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Successful Singing Tips

Chorister Guide to Keeping Conductors In Line

Chorister Guide To Keeping Conductors In Line

The conductor stars in every concert and takes the credit for all your hard work. The basic training of every choral singer should also include the art of one-upmanship to let the conductor know who really is the backbone behind the choir.   The following guide is a fun take on developing the unique relationship between singer and conductor.  The only chorister guide providing a tongue-in-cheek look at keeping your choir leader, musical director or conductor in line.

A choristers guide to keeping conductors in line

A choristers guide to keeping conductors in line







Wait until late into the rehearsal  before letting the conductor know that you don’t have the music.

Tell the conductor that you can’t find the beat.  Conductors are rather sensitive about their stick technique, so challenge it frequently.

Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting, crowded space and of course a draft.  It’s better to be doing this when the conductor is feeling pressured.

Ask for a re-audition or seat change.  Ask often.  Give the conductor the impression that you are about to quit.  Let the conductor know you’re there as a personal favour.

Bury your head in the music just before they cue.

Loudly clear your throat during pauses (tenors are trained to do this from birth). Quiet instrumental interludes are perfect opportunities for you to blow your nose.

After you’ve gone over a rather long piece, ask the conductor if your C# was in tune.  This is more effective when there were no C# in the piece you were practicing.

At dramatic moments in the music, especially if the conductor is emoting, be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing.

Where possible, sing your part either an octave above or below what is written.  This is excellent ear-training for the conductor.  If he hears the pitch, deny it hehemently and claim that it must have been the combination tone.

If you are singing in a language which the conductor is the least bit unfamiliar, ask them as many questions as possible about the meaning of individual words.  If this fails, ask them about the pronunciation of the most difficult words.  Occasionally, say the word twice (in exactly the same way) and ask their preference. If they remark that they sound similar, give them a look of utter disdain and mumble under your breath about the ‘subtleties of inflection’.

Ask the conductor if they have listened to the von Karajan recording of the piece.  Imply that they could learn a thing or two from is.  It’s also good to ask, ‘is this the first time you’ve conducted this piece?’

If your articulation differs from that of others singing the same phrase, stick to your guns.  Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert.

Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others become restless and start to figet.  It’s also good to look at your watch frequently and shake it in disbelief occasionally.

Make every effort to take the attention away from the podium and put it on you, where it belongs!


I take no credit as being the author of the above, I am merely passing the guide on to those who may find it useful or humorous.  As far as I am aware, this article appeared in the Summer 1990 newsletter of the British Columbia Chorus Federation. Since then it has appeared in several British musical society magazines. Helen



Successful Singing Tips – Singing Techniques

Singing Technique

Singing Tips – Singing Techniques

Singing Tips For Singers.  Singing when done with correct singing techniques will help improve your singing voice. Here are a few tips to help you.

Are you singing through your nose? Sing an open vowel sound such as AH whilst pinching your nose.  Listen to how your tone sounds. Does it sound normal.  If it doesn’t or is difficult to do, then you are singing through your nose.

Open your mouth  Cradle your face in your hands and gently pull down so that your jaw opens more than usual.  Now try singing with your mouth in this position and see how much easier it feels to sing.

Lip Trills This is where you blow air through your lips as if you were mimicking a horse or an engine noise. Brass players also use this technique to play their instruments.   It might take a bit of practice at first to get used to it, and that if you smile, you’ll lose it.   Yes I know  you feel stupid and that it tickles your nose, but it’s a fantastic way of keeping your larynx down and not straining your voice when practicing scales or even songs.  You will be amazed at how much higher your voice will be able to go.  Don’t believe me have a go.

Tongue Trills This is where your tongue rolls and vibrates against the back of your teeth, as if you were saying Brrrrrr on a cold day.   It may not come naturally to some people, and may take a bit of practice to get used to.  Its another gentle way of exercising your voice along higher notes without straining your voice.

Tongue Tension Does your tongue have too much tension?    Press your thumb up into the flesh behind the bone of your chin when you are singing.   It should feel soft and supple.   The base of your tongue is almost attached to your larynx, so if your tongue is tense, then your voice has to work harder.  Try to relax and open your mouth more when you sing.

How much air do I need? Try humming/singing through a straw.  Try not to let any air escape through your nose either.   This will give you an idea of how much air you really need to be able to sing.

Singing Techniques for vocalists


Sore Throat Relief for Singers and Vocalists

Lady gets sore throat reliefSore Throat Relief for Singers and Vocalists (in fact anyone who is serious about keeping a healthy voice)

This guide is written primarily for the singer, but is useful to everyone who needs sore throat relief or suffers from a hoarse voice.

Our vocal cords are delicate membranes surrounded by muscle. These membranes need to come together solidly to create a clear sound. Sometime infection or over-use can cause these membranes to swell, resulting in hoarseness. Continued over-use, shouting, and even whispering can, over time, result in damage of the vocal cords, which needs medical attention.

Warm-up your voice before you start. You wouldn’t see an athlete tearing around the track without warming up their body first, so offer your voice the same consideration. It doesn’t take much effort.

• Start with a few deep, controlled breaths, followed by some humming.

• Hum your favourite song, if scales are not your thing.

• Use your voice to make a squeaky door being opened sound (use the ee sound to slide up and down your vocal range).

• Move onto singing some of your gentler songs, before you start tackling the belters.

• Also know your limits. Don’t try to sing too high, or too low until you are warmed up enough. Start at a comfortable range and extend from there.

Avoid abusing your voice throughout the day. Don’t talk for long periods of time – you will find your voice will get hoarse. Avoid whispering. This is stressful to your voice and will cause vocal fatigue. Do not shout over loud noises, such as machinery or concerts. I’ve know a few who have yelled at rock concerts, etc, and haven’t been able to sing for months afterwards. It’s just not worth it!   Talking for prolonged periods is also a hazzard for your voice. So many teachers, sales reps and call-centre staff end up having problems with their voice because of not taking care of their voice, or giving it enough rest to recover.

Vocal hydration is extremely important. Our cords are delicate membranes, which dry out very easily (especially when talking or singing in dry, smoky atmospheres). So drink plenty of water.  There are a number of sprays and lozenges on the market which can help. Also steam inhalation is good at getting moisture onto your cords.

Drinking – (alcohol that is!. We’ve all needed Dutch Courage at some point, but alcohol can lead to damage of your vocal cords. Huh? I hear you say. Alcohol numbs our nervous system, and helps lose our inhibitions. For example, Normally, when you’ve not had a drink, you know when your voice is tired, or when you have pushed your voice too far because you will feel discomfort in your throat. However, since you’ve had your drink, the alcohol can numb your throat, loosen your inhibitions, pushing your voice past its usual boundaries (this may take the form of shouting or singing too loud, too high, too low, or simply for too long a time period) and you can’t feel those warning signs. You wake up in the morning, with a sore head and no voice for several days (or in some cases several weeks!)

Smoking. There are no health benefits to smoking, so either cut down or stop completely. Smoking affects your lung capacity, irritates the membranes in the windpipe, resulting excessive mucus and a cough, which can inflame the vocal cords, as well as all the other health problems associated with smoking. That leads me onto recreational drugs – if drinking and smoking are bad – drugs are even worse. Don’t go there!

A few tips to help you recover from a sore throat:

1. REST!!

2. Drink plenty of Water.

3. Avoid Tea, Coffee, Cream & Alcohol

4. Take Vitamin C tablets or eat fruits/ vegetables rich in Vitamin C to aid your body’s natural defences. Hot Lemon & Honey or Blackcurrant both contain vitamin C and anti-viral properties and fresh ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties – grate a little ginger and add it to hot water, sweeten with honey if required.

5. Severe, violent coughing can injure the vocal cords. Cough Syrup, Throat Sprays and Lozenges can help.

6. Hot Water Steam Inhalation, with or without a few drops of Eucalyptus, Peppermint or other Essential Oil helps to clear the sinuses, and get moisture onto the vocal cords

7. Do NOT attempt to Sing and avoid Talking until you feel better to allow the inflammation an opportunity to reduce. This may be even take several weeks

8. On recovery start with some gentle humming for 5-10 minutes at a time and slowly build up to a few vocal exercises in your mid- range gradually expanding the range over several days. The rate of recovery will depend on the severity of illness and how experienced a singer you are. Any recurrence of hoarseness stop and rest the voice for another couple of days.

And Most Importantly – Take time out. We all need to have a break. You need a complete rest from singing at least once a week and I mean a complete rest. No practice, no singing along to your favourite records, no singing in the bath etc. Also if you done a hard day or long gig, then give your voice a rest the following day.

If symptoms continue, seek advice from your own Doctor.