Guide to Singing whilst Self-isolated

Well, what a week this has turned out to be, not just for those in the UK but all over the world. It’s been great to work with everyone online, especially for those who are brand new to online lessons.

As many of us are doing our bit by staying at home, I thought as someone who spends most of his day teaching and making music from his home studio, I’d share some great resources, suggestions, and advice on how to make the most of singing at home. Continue reading “Guide to Singing whilst Self-isolated”

The Danger of Doing Too Much: Intentionality in Singing

There were a few lessons this week that reminded me of the importance of intentionality in vocal arrangement. It’s very easy, as one gains technical facility, to want to do various things with our voice just because we can. And why not! Doing exciting things with our voice is fun. The problem is, with increasing ability, we tend to overdo things – worse still, it can often be less listenable to our audience as a result. Why should this be?

“Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”

And never more is this true, than in jazz.

Jazz is reknowned for (allegedly) being all about ‘breaking the rules‘, playing whatever you like, outside-the-box sounds, etc. The thing is, there are rules and guidelines about how best to do this without confusing or losing the listener, but taking them along for the ride. Jazz musicians are the masters of following these rules. Let me explain. Continue reading “The Danger of Doing Too Much: Intentionality in Singing”

5 Reasons Why Sleep Boosts Your Singing, Your Brain, and Your Body

I suffered from insomnia for about 18 months quite recently. More specifically I suffered with a type of sleep onset insomnia (problems with getting to sleep) called ‘sleep anxiety’.

In short, it means you get physiologically and/or mentally stressed about going to bed. It can arise for all manner of reasons, but for me I’d had around 10-14 days of intensely disrupted sleep.

Initially I’d just been ill with a bad stomach bug. But after that it was just one thing after another that prevented me sleeping properly. When I say I wasn’t sleeping well, I was getting around 2-4 hours of sleep a night, in 20-30 minute chunks. If you’ve ever experienced this, you’ll know how brutal surviving on that little sleep can be.

Getting anxious

This inability to get consistent sleep led to a state of anxiety around sleep. This is where one gets irrationally stressed that they will not sleep, which in itself prevents sleep. The stress association was with my own bed, at night. I could nap in the day because it wasn’t night time, and I could sleep when staying over at someone else’s house because it wasn’t my bed. It was weird, but pretty debilitating.

I would go to bed at 9/10pm, and not sleep til 3/4am. Over the course of 6-8 months I managed to claw sleep at 12am/1am, after which the anxiety started to subside. If you can get any sleep, then the anxiety starts to abate. However, even now, if I get even slightly worked up around bedtime I will end up struggling to sleep. I don’t stress now, but I’m far from care-free about sleep as I once was.

The reason I share this is so that if you too struggle with getting a solid and restful sleep routine, you know where I’m coming from.

What I learned during this time

Through this experience I did a lot of research about sleep, what it’s for, how to get more of it, etc. I found I was fighting to keep my voice “above water” for that initial 6-8 months. Lack of sleep was killing my ability to improve my own voice, and massively hurting my ability to recover from hard voice days or illnesses.

We all know sleep is important for rest, but people often underestimate or underappreciate just how much sleep does for you. I wanted to feature five things that sleep is essential for when it comes to keeping your voice in great condition. Continue reading “5 Reasons Why Sleep Boosts Your Singing, Your Brain, and Your Body”

Shouting Masquerading as Singing: More reasons why more singers are just yelling

I wrote an article recently about why so many singers are just yelling. This was not a rant about performers who are just bellowing on-stage instead of actual singing, but a frank and honest discussion about the various reasons for why this occurs and is a growing trend in modern vocalism.

I hinted in one passage that there’s also cultural reasons for this, and I wanted to dive a little deeper into this today.

Who do we look up to?

Once upon a time, high male singers did not sing high notes with great power. Above chest voice, they would switch to a much lighter headier tonality, not entirely dissimilar to the sound of falsetto. This was after/alongside the period where castrati were also important for much of high male vocal work, but not within the scope of this article.

Then, in the early 1800s, an opera singer (Gilbert-Louis Duprez) sang a C5 (tenor high C) in sound not unlike full chest voice. This was in a performance of the opera Guillaume Tell (or William Tell). By all accounts his rendition was not of supreme quality, but the power he demonstrated there showed the masses that powerful male singing done up high was possible. Continue reading “Shouting Masquerading as Singing: More reasons why more singers are just yelling”

Vocal Warmup: My Morning Routine

I was talking with a client this week about how we get our voices going each day, and I thought it might be worth sharing my morning routine for getting my voice warm. If you struggle to get your voice going in the morning, then this is for you.

Maybe you’re not singing everyday, but you find that most mornings you’d like to be able to speak on the phone without constant throat clearing, or avoid feeling like you’ve been a chainsmoker for the whole night, or maybe you just regularly feel a bit heavy in the throat, cultivating this kind of routine for yourself can be a lifesaver.

If you want to read about the exercises I typically use, I’ve written about that previously here. This article is about the overall routine I have each morning to get my voice going, from waking up, to the first client of the day.

The demands on my voice

I need my voice to be pretty close to peak functional state by 10am. Given how difficult most people find their voice in the morning, I’ve had to develop a fairly comprehensive routine to get my voice to that state quickly, but without hammering a voice that’s just woken up. Continue reading “Vocal Warmup: My Morning Routine”

Shouting Masquerading As Singing: Reasons why so many singers are just yelling

Old man yells at cloud
Honestly, this article is not simply a case of “old man yells at cloud“…

It’s not simply a case of me staring into the middle distance and yearning for the “good ol’ days” – there is undoubtedly an epidemic of shouting masquerading as singing.

I was at an event recently where every single singer was just yelling their guts out. I’ve singers step away from the microphone to show how loudly they can bellow their lyrics. I’ve seen performers get gigs on not much more than them being louder than their peers.

But before we judge such singers too harshly…

… are there reasons behind why this is happening? I’m not advocating for justification or exoneration of those who do this, but seek to provide at least one plausible explanation for this trend. Continue reading “Shouting Masquerading As Singing: Reasons why so many singers are just yelling”