Singing and the Unreality of Reality TV
Nowadays, singing isn’t about what someone sounds like, it’s about what they look like when they sing. It’s about their back-story, presentation, attitude, personality and so many factors unrelated to song-craft and voice-craft. Emphasis on ‘form’ rather than ‘content’ is profoundly damaging our ability to listen, engage with and authentically feel music. ...more
Totally Wired! Energy and Voice
Let’s hit the ground running and discuss the ‘energy’ required when singing – which kind and how much. There are so many different flavours, colours and amounts of energy that each song, setting and context requires. Energy is one of those things to get ‘just right’ when singing – be it in performance, practice, or just doing the dishes. ...more
The 'ng' of 1000 Uses
If there’s one fundamental concept underpinning all good vocal production, a tool I use more than any other and something I can never get enough of: it’s ‘Ng’! ‘Ng’ does EVERYTHING you need for great sound and control. It slices, it dices, it feeds your pets, it quotes Tom Waits’ lyrics. “Ng. How I love thee. Let me count the ways…” ...more
It’s crazy. I’ll be teaching diaphragmatic breathing (locating the breath in the lower abdomen) – the student lying on their back with a phonebook on their stomach, and they’ll ask, “What’s my tongue doing?”
Authenticity: I Love You The Way You Are
Authenticity is vital. Despite what the media say about Lana del Ray and similarly ‘manufactured’ artists, it can and does exist.
"Yo, yo, yo...Check one, two." Your Voice on the Mic
My last NZM column dealt with singing in the studio. So, it’s only right that we now discuss the joys and idiosyncrasies of singing ‘live’ - in particular: mic technique.
You might think I’m stating the obvious, but, nearly being deafened by Florence Walsh pointing her mic directly at a speaker at Laneway was a reminder that the basics are fundamental – and fundamentals are… fundamental.
In The Studio: The Self-saucing Pudding
I absolutely love working in a recording studio; everything is set up to make you sound wonderful. No screaming punters heckling, “Play us something we can root to!”, no runaway room frequencies to EQ… everything as it should be.
Sense-o-rama: Can you feel it?
One of the major issues with pitch accuracy is being able to ‘hear yourself’.
Sometimes we put ourselves off by being overly critical and analytical of our voices and stop being able to hear what we are doing, or not doing. I’ll discuss here the importance of using all of the senses when singing – ‘feeling’, ‘tasting’ and ‘seeing’ the sound as guiding indicators. Singing should primarily be about using all the wonderful tools we have to colour, taste and feel the sound. It is much more productive to focus on solutions, rather than be put off by only listening to problems (without any sense of their redress).
The Song That Sings Itself: Singing for the Songwriter
Songwriters tend to have ‘special’ relationships with their voices. These idiosyncrasies are distinct from say, the self-defined actor’s relationship and use of their singing voice (or the amazing singer who is too scared to write, or the dancer who needs singing to get into musical theatre). This column is dedicated to the specifics of singing for songwriters – a topic worthy of an entire book.
Operation Deep Throat
If you want a harmonious relationship with someone – you must treat them well. If you want to get beautiful sound out of your instrument – then treat that instrument well – with respect, love and care. Unfortunately, we mistreat our voices because we don’t understand how sound is made. We think the throat is the source of the sound and that a lot of breath is needed to fuel that sound (and give us volume and control). Nothing could be further from the truth. ...more
Don't be so Reckless: Tips for Vocal Health and Wellbeing
I was lucky enough to see James Reyne perform in Sydney in a recent trip across the ditch. He gave a superb 150% performance, AND all with a ‘shot’ voice (having been prescribed steroids to keep him going). The good news is, there are alternatives to extreme chemical medication. ...more
The Heart of Interpretation
In a Sunday Magazine feature, one of my favourite songsmiths, Don McGlashan, was quoted as saying, “A lot of people sound as if they’ve learnt how to sing from a book… to tell a story right from the heart… that’s a rare gift”.
Dearest Don, I strongly disagree. ...more
Let’s Go Emo-tional
If we genuinely meant what we sang – it would be so easy. If we genuinely need to express ourselves, or a specific perspective in order to be understood, many technical problems disappear. The key, I believe is to be emotionally honest and connected – being ‘in tune’ with your emotions.
Driving Your Voice
I am always thinking of ways to understand and relate to my voice (and other voices) better. Thinking as a socialist: my job is to assist people in accessing their ‘means of vocal production’, to feel less ‘alienated’ from our voices and the expressive process and to not feel ‘exploited’.
Another analogy is thinking of a singer as a high performance athlete. For both runner and singer – their body is their instrument. We must be sensitive to the way our body works and take full responsibility for cause and effect. ...more
You must remember this...The Importance of Memorising Songs
Okay, it may be easier for a blind woman to talk of the importance of memorising things. True, I don’t have the option of reading the lyrics or sight-reading charts so easily. But, memorising for the sake of delivery is essential – no matter how many excuses you give yourself for ‘needing’ the words (or music). Serious brain injury and psych medications can make it harder to remember words. Even so, you can still go through the process of learning a song without creating a culture of more dependence and fear. ...more
The job of a singer is often to be the front-person for a band. Often, a singer/songwriter becomes the singular spokesperson and salesperson for their music. For many this becomes an onerous, cringe-making activity, rather than the joy that public performance should and can be. Even if you consider yourself a songwriter or guitarist first and foremost (rather than a singer), you'll need to make the vocal delivery of the song your primary objective. ...more
Your Breaking Up!
Most people think of their voice as ghettoised into two different 'registers'. You may've heard them described as 'head voice' when singing high and 'chest voice' when singing low.
I like to think of my own as one voice; united in register and in tone. On a good day, I have a three octave range from C below middle C to a high C, and want to be able to use any note in that range with whatever tone quality and dynamic I choose. The good news is, I can. ...more