and some important singers are missing – what to do?

It’s the final rehearsal on the day of your big concert. You realise that several important singers are missing.

What can you do? Here are a few ideas.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Own your identity as a singer (or composer or arranger or choir leader)

Are you a singer? Or are you “learning to be a singer”, or “wanting to be a singer”, or “trying to be a singer”, or “starting out as a singer”? 

Maybe it’s time to step up and claim your identity.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

What to do when someone wants to teach you a song you already know

If you regularly attend singing workshops or have ever been in more than one choir, it’s inevitable that you will encounter a song you already know.

photo by Moses

Apart from zoning out, what’s the best thing to do when someone wants to teach you a song you already know?

Monday, May 02, 2022

Why are we stretching when we’ve come to sing?

I believe that proper preparation for singing is vital.

But sometimes I forget to explain why to singers who come to my one-off sessions. This is what I should remember to tell them.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Do you always sing the same voice part? Maybe it’s time for a change!

Many singers in community choirs choose for themselves which part they sing. They are not allocated a part by having a vocal range test.

This might work for a while, but what if you’ve chosen the wrong part? Also, voices change over time. Maybe it’s time to change parts?

Monday, April 18, 2022

Why it’s important to set your voice free from time to time

Being in a choir and singing with others is very controlled. There are other voices to blend and balance with, and fixed harmonies to follow.

But from time to time I believe it’s important to really let your voice soar.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Are you dependent on something that enables you to sing or lead singers?

It might be your singer’s water bottle or conductor’s baton. We all have something important that enables us to do our singing.

What happens if you lose it or it breaks?

Monday, April 04, 2022

New singers are trying your choir, but not staying – what can you do?

Choirs are often on the lookout for new singers. Some even offer free trials before singers commit.

But what happens if that influx of new people doesn’t stay? What has gone wrong? Let’s look at some possibilities.

Monday, March 28, 2022

How anxiety dreams can help you better prepare for concerts and workshops

I am due to lead a singing weekend in a few weeks. My first in over two years.

The other night I had an anxiety dream about it. Here’s what I learnt.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Why sing English versions of foreign language songs?

Since the Russian invasion began a few weeks ago, many choirs have been showing their support for Ukraine by singing Ukrainian songs.

However, many have been sung in English translation, rather than the Ukrainian original. Why might that be?

Monday, March 14, 2022

Is it important for singers to memorise the songs they perform?

I’m often asked how to get singers “off book” for their next concert.


The assumption is that it’s best for a singer not to have lyrics or sheet music in their hands when performing. But is this necessarily a bad thing?

Monday, March 07, 2022

Singing songs of support across different cultures

When Russia recently invaded Ukraine there was an outpouring of support and solidarity. From money and arms, to thoughts and prayers.

Svitych youth choir, Nizhyn Mykola Gogol State University, Ukraine

Many choirs have chosen to sing Ukrainian songs as a demonstration of their support. How does this help?

Monday, February 28, 2022

How to use the internet to research a song in a foreign language

I teach songs from many different cultures, most of which aren’t in English.

Before I teach a song, I need to find out as much as I can about it: who wrote it, what language it’s in, its cultural context, translation into English and so on. Here’s how I go about it.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Payback time: honouring the cultures that songs have been taken from

We often think of traditional songs from other cultures as just “out there” for the taking, to be used freely.

photo by Ashashyou

But every song was written by somebody, and every song is rooted in a particular culture and context. This hasn’t always been understood or acknowledged by those who have carried the songs into different contexts.

Monday, February 14, 2022

What is a ‘popular’ song?

When does a song have ‘popular’ appeal? When is it entertainment?

Does ‘popular’ simply mean ‘well known’?

Monday, February 07, 2022

6 different ways of presenting lyrics when teaching and learning songs

There are many different way of offering lyrics to singers, more so if your choir doesn’t use sheet music.

None of the options are perfect. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Monday, January 31, 2022

How much ‘stuff’ do you need to lead a group of singers? Far less than you think!

What is the minimum you need to get a group of people singing together?

A piano? Sheet music? A baton? Backing tracks? The less you rely on ‘stuff’, the freer and more resilient you become.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Singing benefits choir leaders too, not just singers

There is much talk these days of how singing is good for you, especially singing as part of a group.

photo by COD Newsroom

But that’s always from the singers’ perspective. We don’t often consider those who lead the singing.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Confessions of a singaholic – why too much singing might be a bad thing

Once you’ve discovered the joys of singing with others, it’s sometimes hard to know when to stop.

Here is a cautionary tale from someone who got rather carried away.