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Idler Spring 2014 Ensemble Singing week 1

Well done all singers on a great first session!

In a general sense, setting a goal or intention for the course is great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Wherever you start from, whether it’s from a position of never really having sung, or whether you’ve sung a lot in the past but are coming back from a time of no-singing, or whether you want to develop more confidence in a particular aspect of singing, it’s helpfully to make a mental or actual note of it. Doing so will help you to formulate the questions most beneficial to you at your current stage of development, and will give you a means of measuring your progress, which you might otherwise not be aware of.

In terms of the key content from week 1, think about bringing the sound forward into the front of the face. I will go over this in the video-but from the perspective of someone who engaged with vocal technique after years singing with no formal training, this is the thing that has made the single biggest difference to my own vocal confidence and consistency. If you were to concentrate on one thing for the moment, make it the ‘mmm’ ‘nnn’ ‘ng’ buzzing exercises. If you do a few scales with them every day, you should soon start to feel the difference between singing from the throat (tires you out quickly and can strain your throat) and sending the sound forward where you can shape and control it. To start with, if you’re not used to thinking about it in this way, it might feel/sound strange, but stick with it.

Confidence is related to feeling sure about what sound is going to come out when you open your mouth; and recognising how it is going to feel physically to produce that. The more you sing, while directing your awareness to what is happening while you’re singing,The more you sing, while directing your awareness to what is happening while you’re singing, the more you’ll start to discern different things happening to produce the sound and the more in control you will become. Don’t worry if you can’t distinguish very much at the moment – to a non-farmer, a field of cows look the same, but once you spend some time around them you start being able to tell the difference. Same thing with starting to recognise how things feel.

Vocal parts-if you click on the links below, they should open in a different page and play. * Caveat * they are intended to help get you really clear on the notes; and are not the most musical recordings I have ever made! When we sing the songs together, eventually we will want to make the rhythm a bit more swinging and add more dynamics, so treat these as a reference for the notes.


Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 low part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 top part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 mid part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 ALL parts

This train part 1

This train part 2

This train all parts

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Feel free to post questions, comments, song suggestions etc below.


Recap of Idler vocal workshop 24th September

This is a short follow up of the session we did on 24th, with two videos – one is  recap of the discussion about vocal tone and a run through the warm up exercises on the sheet with a bit of explanation, and the second video is just the exercises with no interim chat, so that once you’re used to them you can run them in sequence.

In a previous blog post and vid (it’s in the sidebar) I’ve talked a bit about how singing in tune and developing a consistent tone are very trainable capacities. Wherever you are with your singing at the moment, there is absolutely no doubt that if you’re interested and you can spend a bit of time on it, you can extend your technique. If that is something you want to do, regularity is key-if you can do the ten minute warm ups 4-5 days out of a week, that’ll do more for your singing than doing 30 mins on one day. With repetition, your body learns to co-ordinate how much air is required for different pitches, or how to supply enough air for a tricky phrase, or how to listen to a melody and sing a harmony over the top.

There’s also an mp3 of the three part gospel tune we did, Bright Morning Stars. If you would like the individual parts I can put them up too.

So whenever you prepare to sing, there are a few things to remember:

- posture-being relaxed and comfortable. Do a few shoulder rolls and relax your head, neck, shoulders and find a comfortable position between balls and heels of feet. To start with, it is good to stand to do the warm ups as you have more room for breath and it’s easier to tune your mind into where in your body the air is coming from/travelling to.

- breath-taking a few deep breaths helps to relax and activate the diaphragm. It’s very common during a busy day to be breathing from the chest for at least some of the time. Doing some lip rolls is a good way to start moving bigger volumes of air.

Recap and explanation – 15 mins

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Ten Minute vocal work out

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Bright Morning Stars

Bright Morning star all

If you are interested in another particular area of singing (eg harmonies) you are welcome to express that and I can do another little vid.

Handout here Idler wshop 24 sept handout – participants

Audio for Red Red Rose in preceding blog post.


Idler vocal workshop 24 September 2013 - My Love is like a Red, Red Rose - R Burns, arr, Diana de Cabarrus

This is a well known Burns song, with an interesting background-he apparently noted the lyrics down as he heard them sung by a young girl, rather than composing them himself. Burns was an avid collector of songs as well as writing them.

Here are the individual vocal parts you can refer to. They’re in midi, which isn’t an aurally expressive format, but you will at least get the notes. The full arrangement is at the bottom. It will sound much better sung by humans!

Soprano RRR

Alto RRR

Tenor RRR

Bass RRR

My_Love’s_like_a_Red_Red_Rose (all vocals)


O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!

Music for parents and children-zoom, zoom, zoom, we're going to the moon.

I’ve recently been travelling around the UK visiting a lot of friends who have small children, and it was very apparent that all the small children really related well to music and sound and instinctively enjoyed exploring it, twanging the guitar, bobbing in time to the music, etc. I really think the vast majority of children have musical instincts and it is a failing in how the education model is set up that this rapidly becomes configured into not-that-useful ideas about ‘talent’ and discipline and conformity.

I was so struck by how readily all these infants, toddlers and under tens responded to music that I decided to do some videos for parents to do with small children. Think of them as emergency songs to soothe and distract. This is the first one – taken from Cerys Matthew’s lovely compendium of songs, Hook, Line and Singer.

I’ll be putting more of these up and I’d love to hear how any parents get on with them.

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