Levelling Up: You can’t unhear that next level of quality

I like watches. I’ve always had an interest in taking things apart, understanding how they work, and learning about the history of how things develop.

One of the earliest non-fiction books I ever read in earnest was called Longitude. This is all about the man who invented the first accurate chronometer for use at sea, to help guide ships on long distance voyages.

As it happens, in the countryside area of Southwell nearby, there is the British Horological Society. This has huge numbers of watches, clocks, chronometers, and all manner of time-keeping devices.

In one of the rooms, they have scaled-up models of components inside wrist-watches. Each of the models tracks the history of certain technological developments that levelled up watch making. Continue reading “Levelling Up: You can’t unhear that next level of quality”

Vocal Quality: Developing and Respecting Vocal Headroom

I’ve talked before about this idea of vocal tessitura. This is a very nuanced concept, so please have a read of that article. Regardless though, here is the summarised definition from that article:

Tessitura asks “how comfortable are you” in certain regions of your voice, and where should we place songs so that:
a) the melody of a song is in the best spot in your voice; and
b) the opportunity to style and riff/ornament above that melody is still open to you (while still remaining comfortable).

What is vocal headroom?

Let’s start with this definition of tessitura, and think about how this affects us when we are figuring out a song.

Tessitura instructs us to optimise the key of a song such that you:
a) sound great on the original melody in that key without straining, and yet also
b) have melodic space above that original melody such that you can extrapolate or ornament the original melody as you see fit.

The emboldened elements outline the idea of vocal headroom. It is borne out of the idea of truly understanding the concept of tessitura, and applying this within your voice. Continue reading “Vocal Quality: Developing and Respecting Vocal Headroom”

A World Without Autotune

I love taking my daughter – Isla – to school and picking her up. I get to do it every day (bar one) in the week. It’s one of the greatest advantages to running your own business, that you can make time to do the things that matter to you, especially with those people who matter to you.

One of the things that we enjoy doing after school is sitting down together, chatting about our day, then watching some short videos on Youtube. These may be learning videos, bike builds, and – as you may expect – videos of music performances.

This week, I introduced her to Sam and Dave. Sam Moore and Dave Prater were a musical duo that started performing together in the 60s and continued for many decades. You’ll know some of their hits like ‘Soul Man’, ‘Hold on, I’m coming’, ‘I Thank You’, and many more.

Isla was utterly enraptured by the performances. Despite having seen lots of live music in recent years, whether at festivals, events, churches, choirs, etc, but she’d never heard anything that grabbed her like this did:

Here’s the thing about quality: it is often self evident. Of course, taste can play a role in whether someone enjoys a piece of music, but when someone has sufficient exposure to a particular discipline, a higher level quality stands on its own merit as a cut above. Continue reading “A World Without Autotune”

Clustering Vowels: When singing feels almost TOO easy

In our syllabus, I give a very basic overview of what we are trying to achieve with training a voice. The third step can be loosely described as clustering vowels. What follows is a brief preamble to outline this process in the context of voice, to lead you in to a very helpful video on understanding this from a brilliant video producer called Tom Scott.

What does ‘clustering vowels’ involve?

Broadly speaking, what we are trying to do is shade each vowel that we need to sing to be more similar than different. Each vowel still needs to be intelligible as recognisable as itself, but most of the time people sing vowels in a way where each is excessively divergent/different from one another. This results in overall inefficiency in singing, makes singing more difficult, and also restricts the level of smoothness one can rise to in their singing. Continue reading “Clustering Vowels: When singing feels almost TOO easy”

Building a vocal practice routine

In a recent article I mentioned how the pandemic has screwed up a lot of people’s routines and schedules, especially in relation to voice and music. For others it has introduced the space to build a vocal practice routine. Yet for many people in the modern world, carving out and sticking to a regular routine in anything doesn’t come naturally.

The writer James Clear talks about how building a new habit into your life can take anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to establish. It takes time, and building sustainable habit is the key to this.

Today, I wanted to talk about the easiest way I’ve found to build a practice routine for yourself, why it’s important, and the mindset involved. Continue reading “Building a vocal practice routine”

The Most Read Articles of 2020

I send out a weekly email to my readers every week on a Sunday. I send out a freshly written or appropriately updated and relevant piece for that week (you can sign-up and get a copy of my prospectus via the sign-up box on this page).

At the end of each year this means I’ve sent out around 52 articles. From how much certain articles are clicked on, I can see which articles are the most relevant and helpful for people. In this article, I wanted to provide a link to THE most read articles of 2020. Continue reading “The Most Read Articles of 2020”