Why does breathing technique matter?

In our normal everyday life we breathe unconsciously and automatically – we don’t have to think about it. As singers we use the same breathing anatomy and apparatus, but we have to use it in a special way. Successful breath management contributes to at least 21 different elements of singing: Read more ›

Music and copyright (or “Stealing from musicians is ok, right?”)

Copyright law is internationally upheld as a fundamental right for composers, lyricists, librettists and writers (referred to collectively in this article as ‘creators’, and publishers for good reasons. However, these creators and copyright holders typically lose out financially to the practice of people copying or distributing (e.g. emailing) unpaid-for copies of the music instead of buying them. Every time a copy is made or distributed without the creator’s or copyright holder’s permission, that person is being forced to work for free.

What follows is a brief outline of the principles of copyright as they apply to music and lyrics, including some explanation of ‘fair use’. The second section describes some of the ways that people try to justify infringing copyright – and how to refute such arguments. The third section explores what principles we might use to restore fairness – as well as hope – to composers, lyricists and the publishers who help them.

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Open Mic nights in Oxford

Not all the Open Mic nights in Oxford are listed on Daily Info, but it is definitely the most reliable source of information. Some of this information was gathered from here and Open Mic Finder, but may not be accurate (sorry!); I suggest you ring the venue to check before you make a possibly wasted journey. If you’re looking for folk sessions, folk gigs, or folk musicians to link uv p with, then take a look at Folk in Oxford. Read more ›

Choosing a singing teacher

There are excellent teachers, good teachers, teachers who don’t really do any harm but don’t actually know enough to do a student much good, and teachers who actually mislead because they don’t know what they are doing. How can we find a good teacher? A good teacher should demonstrate certain knowledge, skills and personal traits, and be able to answer a broad range of questions. These days, there is such good information about the science of voice anatomy and vocal acoustics, there is no excuse not to teach with what I would call ‘evidence based singing’. I also think a singing teacher must be a good musician, have a good feel for language, be a versatile and artistic performer, be a good ‘explainer’, and be creative and adaptable. Here are some more criteria to consider: Read more ›

A to J model of singing

My singing students are well acquainted with my teaching model for singing lessons, and this summary is a reminder for them of the core concepts. It serves as a draft outline of a book I would like to write about what I have learned and teach about singing. I don’t know whether the book will ever get written, but in the meantime, this blog on my website is the place where you can read about my ideas, and many the posts are expansions of different sections or even single ideas from this A to J model of singing. (There is an even quicker summary of this model if you click on this link.) Read more ›

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Reading list

booksCan we learn to sing from a book? Absolutely not. I regard myself as reasonably knowledgable about voice, and a number of its related fields, including the teaching of voice. While I use the books listed here as reference tools, I think they might be only moderately useful to someone who isn’t a voice geek and voice teaching geek like myself. There is so much technical language, ambiguity, questionable arguments (and pseudo-science), and terminological confusion. How can we be sure what the writer means when we cannot see the physical technique they describe, feel what it is like in the body (or, for that matter, emotionally or mentally), or hear the vocal-acoustic result? Having voiced my reservations, here are few books that I have found worth dipping into over the years, including:

  1. Voice science
  2. Vocal methods and pedagogy
  3. Working towards performance (and auditions)
  4. Voice care, vocal rehabilitation, and body work
  5. Other reading Read more ›
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Is a mirror useful for singing practice?

Some teachers (including me) use a mirror in singing lessons, and encourage the use of a mirror in practice time. There are pros and cons to this. Although I use a mirror in lessons, I always suggest that singers get used to working without a mirror as quickly as possible. Read more ›

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Aligning and Awareness

aligning1. ALIGNING

In the ‘3 + 1’ map I set out how all vocal technique has to be relevant to the Breathing system, Vibrating source, Resonating system, or inner life of the singer. The one aspect that affects all of these is how we ALIGN ourselves.

‘Processes’, not ‘positions’

Some singers and teachers talk about this in terms of ‘posture’ or ‘alignment’, but I am not so keen on those words. ‘Posture’ and ‘alignment’ are nouns; those words can suggest that the singer must find a specific body position that is supposed to be good for singing. But if we try to do that, we end up locking muscles that almost certainly need to be moveable and flexible when we are singing. So we need to find not body ‘positions’ for singing, but useful body ‘processes’. To help us keep this in mind, we can change our vocabulary, to constantly remind ourselves of the dynamic, fluid nature of singing. So, we are going to use a verb, and talk about ALIGNING. We must always be on the move in singing. Read more ›

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Who is in charge of a singer’s learning?


This is an edited version of my posts (without other people’s responses) in a topic (Jan 2013) I started on a LinkedIn discussion group consisting of singing teachers. I wanted to explore what role / responsibility teachers felt a student has in the teacher’s studio, and in their own learning, and how should they relate to their teacher and behave in the teacher-student dynamic. Read more ›

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Singing at Drama College Auditions

What are they looking for?

(NB Check the section ‘College Advice’)

  1. “Is my singing voice OK? What if I can’t hold a tune?” Wrong questions! This audition is not about the beauty of your singing voice, or your level of musicianship. This is an audition for drama college, not a music theatre training. In other words, it’s about your potential for: acting; knowing and playing to your strengths; preparing thoroughly; response to words/character/story; learning and taking direction; using your voice and body as well as you can (allowing that you probably have limited training and experience at this stage).
  2. It’s all about selling the song, not vocal quality; about making the song real, and embodying the words; about acting, not singing – and even singing is about acting.
  3. A song is another chance to show off your acting ability. In this respect, it is just like your spoken pieces, and must be prepared just as thoroughly. ‘Bad’ singers can deliver fantastic song performances if they are real and take the audience on a journey through character or story.
  4. A song well acted can even tip the balance in your favour if the panel is lukewarm about how you performed your spoken pieces.
  5. The panel wants to experience you, so sing in your own voice, and your own accent. Don’t try to sound like someone else, like a well-known singer, like a jazz or music theatre singer, and most definitely do not use an American ‘pop’ accent (unless you are American!).
  6. Be wary of advice from your friends or family. Their advice is often contradictory and largely uninformed, as well as coloured by their personal relationship with you (whether through secret lack of belief in your chosen path, envy, wanting to reassure, etc)
  7. You won’t always be asked to sing in your preliminary audition, so a) don’t worry if you’re not asked to sing on the day at this stage, but b) always have your song ready, just in case. But you may well be asked to sing in the recall audition, even on the afternoon of the same day.

Read more ›