It was an absolute pleasure to share my singing tips with Stylist Magazine. You can read the article here.
When I was 12 years old I had an accident while riding my little brother’s bike- it was far too small for me, (my own bike had a puncture) and I was riding like a little speed demon at the time. One short attention lapse later, and I was unceremoniously thrown in the air after colliding with a lamp post. Not my coolest moment.
Luckily I was wearing a helmet and it was my pride that hurt more than anything. It must have put me off though, as I didn’t get on a bike again until I was 24.
I wasn’t sure I’d even remember how to ride, but it’s true you don’t forget! I rode 16 miles the day I got back on a bike- a big step towards making me a less nervous cyclist! I’m far from a ‘proper’ cyclist. I rarely ride on busy roads, or rely on my bike for transport. For me, riding a bike is about exploring and having fun.
and what better way to have fun than to sing? I have a feeling that some of you reading this may have done this already. Several of my friends have mentioned that they sing on their bikes (or while kayaking- hey why not?)
Needless to say, your primary focus while cycling should be on the road- always! If you’re not a confident cyclist I suggest sticking to the cycle superhighways or any designated cycle path. If you have any green spaces nearby, even better (ahhh)
Then- let rip! enjoy the absolute freedom of motion and sound. There’s something so liberating about the independence being on a bike gives you. Add the joy of belting out one of your favourite songs and it’s the happiest feeling in the world!
It’s rare that you get to hear your singing voice out in the open air, amongst other people milling about. (Unless you’re super confident, or a musical theatre student- props to you!) and you can do this without having to soak up all the attention as- weeeeee! you’re off again!
Maybe its the playful, child-like nature of it, or the freedom it gives you- or the motion, but I have a hunch ‘singcling’ is really good for the soul. Give it a go!
Do you do this already? Are you going to try this out? Let me know how you get on!
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! 🙂
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)
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!
For a lot of us, January is a time of resolutions and good intentions. We may want to make positive changes to our lifestyle and set goals for the year ahead. I think it’s important to work towards goals, but it’s also important to appreciate where you are right now.
Taking a moment to reflect on what you do well (as well as what you’d like to improve) is important. Appreciating your current level of ability and the obstacles you’ve overcome to get there is a strong motivator. Think about the skills you have to offer your audience right now. Perhaps you have a gift for touching people with your vulnerability or you have a vital message to share?
It’s desirable to develop strong technique, but if we become obsessed with perfection, and overlook the strengths we already possess, then singing quickly stops being enjoyable. And wasn’t that the point to begin with?
So when you’re setting your goals this January, don’t forget to build upon your strengths as well as working on your weaknesses. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask a couple of people (you trust, who have heard you sing.)
Jenny Lee Lindberg, solo artist and bassist in Warpaint recently discussed the unrealistic demands she imposed on herself: “I didn’t like my voice for a very long time- I’d have to tell myself, ‘You’re not gonna sing like Barbra Streisand, Patsy Cline, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston… Eventually I asked myself, ‘What is your strong point? Go there.’ And when I started doing that, all of a sudden I didn’t hate the way my voice sounds. You know what? Now I kinda like it.”
Look at the singers and bands who have inspired you. Often the things that move us in other singers are reflective of our own strengths, even if those strengths are not currently being used. Use this time to get clear on who you are as an artist, and what the new year holds …
I hope you are excited about Christmas! I have lots of exciting news, offers and opportunities to share with you.
First things first, I have a special offer for current students that I hope will come in useful for the festive season..
Treat a friend to a singing lesson and get a FREE lesson for yourself.
Singing lessons make great gifts, and it’s even sweeter when it means treating yourself too! Send me a message if you’re interested!
An exciting opportunity- Get your tracks professionally recorded in a prestigious studio…
A few months ago I met up with the very talented Anthony Galatis, who is a hit songwriter, producer and mix engineer ( and also happens to be a really lovely person!) Anthony runs Uptown Studios, a boutique recording studio, based in the prestigious Matrix Complex in Parsons Green. Ant is incredibly passionate about working with up and coming singers and we will be working together to record YOU!
Recording for the first time can feel like a daunting experience, but with a beautiful, plush and professional studio, expert skills and an inspiring team, it becomes a hugely rewarding experience! This means SWH students can opt to receive one on one vocal instruction and performance coaching in the studio with me while Ant helps to craft your masterpiece with his awesome skills.
GROUP PERFORMANCE WORKSHOPS!
I am also very excited to offer group performance workshops in the new year. These workshops will take place in Kentish Town in a warm, supportive atmosphere where we will encourage each other as artists and performers. Attendees will be invited to perform a song in this small group of other SWH students. We will then workshop your piece and take your performance to the next level. From my own experience of being a singing student, these performance workshops are always so useful. You learn so much about yourself from performing (and in such a supportive environment) Often you learn even more from watching others on their journeys! (oh and hopefully make friends too!)
I want to keep the groups fairly small and so far I’ve had a lot of interest in the group workshops. If it’s something you are interested in, let me know!
I am also keen to get you lovely lot showcasing your voices in the new year, most likely at the fabulous and legendary Map Cafe. If you would like to perform, please get in touch so I have an idea of numbers.
Have a wonderful weekend and keep singing! If I don’t speak to you sooner, have a magical Christmas!