Some people just know how to sing. They don’t need any coaching, no pointers on which muscles they should be using- they just know. Unfortunately myself (and to a lesser extent Olivia) are not part of that group. But this is the story of how a very good and very patient teacher allowed us to make the music we make today.
When we first started this band I was worried. We had both done vocals in the last band, but I was always so self-conscious about the sound of my voice that I used to only sing through a whole bunch of effects pedals. Olivia had sung in choirs and things since high school so she was a lot more confident but it’s still a big step going from electro music (where the vocals are arguably less important than the music) to crooning pop/rock, where the vocal is front and centre and there is nowhere to hide. So I decided I needed some help.
Allow me to introduce you to our singing teacher.
Lizzie went to the conservatorium of music to do classical voice, has performed all over the world doing operas, jazz and gospel and as it turns out, only lives about 10 minutes from my house. We came together purely by chance (that’s what happens when you google “singing teachers” and “Alex Hills” together) and we couldn’t have asked for anyone better. There’s a bit more info on her here…http://www.musicteacher.com.au/lizzie-muller/
I’ve got to admit I was pretty scared for the first lesson. But Lizzie is so easy going that everything went by really quickly. I came out with a CD of exercises and a new-found awareness of how many bad habits I actually had. And here’s the thing- you might think to yourself “How hard can singing actually be? It’s just blowing a bunch of air out while you’re moving your mouth around a bit.” Which is true. But there are so many muscles involved, not just in your mouth and jaw but also down and around the abdomen that I never knew I had. And it turns out that if you’re not using them, you’re not going to be making very good noises.
So I took my exercises home and did them every day- 5 minutes of breathing exercises lying on the floor, 20 minutes of o’s, ah’s, ee’s, oo’s and eh’s followed by a full run-through of the set. I noticed a small change after about a week. After 2 weeks my range went up a few semitones. After four weeks I sounded nothing like I did when I first knocked on Lizzie’s door. When I started I couldn’t even get through a full set of songs without destroying my voice- never mind what kind of tones I was getting (which were less than great). Now I can hit notes I never could before and don’t have to worry about having “bad voice days” versus “good voice days”. It made such a big difference that I managed to convince Olivia into coming along as well- now its our weekly ritual.
But probably the biggest thing it gave us, and the thing we needed the most, was a bit of confidence. When you’re getting up on stage and you’re about to open your mouth for the first time- you don’t want to be worrying about what kind of noises are going to come out. Now, we know its going to be something special…and for that, we thank our wonderful teacher- Lizzie Muller.