The “Death Growl” – An Extended Vocal Technique

Within the confines of heavy metal music, the iconic growl stands out as one of the genres unique defining traits. However, it’s abrasive sound puts many listeners off, and while we’re unlikely to start trying to bring death metal into our choral practice, it’s still a valid extended vocal technique and it’s execution often requires a high degree of technical singing prowess. Continue reading “The “Death Growl” – An Extended Vocal Technique”

Pushing the boundaries of singing

The human voice is an incredibly versatile instrument. Through choir practice, you’ll have heard first-hand some of the incredible things the voice can do but the possibilities are truly endless. From rapping and screaming to beatboxing and complex overtone techniques, no one singer can claim to be a master of every vocal technique, and researchers continue to find new and exciting forms of singing amongst tribal cultures, even today. Continue reading “Pushing the boundaries of singing”

A brief history of musical notation

As musicians, we’re all familiar with the notes of the heptatonic scale: A B C D E F G. What many of us may not know is the history of these notes and how musical notation got to be the way it is.
The purpose of musical notation is to tell someone what notes should be played without playing the note. They are supposed to be agreed upon reference points to enable music to be shared without being played. Continue reading “A brief history of musical notation”

Do Re Mi – A History

Last week, we spoke about the origins of singing itself. While exploring how archaeology is uncovering the history of song, we also stumbled across the wonderful history of “Do Re Mi” or Solfège, a method of teaching music that many of us will remember.

While the sounds, Do Re Mi So La Fa Ti might seem like nonsense, they actually form a mnemonic device that has revolutionised the way we think about music. Continue reading “Do Re Mi – A History”

The Origins of Singing

We speak a lot about the benefits of singing. Each week, we try and highlight an incredible way that expressing oneself through song can help the mind and body but within many of us, there is a still a little spark that says “you can’t sing.” This week, we look at the origins of singing in a bid to prove that singing is a deeply ingrained part of us all.

Continue reading “The Origins of Singing”

Singing as Exercise

Last week, we spoke about how exercise can help us develop as singers, this week we’re going to look at the other side, how singing can contribute to an exercise programme. Now, this isn’t to say you should ditch the gym membership and only come to choir. Singing, while great, can’t replace exercise but it does have proven physical benefits.

1. Burn Calories

The average person can expect to burn about 140-200 calories an hour while singing. This puts it at about half the effect of a comfortable bike ride, or the same as a long walk.

Not all of us can get out on our bikes, and the weather isn’t always right for a walk but singing is a way to get that same effect, and it can be a lot more fun!

2. Build Chest Muscles

A 1986 study found that frequent singers showed stronger muscles around the chest wall, and that their hearts beat better.

It was also show that lung capacity was maintained in older study participants, a feature that usually decreases with age.

3. Work the Core

A recent study looking at singers showed that singing with proper technique can target a wide range of muscle groups, including the oblique abdominals.

The study concluded that these muscles are important in the expression of pressure in activities such as singing, as such professional singers, or those with training such as choir members, activate these muscles more than untrained singers would. In particular, while taking deeper breaths, the lower abs are activated more efficiently, the muscles developed during exercises such as planking.

While these are all cool benefits, perhaps the most important factor is that singing is inherently enjoyable. Research in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that the most important factor in long term physical well-being is finding exercise you enjoy. This enables us to stick to a regime for longer (50% of people stop going to the gym after 6 months) and hopefully, by tying everything to singing we’ve given you that much needed motivation.

Of course, singing isn’t the solution to everything (but it would be great if it was!) Obviously, if you want to be a professional runner, singing is probably less important than running but doing them both together can take you even further Continue reading “Singing as Exercise”

Does exercise help you sing?

As it’s the new year and many of us are getting back to the gym, it’s time for us to give you a bit of extra motivation. Exercise is more than about getting beach body ready, regular cardio workouts can improve your singing ability.

Cardio is short for cardiovascular, and refers to any activity that gets the heart rate up and keeps it there, forcing us to to take bigger breaths. By training our breathing, we are able to sing with more power and stamina, two hugely important components of a singer. Continue reading “Does exercise help you sing?”

Choirs are COOL!

If you’d have said the word ‘choir’ a few years ago, you’d expect eye-rolling or a glaze to fog up people’s eyes but in the last decade, choirs have taken on a very different tone (no pun intended). In the last ten years, Choirs have become cool.

Instead of focusing strictly on gospel affair, there’s been a swell of interest in choirs catering to more modern tastes, like en Choir or BIGMOUTH Chorus in Margate, covering rock, pop and soul songs with the power and versatility of a choir. It’s estimated that about 2.8 MILLION Brits have joined a choir, no doubt inspired by the shift in focus from classic music to more accessible genres. In fact, it’s not even unheard of for choir acts to find their way onto TV talent shows such as X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. Continue reading “Choirs are COOL!”

Every singer’s greatest nemesis – the sore throat

With the cold weather setting in, it is essential we prepare for the cold and flu season, so here are some top tips for ensuring your favourite pastime isn’t ruined by a pesky sore throat:

Tip #1 from the NHS Website:

– The NHS advises to drink plenty of water,     but avoid hot drinks – you need to                     increase your fluid intake to help your body heal,                                                         but hot drinks could jeopardise the process!

Tip #2 from Healthline:

– Healthline, an health website dedicated to helping people be in good                 health say that enjoying a drop of honey in some tea might help; they add,     “You might consider choosing a green tea, which serves as an                               antibacterial, pain reliever, and rich source of antioxidants, as well as               helps reduce inflammation.” Simply add a drop of honey in next time you       feel that sore throat approaching.

Tip #3 from ChiuTips:

– YouTuber Jennifer Chiu make videos entirely about health, beauty and             wellbeing; as someone who suffers with hayfever, allergies and repetitive       sore throats, she knows how important it is to stay healthy in these winter     months. Jen suggests popping a couple of drops of Eucalyptus Oil into             some boiling water and inhaling the steam with the aid of a towel over             your head (it makes more sense if you try it!)

Tip #4 from health.com:

– Health.com, another website full of handy health tips and tricks suggest a     super tasty remedy! They say that even marshmallows could help with a         sore throat; “Sap from the marshmallow plant has been used for                         hundreds of years – usually in tea form – to treat coughs, colds, and sore        throats” and whilst it may be very different to the sweet treats of the same    name may help as the gelatin in them can coat and sooth the throat.

Tip #5 from Home Remedies & Health Tips:

– Another YouTube Channel, HR&HT provide a free service for general and       educational purposes to help inform the general public of general health         advice. In their video on sore throats, they suggest that the key to                       recovering is vitamin C; one of the key vitamins needed in our body,                 vitamin C, or lack thereof can answer for many common illnesses                       including colds and sore throats. Whilst you can take vitamin C tablets,           other naturally high sources of vitamin C include fruits such as apples and     oranges.

Bonus Tip! From HomeYog:

– HomeYog is a YouTube channel devoted to wellbeing, the word Yog being     a Sanskrit work meaning well being. In their video, they have a bit of a            wacky approach to curing a sore throat; cutting up one large potato,                  boiling it until soft, draining the juices through a nylon sieve into a cup          and drinking 1/2 a cup of this remedy, hot, three times a day. Would you          try it?

If you would like to learn more about any of these remedies, then please see the links included in the blog.

Sing your way to better prospects!

Image credit: Uplift Project

Did you know that singing can make you smarter? Research suggests that singing may help to grow and enhance the cells in your brain that are responsible for learning.

Dr Brian McDonough says that during a study conducted examining young song birds using “high-resolution imaging revealed structural changes to the brain within 24 hours of learning their first song. Cells related to learning in the brain became larger and there are similar changes in human brains” shown in human trial results.

The research conducted some eight years ago is still entirely viable today as we see more and more community choirs blooming. This phenomenon can be seen all over the world with groups of people coming together to sing in a multitude of different ways, growing their mental learning centres, improving their memory and developing their social skills.

So it might be that singing from an early ago might improve your ability to learn and so enhance your chances with education and cognitive development, however it is not only young people that might benefit.

Studies have shown that singing can even stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Results have been quite effective, but it isn’t just the science that you must inspect: music tutor, Nancy Salwen, has first hand experience of the disease and how music can help. She says that whilst teaching a early music class in a nursing home, “Some of the residents who attend have dementia and don’t seem to be that aware of what’s going on. But once we start singing, tapping out a beat, and particularly if we sing a song they know from their past, they join right in! The know the words; they smile, they look around. They connect”. This could mean massive advancements in the treatment and prevention of both conditions and could mean saving the memory of hundreds of thousands of people.

Studies like the above and many more around the world have great meaning and show that singing, whether you think you can carry a tune or not, can make you a healthier and potentially a better learner.

If you’re interested in anything you’ve read above or just want to try out a fun packed and social choir who sings a wide variety of music and asks only for enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, pop down for a free trial rehearsal or contact us with any queries.

Sources: CBS, The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Project

Background reading: Uplift ConnectBBC iWonder