After ten months in various levels of lockdown, we’re all feeling a bit lost. It’s hard to know how to look out into to 2021 and know what to do. Even more so if you’re someone who enjoys singing, an activity which has struggled with extra restrictions and bad press this year. If you’ve lost your singing mojo somewhere in the Covid news cycle, you’re not alone.
Right now, it might be that serious singing practice is the furthest thing from your mind between working from home, school closures or a key worker job. If that’s you, remember that singing doesn’t have to be serious or high pressure. You can enjoy a casual sing in your kitchen, and there’s evidence that it can be a good way to boost your mood (I definitely find it helps!).
However, it might be that you have some (or a lot of) time for singing, but it can feel difficult to know how to keep going in isolation. Here are some ideas that might help you keep singing in 2021.
If your singing practice has slid a bit in 2020, make sure you’re putting your vocal health first. You’re probably a bit out of condition! So don’t go right into that big aria or showstopping tune. Take it easy. One great way to start to get your voice going again is by using SOVT exercises. SOVT stands for:
Which is jargon for singing with a mostly closed or fully closed mouth. You can sing on a lip trill, a hum or a closed consonant like vvv or zzz. Start by sliding around, and then move on to gentle exercises up and down your range.
If you have one around, try vocalising through a straw. You can play about with length and diameter to find your perfect level of resistance. For added joy (and visual feedback on your breath control) try putting the straw in a glass of water and doing exactly what your mum or dad probably told you not to – blowing bubbles!
There are loads of great vocal exercises online that you can sing along to with SOVT. One of my favourite channels on YouTube is Jacob’s Vocal Academy. They’ve recently put up a series of vocalises especially designed for singing with a straw.
If gentle exercising doesn’t see your voice improve, you may need to consult a teacher for more help. Look for someone who holds a vocal health qualification, such as the new Vocal Health First Aider certificate that I passed last year.
Vocal exercises are great, but what we all want is to sing songs, right? It can be fun to sing old repertoire, but we need new stuff to inspire us too.
I love to go through an anthology and try out the songs I’ve not learnt before. Many anthologies come with backing tracks on CD or as downloads, which means you can enjoy the full experience.
If you have music but no piano, there are loads of karaoke versions on YouTube available for free. There are also an growing number of pianists selling backing tracks online too. Some of my go-to sites are:
- MP3 Accompanist (classical)
- Your Accompanist (classical mainly, but more varied)
- Piano Tracks for Musicals (musical theatre)
Sheet music can be harder to come by for free, though IMSLP is fantastic for anything out of copyright (meaning mostly classical at the moment). You can also buy pdfs of many songs for less than £5 on MusicNotes, Sheet Music Plus or other sites.
Not ready to sing yet?
Maybe you just need a break from singing. Don’t worry, it will be there for you when you’re ready.
In the meantime, there are ways to keep connected.
With the plethora of streaming services available, you can enjoy listening to all kinds of music. Whether you want to listen to your home style, or explore a genre you don’t sing in, there’s loads of opportunities to get familiar with different songs and singers. You can even compare multiple performances of the same song.
Why not also look out for live performances that have been recorded and put up for free or a small fee? The Metropolitan Opera has one of their back catalogue of recordings available for free to watch every day. If musicals are more your thing, The Shows Must Go On is back putting up musicals and stage shows weekly on YouTube. There are also loads of regional theatres working on projects that can be watched online, usually for a small donation. Broadway streaming services are also increasing their offerings. There are too many options to list, but you should be able to find events local to you with some searching on google or your social media feed of choice.
And if you’re still lacking inspiration by the summer, this year is Cardiff Singer Of The World, and having held auditions online, they’re working hard to bring us THE global opera and art song competition in a Covid-safe way.
Get some help if you need it
Don’t underestimate the power of meeting regularly with a teacher. A good teacher can provide you with challenge, inspiration and (importantly!) accountability. Most teachers are still working online, offering lessons via video conferencing – including me.
I started the year feeling very “let’s have goals for this year” as a two-fingers up to the pandemic, and midway into January, it’s feeling like wading through mud. I’m not singing anywhere near as much as I would like. Still, there’s so much more of 2021 to come, and with the hope of the vaccine, maybe we will be back singing out in the world again before the year is out.