• What’s the Best Exercise for Singers?

    I’ll preface this by saying that the BEST exercise for YOU is the exercise you enjoy doing! However here is a breakdown on recommended types of exercise (and why they’re so good!)

    On the Matt (great for balance, relaxation and full body strength)

    What is it: Pilates

    Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a convert to this one. Due to scoliosis, I’ve had back and shoulder pain for many years and Pilates is now my best friend. If I don’t do it, I feel 100 years old- stiff, in pain and tense. If I do it regularly, I feel pretty wonderful most of the time. It really has been a game changer.

    Why its so good: Pilates strengthens the body in an even, balanced way. It’s been designed for the ‘modern’ body and there are modifications for people with physical limitations and injuries. Pilates helps to reduce tension and tension spreads- to the shoulders, neck and voice! So craning to look at your smartphone or laptop for hours WILL impact your voice. Pilates can help you find balance again..

    Be careful of: communicating medical conditions or injuries. A good teacher will give you a modification or an exercise to directly address your concern.

    Find out more

    Picture courtesy of runwaypilates.com

    What is it: Yoga

    Why it’s so good: Yoga and Pilates often get tied together, however there tends to be more twisting with yoga which doesn’t suit everyone. However there are many different types of yoga- some are more dynamic and intense and some are more chilled out. People often find yoga helps them to relax and unwind, which helps to reduce tension. Like Pilates, there’s a focus on abdominal breathing, which we definitely want to encourage!

    Be careful of: pushing your body into a funny configuration. Always tune in to how it feels and ask for modifications if you need them.

    Find out more

    What is it: Feldenkrais

    Why it’s so good: Similar in some ways to yoga and Pilates, Feldenkrais aims to get you tuned into an awareness of your body. Like Pilates, its a ‘thinking persons exercise’- and promotes ‘awareness through movement’. This can be especially useful for performers, who need balance in a dynamic way.

    Be careful of: forcing anything. You don’t need to. Just honour your body and just do what you can. If you like Feldenkrais, you might also like Tai Chi and Alexander Technique. This is probably not for you if you would rather thrash it out at the gym!

    Find out more


    Cardio (Good for your heart = on stage stamina here we come!)


    What is it: Dance

    Why is it good: It gets you tapping into rhythm, gets your endorphins going and is another creative outlet.  Apparently Zumba can even help develop your cross body co-ordination, which can be especially useful if you’re neurodiverse. Even if we’re not ‘good’ dancers and choose to do this alone in our kitchens- this is a great mood booster! Let’s not forget some of those moves might come in useful when performing.

    Be careful of: Holding your abs in a tense fashion. Some dancers find it hard to relax the abdominal area, which is essential to breathing for singing. So make sure to check in with those abs now and again and relax that tum!

    Find out more


    What is it: Swimming

    Why its so good: Not only does swimming strengthen and tone the body in an even and balanced way, it also relies on good breathing co-ordination.  When breathing for singing, we need to breathe at the best opportunity. We don’t wait until we’re running out of breath to snatch a gasp of air. As soon as we start doing this, we feel like we’re battling against our body. Instead of battling against it, we should be working WITH our body. We need to let out a steady stream of air and get the balance of air just right. We need to empty our lungs completely of air before letting in the next breath- but we don’t want to hold our breath and get tense! Swimming can help you with this (and when you’ve got the hang of it, you can let your mind empty..)

    Be careful of: the mentality of bigger breaths are best. We just want a ‘normal’ breath when singing- we don’t want to be tanked up full of air which can make us feel like we don’t have enough!

    Find out more

    Strength Training- keep those muscles strong and supportive!

    I’m a fan of using your own body weight in strength training ( planks are good, even if they feel terrible!hah!) Pilates and Yoga both take this approach. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) can be great for some, but I urge you to make sure your technique is good before you thrash through a frenetic workout. It’s easy when you’re under pressure, to end up pulling something so make sure you’re warmed up and confident with the moves. Over-training can be detrimental to health. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

    Excessive weight training can impact the voice in a negative way however. If we’re not careful, we can encourage erroneous muscle tension- and muscle tension TRAVELS. That’s right- to the neck, jaw and tongue.

    Although we use our larynx (voicebox) for singing, it’s most important functions are to a) stop us from choking on our dinner and b) to help us bear weight. This is why physical strain can often be heard in the voice- because the false vocal folds (above our true ‘vocal cords’) are getting involved. They want to be helpful but they cause more harm than good, bless them. Sometimes body builders have raspy voices, and this is why. When we push our muscles too hard, we can often drive the voice hard in the process.

    Of course there are endless ways to exercise and the one that’s right for you is the one you enjoy! The reason I have suggested the above exercises is because they encourage a degree of awareness of the body. I’m not keen on pushing through the pain of a punishing exercise regime. I believe exercise is a way to nurture and be kind to ourselves, not thrash it into submission. Similarly, I have students who love an insanity workouts. As long as it brings joy and you’re not pushing your body too hard, that’s wonderful! There’s no point snoozing through a Pilates class if it’s not your thing.

    Do you feel inspired to take up exercise or shake up your existing routine? Drop me a line and let me know how you’re getting on, I’d love to here from you!


    April 17, 2018 By @HannahMarie Uncategorized
  • Singing lessons for kids- a parent’s guide!

    When I was 8, my parents took me to see The Lion King at the cinema- a small event that planted a lifelong desire to sing! Songs such as ‘ I just can’t wait to be King!’ blasted out as I sang along- there was nothing I loved more!

    In every other way I was a shy child- until you gave me a song I loved. Then the whole world opened up before me and I forgot my reservations completely.

    I see this magic occur all the time in my students, and it’s a joy to be part of it. Here are my tips for parents and those with the privilege of nurturing young talent…

    Keep it fun!

    This is so important! Enjoyment isn’t just a nice side effect of your kid singing, it’s THE most important part. If a child is enjoying the process they are much more likely to do well. Whether or not your child is destined to become a star or not, a love of singing can be a wonderful creative and therapeutic outlet for the rest of their life. That’s  the best gift you can give anyone, whether they grow up to use it professionally or not. Most kids have academic and social pressures from a young age- there’s huge value in allowing singing to be a space of self expression and ‘play’.

    Don’t get wrapped up in ‘talent’

    Here’s the thing about talent- scientists have discovered that talent can be grown. Literally! (check out Daniel Coyle’s amazing book The Talent Code to discover more).

    The short version is that ‘talent’ is a neurological phenomenon that can actually be seen in brain scans! Thanks to neuroplasticity and ‘muscle memory’ we can actually grow our talent. Some people are definitely born with talent, but passion and dedication have more influence than inborn talent!

    This is why it’s important that we focus on the process being enjoyable. If the lessons are fun, your child is likely to feel motivated to practice- this is turn develops confidence, which feeds back into the whole cycle! Rather than focusing on how talented a child is (especially in front of those impressionable ears!) it can be more constructive to celebrate the EFFORT that a child has put into the process. This creates a growth mindset (more about this here) that will benefit them in every area of their life.

    Let them sing what they want- if it’s age appropriate!

    This is always a bit of a minefield. It’s so important that your child likes what they’re singing but let’s be real- some lyrics just aren’t appropriate for a kid to sing. This is a call that parent and teacher need to make together! Adult lyrics aside, it’s also important that the song is vocally suitable. Anything vocally intense (ie, really high, loud or fast) should be avoided or only practiced in small doses. I don’t outright ‘ban’ technically difficult songs, but find there is usually a healthy compromise.

    For example, if a young girl wants to sing a very powerful song (and I know she’s going to belt it out at home anyway) I will encourage her to be aware of her effort level. If it’s a high level ( ‘a 7 out of 10 hard’ or similar) I will ask her to try singing it with a ‘3 out of 10’ so she’s not going to be pushing her voice. I will then steer her towards an easier song by the same artist, or in a similar style.

    This approach is usually effective as the child gets greater enjoyment from mastering the easier song, rather than getting disheartened at the difficult one.

    They may have their own taste in music!

    Although a lot of my young students have strong ideas about the type of music they like, a lot won’t have developed their own tastes yet. One of my young students had always sung serious ‘grown-up’ music, as it was what she’s been encouraged to sing. She was a high achiever and quite ‘serious’ in her approach to singing. I sensed she needed something a bit different. I suggested a bit of Taylor Swift and she had the best time! The spirit of play and fun came back into her performance. I was hoping to instill in her that singing can also be for our own enjoyment, and there’s room for all kinds of music. For other students, venturing outside of the top 40 can open up a whole world of musical possibility! Just like us grown ups, every child will gain something different from their singing lessons! 🙂

    If you would like to find out more about singing lessons for kids,you can read more here– or get in touch with me directly on 07341278731

    In the meantime, here are some recommended songs to get your kids singing!


    April 4, 2018 By @HannahMarie Uncategorized
  • We made a music video!

    The weekend before last I went to visit family in Shropshire, and ended up getting snowed in.  Significant snow fall is a rare thing in the UK, so we thought we’d make the most of it.

    The result was an epic snowball fight, and thanks to the power of the smartphone, a music video! I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into our weekend and the song too. It’s a cover of Cold War Kids’ Hospital Beds‘- a song that I’d wanted to cover for the past 10 years.

    Its a slightly left-field choice of song (very much my taste in music!) I didn’t write the song, but I’ve always felt it was about embracing life, through its ups and downs.


    ‘Vietnam! Fishing trips! Italian Opera! ‘- I feel like its a call to go and have adventures. Whether your adventures involve gondolas, fishing lines or snowball fights, I hope you enjoy this video…

    May the new year bring many more!

    December 19, 2017 By @HannahMarie Uncategorized
  • Why you need to ‘let go’…

    Often our knee jerk reaction is to ‘fix’ the problem, but of course there is an irony here- you can’t force yourself to relax. You can only allow yourself to let go. Awareness is the first and most important step. The next step is the willingness and patience to go with the process. 

    Often we learn when we stop trying so hard. I truly believe that learning to sing is really unlearning all of those unhelpful habits we’ve adopted. None of us came into this word all hunched up and ‘wearing our shoulders as earrings’ (as my Pilates teacher once observed!)

    If you look at babies, you’ll see that they breathe freely into their abdominal area, and engage these muscles when they cry. Let’s face it, your average baby doesn’t have problems with projecting their voice!

    Perhaps its our western obsession with having flat stomachs, but often we hold ourselves upright and breathe shallowly into our shoulders, which is the first thing we need to unlearn.

    Being suited. booted and poker faced might be necessary in the corporate world, but it can leave us alienated from our bodies and disconnected from our voices. Psychology aside, if you’re at a computer for 8+ hours a day, chances are you’re going to suffer from some muscle tension.

    So, whats the answer?

    In my opinion- the answer lies, in part, with movement. I don’t mean the hardcore kind of movement, where you thrash around, overriding what your body is telling you- but the gentle, mindful kind where you listen to your body. (Think yoga rather than high intensity workouts- which might be great for weight loss but not for this!)

    Try this- next time you sing, try ‘unlocking’ your body. You could walk gently or perform with your arms outstretched. You could try leaning against the wall while supporting yourself with the palm of your hands. Observe if anything feels different. Is there a change in vocal tone? Do you feel more free? Try and incorporate this exploration into your singing practice.

    Until then, keep singing (and moving!)

    Hannah 🙂

    September 22, 2017 By @HannahMarie Uncategorized , ,
  • Bigger is not always better

    Today I want to talk about size. More precisely, how big your voice is. How loud it is, how powerful it is. Can you do vocal athletics? Can you shatter glass with those high notes?


    Whatever the answer to those questions, I hope you will realise there is a lot more to being a singer than how loudly you can belt the high notes.


    After 15 years of talent shows such as the X Factor/ Pop Idol etc, I feel that the general consensus is that bigger and louder= better. Big voice, big performance, and possibly, but not necessarily, big hair.


    This opinion is totally legitimate- having a big voice, huge range and vocal agility and athleticism is impressive. These performers dedicate hours to their craft, and work really hard too.


    But what about the individual with an incredible voice who doesn’t have the size? They may have beautiful tone, real artistry, honesty and vulnerability, but they would probably raise an eyebrow at the concept of a ‘sing off’ on national television.


    What about these singers? Yes, they’re out there!


    Laura Marling, Thom Yorke, Bjork, Birdy, Bat for lashes, the late Billie Holiday and Jeff Buckley…


    Even mainstream artists like Alicia Keys  are considered vocally featherweight against their big voiced counterparts ( like Beyoncé or Adele)

    Rather than strain to emulate others, these artists have embraced their voices, and their power lies in their tone, communication, honesty and vulnerability.

    First Aid Kit by Renee Barrera (cc)

    Whether it’s the heartbreak in the voice of Sinead O’Connor, or the fragile purity of Birdy’s cover of skinny love, these voices can cut to the core of you. Not to mention the hugely emotional voice of Jeff Buckley, who often walked the tight rope- he sang with such passion and commitment that there was a certain messiness to some of his live performances, at least in terms of technique. That did nothing to blunt the beauty of his work.


    Billie Holiday used her haunting vibrato to deliver possibly the most powerful protest song of all time- Strange Fruit. Vocal acrobatics were not needed, Lady Day was a natural storyteller.


    So whether you have a ‘big’ voice or a gentle voice, be kind to it. One is not better than the other. The truth is, listeners are as diverse as singers. Whitney Houston may have made the powerhouse vocal de rigueur when she took the world by storm in the 80s-but even Whitney doesn’t do it for everyone!( even if her talent was indisputable!)


    So please embrace whoever you are, because there is only one of you. There are so many different vocal tones and ‘textures’ you can experiment with- from breathy to belt-y. The key is to sing in a way that feels authentic to you. It all comes back to communicating honestly with your audience, whatever the sound and style! 🙂

  • Do you need to change your mindset? Find out how..

    Hello singers!

    So, today I want to tackle the concept of mindset and how it relates to us as singers.

    I’d previously heard of the term ‘mindset’ in relation to positive thinking or being strong willed. i.e.. something you were told you should have- a kind of inner strength or resilience. So far, so good- however, what does that mean in practical terms? How does someone acquire this illusive ‘mindset’?

    According to Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck, there are two types of mindset, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is where someone believes that their nature, talent and abilities are fixed. The problem with this is that it becomes far too easy to write off yourself and others. A fixed mindset is a powerless place to be. It leaves little or no room for development.

    For example, if you believe you were born with a finite amount of talent, you’re probably going to take it a lot harder if you mess up on stage, than you would if you believed that you can grow your talents. Instead of being useful, mistakes will feel like a threat to your very identity as a singer, perhaps even as a person!

    Generally speaking, those with a fixed mindset struggle to push themselves out of their comfort zone more than their growth mindset counterparts. If you believe you can’t grow or improve, you’ll be less likely to risk failure- because that failure will be interpreted as you being a failure.

    The truth is, we all need to fail in order to grow.

    According to Daniel Coyle, author of the Talent Code, ‘talent isn’t born, it’s grown’. Developing our talents takes commitment and persistence, and this is the only way to improve.

    Recognising that you have a choice can be hugely liberating. You decide- do you believe your talent is fixed? Or do you believe it’s grown? Which of these beliefs would you prefer to steer your creative path?

    Creating takes a great deal of humility. You have to get comfortable with operating at the edge of your ability. There really is no place for perfectionism or ego in creation. Give yourself a break from these tyrants and get to work!

    The below video will give you more insight into Carol Dweck’s research into the ‘growth mindset’.

    If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I highly recommend reading the following books:

    Mindset by Carol Dweck (of course)

    The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

    Presence by Amy Cuddy

    Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

    Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert








    I hope you enjoy reading them, and that they blow your mind in the same awesome way they blew mine!

    If this post has been useful to you, please feel free to share it with your friends!

    Hannah 🙂


  • 5 music memoirs to inspire YOU

    I have a confession to make. I have a book problem. A genuine book problem. at any given moment I have an audio-book on the go, and my bookshelves are always overflowing. Don’t even think about letting me loose in Foyles. In good news though,  consider me your faithful music memoir reviewer. Here are 5  memoirs that have valuable lessons for every musician out there..

    1)You don’t need to come from a rich background (and have piano lessons from age 2!) to be a rock star!

    One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read is the hilarious, witty, and at times heartbreaking Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine. Viv grew up without any female guitarists to look up to. She was from a working class background and thought music was the domain of rich men. So what did she do? she jumped right in and became the guitarist in The Slits (one of the most influential punk bands to date!) By doing so, she paved the way for countless women after her. In my opinion, the most inspiring  part of the punk movement was the ‘can do’ attitude.

    Takeaway: Can you string a couple of chords together? You can make music. do it.

    2) Even legends make things they hate sometimes. oh, and they’re just people! 

    I enjoyed reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, and I was hit by the fact that being Bob Dylan has involved quite a lot of mundanity at times. Yes Dylan had a meteoric rise, but he’s also had years of plugging away at music since, and he’s no stranger to the daily grind. He’s also put time and money into projects he ended up hating and scrapping.

    Takeaway:Bob Dylan is a genius. If he gets stuck sometimes, perhaps we can be a bit more patient with ourselves? 

    3) Singing is a job. It’s not always glamorous!

    Want to understand the reality of being a singer? Read Tracey Thorn’s Naked at The Albert Hall. Tracey fronted Everything but the Girl but was a reluctant pop star.  Tracey discusses the wide spread fantasy people have about singers. It’s easy to assume singers are born talented, like angels that fell out of heaven with perfect voices. This is not so. Yes talent is a big factor, but hard work is a much bigger part of the puzzle.

    Takeaway: Singers are made not born. So keep practising!

    4) You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a performer!

    Often it’s the introverted, quiet types that long for the stage. Take Carrie Brownstein, guitarist in Sleater-Kinney. Carrie might have looked cool rocking out on stage, but she’s suffered from anxiety along the way. Sleater-Kinney broke the rules when it came to music. Lead Singer Corin Tucker would often tune the guitar to her voice, rather than to the other instruments, which gave Sleater-Kinney a discordant sound. Talk about doing things your own way.

    Takeaway: Don’t be scared to be yourself! 

    5) Follow your dreams, at the very least you’ll have an adventure!

    Last but by no means least, I can’t recommend Just Kids enough!This is Patti Smith’s memoir, and at it’s heart is a book about daring to be an artist. I don’t think Patti knew what she was going to end up doing (becoming the ‘Godmother of Punk’ couldn’t have been predicted!) but she knew it was going to be special.

    Takeaway: whatever you need to do to support your dream, do it. Have faith in your purpose and hustle, hustle, hustle!

    Is there an amazing memoir I’ve missed? drop me a comment and let me know!

    June 20, 2017 By @HannahMarie Advice Inspiration Singing Uncategorized
  • Why I joined a choir- and you should too!

    A few months ago, I discovered an article on the Voice Council website- How a choir inspired my Solo Artistry  by Anil Sebastian. I was blown away by the video of Anil and London Contemporary Voices performing. Their talent, beautiful arrangements and interesting song choices left me seriously impressed. I hadn’t come across a choir like this one before. Then I found out a friend of mine ( the talented musician Billy Boguard ) was in the choir too, AND LCV were auditioning new singers. I’ve since joined the choir, and recently performed with them at Oval Space.

    LCV at Oval Space, London, 6 April 2017. Photo by Carsten Windhorst / FRPAP.com

    Our ‘Guilty Pleasures’ set included Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, and One Direction- all while dressed in our most fabulous clothes. I can honestly say it was a great night- uplifting and full of dancing! Several of my friends left wanting to join a choir, and I would definitely encourage them to. Here’s why:

    Being in a choir is good for your health

    According to the British Voice Association, Choirs have been shown to synchronise their heart and breathing rates, increasing and decreasing them in response to the music. It can also help to reduce high blood pressure, and improve breath control.

    It’s a great way to make connections 

    Whether you want to make friends with like-minded people, or are looking for other singers to collaborate with, a choir is a great opportunity for this.

    You develop your musicianship

    Depending on your vocal range, you will be assigned a voice part (Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Mezzo or Soprano). More often than not, you will be singing harmonic lines that differ from the main melody. You may even be using your voice in a rhythmic way or singing a guitar riff! This all helps to “train your ear.”

    You can be part of something amazing without being centre stage

    Not all singers want to be the ‘lead singer’ and that’s OK! You still need to ‘perform’ as a member of a choir, but the focus is less on you as an individual, and more on your role within the group.

    Its a lot of fun

    This doesn’t need much explanation- there’s just something so joyful about singing with others, whether its with friends at the end of night out, over karaoke or onstage in a choir.

    Our next gig is Beneath The Tracks at Omeara on May 8th- Come along!

    If you’re inspired to join a choir yourself, why not check out www.choirs.org.uk to find a choir near you.


    LCV at Oval Space, London, 6 April 2017. Photo by Carsten Windhorst / FRPAP.com


    April 20, 2017 By @HannahMarie Uncategorized
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