Monday, May 29, 2023

The pep talk I give before every singing workshop 3: learning songs (it takes time)

I give an introductory pep talk at the start of all my singing workshops.

The aim is to give out useful information, but also to reassure and relax the singers.

In this series of four posts, I’m going to share the things I cover. You might find it useful for your own needs, or maybe have some suggestions for how to make it better.

Last week, in part 2, I wrote about the fact that nobody knows what’s happening. And in part 1, I wrote about preparing to sing.

3. learning songs – it takes time

The third part of my pep talk covers the learning of songs in harmony. For some people this may be their first experience of harmony singing or of learning by ear, so I need to give them an idea of what to expect. And to help stop them giving themselves a hard time.

Here’s the kind of thing that I might say. I won’t always cover everything in as much detail.  I might not say all of this at the start, but sprinkle bits here and there throughout the workshop.

When you’re learning a new song, you won’t pick it up the first time. Or the second, or the third, or even the fourth. It takes time, so please be patient. And don’t think that everyone else is getting it quicker than you – they’re just bluffing! If the lyrics – especially foreign languages – are holding you back, just sing “la la la”. You might pick up a few syllables the first time, then a few more, until you eventually have them all. Don’t let the words slow you down.

I teach quite fast for two reasons: I don’t want people standing around waiting, so I like to get the harmonies going as soon as possible. I also don’t want to give you time to think too much. Thinking is the enemy of song learning! Your mouth knows more than your brain. As soon as you find yourself thinking “Did I get that right?”, let your mouth do the singing, and 99% of the time you’ll be correct.

What if you’re not ‘right’ all the time? This is not school and the lyric police aren’t here today, so nobody really minds the odd wrong note or work here and there. We’re working as a team and as long as the overall effect is good, nobody minds. So please let yourself off the hook.


Next week in the fourth and final part of this series, I’ll write about what you can do if you already know one of the songs I’ll be teaching.


Chris Rowbury


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