Frequently asked questions

If you have never been to one of my singing workshops you might not know what to expect. If you're thinking of coming, here are some questions which often come up. I hope they help.

"Your methods, enthusiasm, style etc. are a breath of fresh air. And trust me, although I am an experienced singer, I will be back as soon as I can. Keep going and thank you."

Click on any question to reveal the answer.

There are no auditions. My workshops are open to anybody who loves to sing – no experience is necessary. There is no solo singing because the group sings all songs together in harmony. My work is all about the joys of singing together.

Yes, I really mean it! Some people come with some singing experience, but many don't. If you've ever hummed along to a song on the radio or sung in the shower, you've got all the experience you need.

All voices are welcome. The great thing about singing together as a group is that we can have a real mix of different voices. No individual voice ever needs to stand out. As long as you are happy to have a go, listen well and remember you're part of a group, not on your own, it will be fine.

Almost nobody is tone deaf. Singing is like any physical activity (e.g. tennis, football). It takes a while to be able to control the necessary muscles to become accurate. It might take time before you can hold a tune, but remember you are never alone in group singing!

You might also find this article interesting: Are you tone deaf? Very unlikely!

I never use sheet music in my workshops so you don't need to be able to read music to join in. I also don't use musical jargon or assume people have any musical training.

Songs will either have one or two simple words or I will put large lyric sheets on the wall. You then learn the song bit by bit with me singing, you listening and then singing back. Gradually the parts and the song will build up, all by using your ears rather than your eyes.

You might also find this article interesting: Learning songs by ear

The "unaccompanied" bit means that there will be no piano or other instruments playing. I also don't use recorded backing tracks. It's voices only. "Harmony singing" is when a group sings two or more notes at the same time. I divide the group into different parts or sections of singers. Each part then learns a different melody. When all the parts sing together, then it is singing in harmony.

I usually give some idea of the songs in the workshop title. For example, All aboard the gospel train or Sing Africa! I tend to draw on traditional songs from all around the world. Some countries don't have harmony singing traditions. So we won't usually be singing songs from Asia or the Middle East for instance. My particular love is for songs from Eastern Europe (Russia, the Balkans, Bulgaria, Georgia, etc.) and Southern Africa. I have also run the occasional pop song workshop!

You might also find these articles interesting: I may not know much about music, but I know what I like! and Why don't you sing songs from India?

Most of my repertoire comes from countries where they don't speak English. Don't worry though, I don't expect you to be fluent in a whole bunch of foreign languages! I choose songs which don't have too many words. I will then break down any foreign words into separate syllables. It's often easier and more accurate to learn in a foreign language. It takes you outside yourself so you become less self-conscious. And because you learn syllable by syllable you won't end up paraphrasing (like in English).

You might also find this article interesting: How to sing a song in a foreign language

I am a member of the Natural Voice Network or NVN. We all approach our work in a similar way and adhere to several basic principles:

  • everyone can sing (hence no auditions, no experience needed)
  • singing should be accessible to everybody (hence no sheet music or unnecessary jargon)
The NVN ethos states that "Singing is everyone's birthright. We use teaching styles that are accepting and inclusive of all, regardless of musical experience and ability".

Your 'natural voice' is the unique voice that you were born with. It's how you express your unique self. It is possible to train your voice to be more free and expressive. But you shouldn't become a slave to a particular technique. Nor should you try to be someone else.

You might also find this article interesting: The Natural Voice approach to singing

I always begin with some physical and vocal exercises to prepare for singing. We always start with a mix of gentle shaking and stretching of both voice and body to prepare us for singing. There will also be some vocal development. This will help you to sing without effort and extend your singing abilities.

You might find this article interesting: Preparing to sing: why bother?

We'll then begin with a simple round or chant. Next, we'll move onto songs which have three or more separate harmony parts. At the end of a workshop, we'll go over all the songs we've learnt. I'll then record the group singing them so you can hear how good you sound!

Singing together is a great community and social experience. It's great to extend this to eating together. We will put all the food you bring on a table and we will have a buffet. Sometimes people bring something that they've made at home (it's helpful if you label these!). Or you can pick something up at your local supermarket. I will provide plates, cutlery, etc. I'll also provide various teas, coffee, milk and biscuits for other breaks. Remember, you only have to bring enough food to feed one person for lunch!

I always encourage people to stand as much as possible. It's much easier than trying to sing sitting down (and it keeps the energy up!). There will always be chairs available and people can sit down when they want, as much as they need to. You can be a full participant in my workshops even if you need to sit down the whole time.

It depends on when you have to cancel and also whether it's a weekend (or longer) course or a one-day (or shorter) workshop. I have a cancellation policy which you can find here: booking terms and conditions. This only applies to workshops that I run myself. Other venues and organisations which book me have their own policies.

The cost of a singing weekend includes all meals and accommodation as well as all tuition. The cost will partly depend on the type of accommodation. A twin room with a shared bathroom will cost less than a single room with en-suite facilities.

The amount of singing at a weekend is roughly equal to that in two one-day workshops. Add full board and accommodation, then a singing weekend starts to look like good value!

Singers will check into the venue on Friday afternoon. Our first session will be before supper for an hour or so. This is a chance to introduce ourselves to each other and to start singing together. Supper won't be too late (6.30pm or 7pm usually), then there is another one-hour session afterwards.

Saturday and Sunday morning sessions each start around 10am with a warm-up. Then continue until lunch at 1pm with a half hour mid-morning break for tea and coffee. Saturday after lunch is free to chill out or discover the local area. We reconvene for a session before supper. After that, there is a relaxed, fun evening singing session on Saturday evening.

We spend Sunday morning going over all the songs we've learnt. We then run through them all before lunch to feel that everyone has got them under their belt. The weekend ends after lunch at around 2pm.

There are about ten hours of formal singing sessions over the weekend. This is equal to two one-day workshops. The weekend allows plenty of time for socialising, relaxing and walking.

Unless otherwise stated, all my one-day and weekend workshops are fully accessible. Some weekend venues have limited types and numbers of accessible rooms available. I am very happy to liaise with the venue on your behalf. However, I strongly advise checking directly with the venue to ensure that the accessible rooms meet your particular needs.

All residential weekend venues can cater for specific dietary needs. You might want to bring your own lunch to a one-day workshop as I can't predict what people will bring to share!

I will be happy to accommodate any other specific needs. For example, large print lyrics needed, hearing problems, difficulty with stairs. Please make sure you give me plenty of advanced notice.

Do feel free to ask me any questions when you are at a workshop, no matter how basic they may seem. You can also contact me directly and ask.

Next workshop

Singing Safari, Ipswich
16 October 2018

Singing Safari Ipswich

Join our autumn Singing Safari to create a singing group from scratch in just six weeks.


Next singing weekend

Sing Africa
5 – 7 October 2018

Sing Africa! Derbyshire

Learn harmony songs from across the African continent. No experience needed – just a love of singing! An opportunity to sing and move to infectious African rhythms.


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