frequently asked questions

Q1. Is there an audition and will I have to sing solo?

A. There are no auditions. Sing Out Saturdays are open to anybody who loves to sing. No experience is necessary and you will not be asked to sing solo because all songs are sung in harmony with others. My work is all about the joys of singing together.
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Q2. You say "no experience necessary". Do you really mean that? I have absolutely no experience of singing except to myself!

A. Yes, I really mean it! Some people come with some singing experience, but many don't. I've you've ever hummed along to a song on the radio or sung in the shower and think it might be fun to sing with others, you've got all the experience you need.
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Q3. Do I need to have a 'good' voice? What happens if I sound really awful? I don't want to ruin it for others.

A. All voices are welcome. The great thing about singing together as a group is that we can have a real mix of different voices and no individual ever need stand out. As long as you are prepared to have a go, listen well and remember you're part of a group, not on your own, it will be fine.
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Q4. My friends and family tell me that I'm tone deaf. I don't think I can hold a tune. Will that be a problem?

A. Almost nobody is tone deaf unless there is some brain damage. Like any physical activity (e.g. tennis, football), it takes a while to be able to control the necessary muscles to become accurate. It's the same with singing. It might take a while to be able to hold a tune accurately, but remember you are never alone in group singing!

You might also find this article interesting: Are you tone deaf? Very unlikely!
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Q5. Do I need to be able to read music or understand music theory?

A. I never use sheet music in my workshops so you don't need to be able to read music to join in fully. I also don't use any unnecessary musical jargon or assume people have prior musical training of any sort.
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Q6. What does "learning by ear" mean?

A. Songs will either have just one or two simple words or I will put large lyric sheets on the wall. You then learn the song bit by bit by me singing, you listening and then singing back. Slowly 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
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Q7. What exactly is "unaccompanied harmony singing"?

A. The "unaccompanied" bit means that there will be no piano or other instruments playing and I don't use recorded backing tracks. It's just voices only. "Harmony singing" is when two or more notes are sung at the same time. That means the group is divided into different parts or sections of singers, each of which learns a different melody. When all the parts sing together, then it is singing in harmony.
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Q8. What kind of songs will we be singing?

A. I tend to draw on traditional songs from all around the world, but I also throw in the occasional pop or folk song. You can click here to listen to recordings of some of the songs we've done over the last few months. 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 also love traditional gospel even though I don't have a religious bone in my body!

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?
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Q9. How will I manage with foreign words? I don't speak any languages.

A. 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 carefully choose songs which don't have too many words and I will break the foreign words down into separate syllables. It's sometimes easier to learn in a foreign language because it takes you outside yourself (you become less self-conscious) and you learn syllable by syllable (instead of paraphrasing the English).

You might also find this article interesting: How to sing a song in a foreign language
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Q10. What does "natural voice" mean?

A. I am a member of the Natural Voice Practitioners' Network (bit of a mouthful!) or NVPN. 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 NVPN ethos states that "We believe that singing is everyone's birthright and we are committed to 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 through which you express yourself. It can be trained to be more free and expressive, but you shouldn't become a slave to a particular technique or try to be someone else.

You might also find this article interesting: The Natural Voice approach to singing
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Q11. What happens in a typical session?

A. I always begin with some physical and vocal exercises to prepare for singing. I believe that the voice is rooted in the body, so there will be a mix of gentle shaking and stretching of both voice and body to prepare us for singing. There will also be some elements of vocal development which 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 and then move onto songs which have three or more separate harmony parts. We then reprise what we've learnt at the end of the session and record it so you can hear how good you sound!
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Q13. I can't stand up for very long at a time without needing to sit down, is this a problem?

A. I always encourage people to stand as much as possible as it's much easier than trying to sing sitting down (and it keeps the energy up!). However, there will always be chairs available and people can sit down if and when they need to, as much as they need to. You can take part fully even if you need to sit down the whole time.
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Q17. What if I have a question that isn't covered here?

A. Do feel free to ask me any questions when you come, no matter how 'daft' or elementary they may seem. You can also contact me directly to ask.
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