Happy New Year! I am posting singing exercises for you to get back into singing if you have had a break over the holidays. This week I will be focusing on breathing exercises. The first exercise is about keeping a steady exhalation for as long as you can. Practice this daily for a week to see how much you can improve.
It has been a very busy week for me this week, as along with everything I usually do in a week, I am also preparing for an audition. I haven’t done one of these in a long time, and although it is a little stressful, it is wonderful that things are starting to get back to normal so that shows can once again be staged.
Usually I like to be well prepared for auditions, but for some reason, this one has crept up on me. In an audition they usually ask you to perform something from the show, and then a section of a song that is similar in style to the show you are auditioning for.
I chose to sing the beginning of The worst pies in London from Sweeny Todd. Now Sondheim, the composer composes very challenging music. You can watch a performance by the amazing Patti Lupone here.
The challenge here was the words. It is so fast and there is no time to think, they have to be known.
So how do you go about learning something like this in 4 days? Well you practice really hard.
Some of the things I have done to learn the piece include: Listening to the recording at least 50 times, probably more. Chunking it up. Learn the first phrase, add the next and so on. I broke it up also into two sections, the first one has lots of fast phrases, the second section is more legato and you have a little more time to think. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I go through the lyrics for about 15 minutes, then probably sing through the song about 10 times.
Whenever I had a spare moment during the day, I would play the music on my phone. I would spend time in front of the music score looking for clues about how to sing the piece accurately, revise lyrics, rhythm and melody. I spent about an hour each day doing this. After a couple of days I would start to attempt to put some moves with the music to be able to perform the song, not just sing it. Then go over and over and over it until I feel confident I can sing it accurately. I was even going through it in my head while swimming my morning laps at the pool.
In total I guess I have spent approximately 3 hours a day rehearsing.
This gives you a bit of a clue as to how much practice is required to learn a 90 second piece of a song.
If you would like to have individual singing lessons with me, please click on this link to register your details.
Today we are going to have a look at a very small section of Adele’s song Easy on me.
We are just going to do the very beginning of the chorus: Go easy on me baby.
There are a couple of things to look at in this small section of the song.
It’s a great song, and if you haven’t listened to the whole song you can click on this link to listen to it on you tube.
The song is in F major, and this phrase begins with the tonic note, which is the beginning not of the scale -F and then you sing up a fifth, or leap up, which is the fifth note of the scale which is C.
You will find fifth intervals in lots of songs. Intervals are important to practice so that when we sing them, we land accurately on them.
Practice on the sound ng, which is the sound at the end of the word sing. The sound is closed (the tongue and soft palate are together) but you can open your mouth when you sing. This aims the sound into the front of the face.
You want to glissando (slide) up and down. As you go up, think more like you are landing on the note rather than revving up a hill.
Glissando’s on fifths exercise
When you are attacking a phrase, especially one that begins with a vowel, there are a number of different ways you can sing it.
- Clean onset: the vocal chords come together cleanly with the sound to make a smooth, light and clear sound. To do this, connect the two words go-easy, like one word to keep it smooth.
- Aspirate/breathy onset. Air is pushed through the vocal chords to make a breathy, airy sound. Adding a h also makes it even more breathy.
- Glottal onset. The vocal chords come together quite hard to make a very strong and hard sound.
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ANZAC DAY 2021
I had the joy and honour of singing at three Anzac Day Services on Sunday. It has been a long time since I have sung in front of an audience and it was wonderful to be able to sing for people again. There were good crowds at all the services and I had a lovely response, with many saying how much they enjoyed my singing. I believe it is such an honour to be able to sing at an Anzac Day ceremony and to be able to sing at three was very special.
The first ceremony was actually held at the local cemetery. In my town we have quite a beautiful cemetery, with beautiful gardens, a recently renovated band rotunda and a substantial newly built memorial in memory of returned service men and women who are buried at the cemetery. This year was the first year since 1946 that an ANZAC day ceremony was held at the cemetery. This is because the town cenotaph was built after the second world war and the yearly ceremonies are now held there.
THE LAST POST
One thing I was able to observe in detail was the bugler at each ceremony. There was a different person at each ceremony and they all had a very different experience performing. One of the buglers was a mature person who had been performing for many years and was very experienced at performing. One was still quite a young person but had played for many Anzac Day ceremonies, even though they were early on in their performing career. The third was a young person, had been playing for a few years, but had not had experience playing to a crowd. It was interesting to note that they had all obviously practiced for the event and they could all play the last post, but they had very different experiences. None of them played it perfectly, but the mature person and the very young person continued on in spite of any little slips they made.
The person who had never performed for an audience before did get through the performance, however I could see very clearly that they were extremely nervous and tension had built up in their body, and they simply could not get enough air in to support the notes fully. They are to congratulated on their performance, performing for the first time and in spite of being nervous, they did get through the last post and overall it was played correctly. It was sad to see their response afterwards. I didn't get a chance to speak to them, but if I could have, I would have told them how well they played for a first performance.
PERFORMANCES ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN
We can be so harsh on ourselves for performances that don't go as well as we would like. Especially when we are first beginning to perform for an audience. As I said previously, none of the performances were perfect, but the people who had performed previously did not worry too much about perfection, shrugged off a missed note and kept playing. It is so important that we practice performing, getting used to being in the stressful situation of standing in front of an audience and playing or singing. I have been performing for many years now, and although I can still get nervous, I have performed enough times to understand how my body works and I can prepare and be aware of what I am doing, relaxing and breathing well for good breath support. That does not mean my performances are always perfect. Usually I go off stage thinking about what I can do better, but generally I am pretty happy with what I have done. The audience wants you to do well, and are for the most part very supportive, so we shouldn't be afraid to perform for others. Perfection is hard to achieve, but we are often hard on ourselves when we don't achieve it.
So get out there and perform. A LOT!
Hi there! Only a couple more days to 2017.
Eeeek! I cannot believe how fast this last month has flown and we are almost at the beginning of a new year.
I hope you have all had an absolutely fabulous 2016 and are excited about 2017. I have been doing a lot of thinking recently and am trying to get planned for next year. I am notorious for just floating along and when I have a great idea I just do it. However this can be a very dangerous way to live as there is always a great rush to get it done, I’m not planned and I often don’t do things as well as I would like. Being prepared and organized helps things to flow better and a lot more can be achieved.
So my first terrific tip is:
1. Plan ahead.
Start thinking ahead now. What would you like to achieve vocally in 2017? Analyze what it is (make sure you are specific) that you would like to improve/achieve next year. Write it down, plan it out. Do you need to work on your breathing? Would you like to extend your vocal range? By how much? When? What will you need to do to fulfill your dream?
2. Organize a practice time you can stick to every day.
Part of the reason we don’t have the success we would like is that we fail to practice. There is no getting around this, if you want to succeed you have to put in the work. Work out a time that you able to set aside each day to work on your skills. Then stick to it.
For some more tips and ideas on better singing practice, click on the link below.
3. Have singing lessons.
This is important thing to do. There are many articles and videos on line about how to sing better, but none of these offer something very important. That is feedback. It is vital to have a mentor that can work with you to analyze and then work with you to improve your singing voice. I know when working with students that I am constantly asking questions and guiding them to hear what a good voice should sound like, tweaking and adjusting constantly. If you don’t have any feedback, how do you know if what you are doing is correct? To have lessons one on one with Mary at Singing Strong click here to register.
4. Listen to lots of music
Make sure you are always listening to good music. Think about the artists you like and listen to them. LOTS! There are plenty of ways to listen to music. You tube, Pandora and spotify are just a couple of examples of places you can listen to your favourite music. Take some time to analyze what your artists are doing that makes them a good singer.
This is my favourite song at the moment and a song I definitely want to learn.
Think about what styles of music you like and then:
5. Choose repertoire
Decide the songs you would like to learn in 2017. Think carefully about the style of music and level of difficulty. Aim to find at least 5 songs you could work on. Plan out the year as to which month each song will be learned by. Remember it takes time for the body to get used to how you sing a song. I always say allow 6 months for a song to feel right.
Do these 5 things and you are well on your way to singing success in 2017.
Want to get 2017 off to a great start?
Singing Strong is offering a Summer Singing Intensive from Monday 9th January to Friday 13th January 2017.
Five days one on one with Mary for an hour each day. You can do this with Mary in her Traralgon Studio or on line.
There are only a few places left.
Work on vocal technique, performance skills as well as learn a song in 5 days!
Can you believe we have reached the last term for 2016??
Singing Strong studio had a huge Term 3.
Students continued working hard during lessons, working on technique and learning new repertoire. This was quite a challenge for some as there were so many activities on this term.
A large number of students were involved in various Eisteddfods achieving great success.
I held a workshop about preparing for Eisteddfods and performing. This was very well attended and the masterclass that was held was very worthwhile.
We ended the term with a dinner dance held at the Premier Function Centre. This was a terrific end to the term. It was fantastic to see student up on stage performing with a live band. The night was so much fun!
You can read all the details about these events and more by clicking here.
I have been adding some interesting articles on my BLOG. The latest is about organizing a practice space at home and getting into a practice routine. Good revision before starting a new term. You can read it here.
Term 4 will be fast and furious.
1) CD production
I had said last term we would be making a cd. This will be done in term 4.
Last year we made a Christmas cd but this year we will be making a cd of various songs. Students need to choose the song they love to sing and then we will make a recording of it. It can be any song, but would you please let me know what you would like to sing asap so that I can create a list.
2) AMEB Exams
There are a number of students completing AMEB exams at various levels this term and we wish them well with their studies.
3) End of Term Workshop
I will be holding a workshop day on Saturday 10th December. This will be broken up into 3 sessions, each for one hour.
10am: 1st session will be for all primary school students.
11.15am: 2nd session is for any secondary school students.
12.30pm: 3rd session will be for all adults.
This will be an opportunity for any students who have missed a lesson during the term to make up this time. For any students who have attended all lessons, this is a bonus session for you.
4) Performance Opportunity
Our major event for the year was held last term, however I would like to do something for the end of the year. I will be organizing some small concerts that will be held at various nursing homes in the community. I will send out dates and times soon. This will not be a huge commitment. You can choose which one you would like to be part of. It is not a compulsory activity, but I would like to see as many students participate as possible.
Please note that the last lesson for the year will be the week ending 9th December.
5 Things you can do to improve your singing practice.
You can listen to this blog post here:
As singers, we all want to be able to practice regularly to improve our skills. But sometimes we are not sure about what we need to make our practice sessions worthwhile. Below you will find 5 tips to help you make the most of your practice time and achieve success.
Tip Number 1:
Make sure you have all the materials you need to practice.
Use sheet music when practicing, not just lyrics. We are musicians and should be able to read music. The sheet music also gives important clues about things like tempo and dynamics.
Invest in a music stand. It is important you have something to put your music on that you can stand at. You can get collapsible stands that fold away neatly. I have a manhasset music stand which is more expensive, but is really easy to use and very solid. You can click on the pictures if you want to order them online.
fold away stand Manhasset stand
Make sure any device that you use for playing backing tracks is loud enough to sing along with. You might need to invest in some speakers if you are using an ipad or phone. Don’t practice using headphones. This is a bad habit to get into as you can’t hear yourself properly.
Headphones are great for listening to music but not so good for practice.
Tip number 2:
Have a designated place to practice.
Have a special, clean, private ready to start in space. Having a space always ready for singing makes it much easier to get started. If you are always having to pull things out to get started, or have to practice in a space where other people are, you are less likely to get going.
Tip number 3:
Be clear about what you need to practice.
Always have a plan about what you want to work on during the week between lessons. Make sure you have discussed with your teacher what will be required and then have some way to record what you have done. This way you can account for your practice sessions.
Tip Number 4:
Make it part of your routine. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Singing practice should be a part of your every day routine. Just like brushing your teeth or having a shower, we need to find time each day to practice our singing. If you start this from the beginning it is easy to reinforce. For young students, parents really need to be present in the beginning to encourage this routine. Make a time and stick to it, whether it be in the morning or afternoon. If no time is dedicated to practice, it simply will not happen.
Tip Number 5:
Warm up, then chunk it.
Make sure you warm up well. Have a warm up routine that you can do in about 5 minutes. Here is a link to a website with some great ideas on warming up. Click here.
Don’t try to do it all at once, break it up. Hopefully your teacher has highlighted what needs to be worked on. Focus on those small sections and get them correct, then put it all together.
A couple of 10 minute sessions each day is much better than trying to do an hour at a time. Committing to 20 – 30 minutes each day is quite achievable – this equates to at least 3 hours practice a week.
Use these five tips you are guaranteed to have success with your singing. Remember singing is a skill and can be developed like any instrument. Your success depends on your practice!
Want to have singing lessons? To get started in your musical journey with Mary and Singing Strong please click here and fill in your details.
Mary will get in contact with you to assist you with your inquiry.
I have been visiting various singing websites lately and have found many of them to have great ideas and ways to help singers.
One thing I have noticed on a couple of the websites is their claim that you don’t need to have face to face lessons to sing well, just watch my videos and you can become the greatest singer. For me this is a one way street.
My comment to this is if you don’t know what you are doing wrong, you can never know what you are doing right.
Feedback is integral to good progress. Feedback is the rocket fuel that propels the acquisition of knowledge and without it, no amount of practice or watching videos is going to get you there.
A singing teacher is not merely there to offer encouragement and assessing levels of concentration, they are also on the lookout for small technical glitches that may have escaped the attention of their student.
You can get the basics from reading material or watching videos, but I would highly recommend you seek out a singing teacher or at least a mentor who can give you appropriate feedback and guide you on your musical journey.
The answer is yes. If you are able to talk then it is possible to sing.
Singing is a skill that can be taught just like any other instrument or any skill actually.
I have worked with many students who wanted to sing but didn’t have the skills. Over time with study and practice these students became very good singers. These students wanted to be good singers and they put in the time and effort required to get good at it.
I am an ok dancer. I can move in time to the beat and when I take time to go over a dance routine I can learn it reasonably well. But I will never be a great dancer. That is because I like dancing, but not enough to want to do it all the time and take the classes to become really good at it. My daughter loves dancing, goes to classes, practices a lot at home and is becoming really good.
But I love to sing. I have had lots of lessons and performed quite a lot and I have developed skills I need to be a good singer.
I will never be great at violin because I don’t have an interest in playing it. I would like to learn cello though.
I love to teach but I would be pretty useless as a nurse as it is something I don’t want to do.
They say it takes around 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. I think that this is pretty close. If you were to ask anyone who is an expert at something, they would probably tell you these sorts of hours. They would be working on their craft every day over a long period of time.
Learning how to sing well is like any instrument. You can’t expect to become a concert pianist with a weeks worth of practice.
When you look at the lives of some of the famous singers who are really good at their craft – you would discover that most have been singing since they were young children. They sing all day every day, listening to music and singing along, they probably go to voice lessons and are involved in any performance opportunity they can.
If you would like to be able to sing reasonably well, in tune, yes you can learn. You probably don’t need to spend 10,000 hours. Maybe 100 hours would be a great start.
How good you get depends on how much you want it. How much is your desire? Are you willing to do what it takes to get really good?
Here is a video of Jessie J at 15. You can tell she has been working on her craft for many years already.
Another video of a young Jessie J
A more recent live acoustic performance.
It’s the beginning of 2016 and you haven’t practiced any singing since before Christmas. Does that sound like you? I am a little bit guilty of this too. The Christmas season was so busy for me I hardly had any time for anything else. It was a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends and I did sing heaps of Christmas carols, but most things like practice got put aside. Now with the new year we find ourselves back into more of a routine, but finding the motivation to get back into practice can be a bit challenging.
You might want to start by sitting down and writing out a couple of goals for your singing this next couple of months. My goal at the moment is to come up with a list of ten songs I would like to start learning as I need to build up my repertoire for performance and auditions.
However, it is important that I don’t start singing all these 10 songs straight away. Over this week all I am trying to do is get my voice back in shape. I need to do my vocal “push ups”. Just like the rest of our body, if we don’t exercise consistently, things get out of shape. My vocal chords and the surrounding muscles need to get a good work out.
I need to do this slowly, a bit to start with and then lengthen my sessions later on in the week.
So to start I will just do some light warm ups. Sirens, bubbling lips, humming etc.. through my vocal range. Then some exercises to extend my vocal range and work on my resonance and then get into learning songs.
Starting with 15 – 20 minutes and then gradually increase this time over the week.
Just like the rest of your body, if you go out and exercise full on straight away, you will most likely be very sore the next day or may even do some damage. Your voice is the same. Go slowly and gradually build up your strength and stamina.
Here are a couple of exercises to get you started:
5 note scale on ah: