The Wonderful World of Overtone Singing

Last week on this blog, we spoke about beatboxing. In particular, we were really impressed by the ability to make more than one noise at a time. Imagine if singers could do the same…

This practice is called overtone singing and not only is it an amazing skill, it’s becoming more talked about.

A talented singer is able to produce a two notes (or even more): firstly a low base or fundamental note is sung before a second, whistle-like note appears about two octaves above the base note. Continue reading “The Wonderful World of Overtone Singing”

A rough guide to beatboxing

This week, we’re continuing our exploration of extended vocal techniques by looking at one of the most versatile, recognisable and easy to grasp techniques. Beatboxing is the vocal approximation of drum machines and is often tied into the world of hip-hop.

The earliest sounds we may recognise as beatboxing may come from early American rural music, such as eefing, also known as “hillbilly beatboxing”. There are also a collection of sounds in African traditional music that might also be at home in beatboxing, built upon the sounds of loud exhaling. Jazz scat singing also fits in to the forms history, though scat focused more on the approximation of words than the production of percussive sounds.

Vocal percussion appears in popular music such as Paul McCartney’s “That Would Be Something” and Pink Floyd’s “Pow R. Toch H.” Both of these songs were recorded in the late 60s, at a time when hip-hop was just starting to emerge. Continue reading “A rough guide to beatboxing”

A brief history of Yodeling

Few extended vocal techniques could claim to be as famous as the yodel. Often maligned, the yodel is actually a great demonstration of vocal technique involving the shifting between the low chest-voice and the high head-voice. For most people, there is a gap between these two registers. Yodeling takes advantage of this by making quick changes between the two. Continue reading “A brief history of Yodeling”

The Kazoo – A Choir’s Secret Weapon

As part of en Choir, not only are we all fantastic singers but we also possess another marvellous talent. We are masters of a fantastic musical instrument: the kazoo!

In formal terms, the kazoo is a membranophone, an instrument with a membrane which vibrates producing a distinctive tone. Unlike most instruments, you don’t blow into a kazoo, instead you hum into it and a sheet of wax paper acts like a reed, providing a raspy buzz. Continue reading “The Kazoo – A Choir’s Secret Weapon”

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”