• 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.

     

    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! 🙂

  • Creativity for Singers

    I’ve recently started reading the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Published in 1992, the book has since become a cult classic, and with good reason! When I first heard about the book around 5 years ago, I made the assumption that it was for visual artists rather than singers or songwriters, and that was the end of that!

    A few weeks ago I found a copy in a charity shop, and I’m so glad that I did. As soon as I started reading I knew this was the book I’d been waiting for. If you’re an artist of any description I recommend this book. Perhaps you work in an office and sing for a hobby and you doubt that you are an artist. If you sing, then you are an artist. If you still don’t believe that you’re an artist, you will find tools in the book to help you tap into your creativity- and who doesn’t want that?

    Try this simple exercise and watch your creativity blossom

    If you are committed to developing your artistry as a Singer or Songwriter (or both) then try this exercise, as featured in the book.

    Upon waking, every single day- make your ‘morning pages’ the first thing you do. What are morning pages? I hear you ask. Quite simply, you are going to put pen to paper and write 3 pages of whatever comes into your head. There are two rules;

    1) don’t take your pen off the paper, just keep writing. If all you write is ‘blah blah blah’ – then that is ok.
    2) Don’t review what you have written when you have finished. At least not yet- leave it a week.

    What is the purpose of this exercise?

    The primary reason for this activity is to facilitate a ‘brain dump’- i.e to unblock and get rid of mental ‘noise’, leaving you refreshed and open to new ideas. Looking back on your pages, you may even find songwriting ideas emerging. ( This practice is also known as ‘free writing’ and was a favorite writing tool of beat poet Jack Kerouac.)

    001-jack-kerouac-theredlist

    Jack Kerouac was a fan of freewriting


    Try practicing this exercise every morning for 7 days and see the results for yourself. Does your mind feel less cluttered? Do you find yourself looking at the world in a new way? Let me know how you get on!