What's in YOUR pocket?

One of the better drummers in the country, Darryn Farrugia, wrote a facebook post about the common trait of singers wanting to

“speed up” their songs.

Have a read and then check out this blog.

Darryn Farrugia.jpg

 So, what is his gripe about?

 Why can't a singer choose to make a song "faster" to add more energy?

 Why is "tempo” and “groove" so important?

In the early days of my career, I just might have been one of these singer's that Darryn is talking about.  It may have been perhaps  -

I was "Clueless". (Hind sight tells me this is a certainty);

I was too busy being the superstar;

I wasn’t "listening" what the drummer was doing.

As time went on, I started to work with some amazing musicians, who made me quickly realize that I had a lot to learn.

My musical life changed when I started working with drummers like

Graham Morgan,

the late and great Ron Sandilands,

the seldom late and always great Dean Cooper.

And keyboard players like

Brett Rosenberg

Ron Rosenberg

Joe Chindamo

Robert Butler

 (Just to name a few).

They all taught me how to be more instrumentally "aware" of a rhythm section, and how this awareness is "critical" for timing and groove.

Let's start by looking at "timing".

1/ Get a metronome - If you don’t have one, download a free one on  your device.

2/ Pick a song from your repertoire. (If you don't have a live instrument to try this with, sing unaccompanied).

3/ Take the tempo "down" by 10 BPM or 20 BPM from the original.

(Believe it or not, great singers, "feel" a difference in even 2 BPM).

4/ What has this "slowed down tempo" done to “your” interpretation of the song?

Notice - You suddenly have room to play. It opens up the gaps! What are you going to do with the gap?

You have opportunity for-

Longer note values, therefore more time for a choice of vocal tone, and the addition of vibrato;

More room to syncopate;

Allows greater emphasis on punctuation and expression (EG breathing spots and story-telling).

Note - This tempo release will also give you time to check your "melody identification" (notation). The faster the tempo, the more notes we tend to miss.

5/ Now take this same song up 10 or 20 BPM from the original.

6/ What has this "faster tempo" done to your interpretation of your song?

Notice - A picture of a "run-away train" may spring to mind right now at this tempo.

You'll perhaps notice that there’s-

less time to breathe,

a "frenetic" feeling,

a reduction of clarity of your song words,

reduced vocal "control" EG melody less precise, intervals slide etc

These are extreme tempo changes but they illustrate the point.

The original tempo was decided upon, because it worked and "sounded and felt" right, to both the singer and the rhythm section.

When it “sounds and feels right”, YOU have found your "groove/pocket".

There are of course, always exceptions to the rule, but,

Try changing the tempo of -

Nutbush - Tina Turner

YMCA - Village People

Take it easy - The Eagles

Dock of the bay  - Ottis Redding

and a million more, it probably won't work, unless you really want to take the song in a different direction.


At your next band rehearsal, recording session etc, work out with your rhythm section, the TEMPOS of all your songs.

And....... FIND your GROOVE pocket (and help Darryn keep his sanity).







Attitude is EVERYTHING!

I’ve always had, and still have, a successful career, by applying a belief, that 

"Attitude is Everything!”

A valuable lesson, that was strongly drummed into my tiny brain, very early on in my performing careera, by my performance family of highly experienced-



Recording producers,

Production directors


Was -

"Unless your performance is totally believable, and from the soul, then leave the room".


1/  Look at the "lyric content" of the piece you are presenting.

Is it -

A tender rendering of the heart?

A romance revenge?

A night of drinking?

A hometown reflection?

A hope of things to come?

2/ Listen to the "rhythm pattern" in the music

Is it?




Ballad etc

Are there underlying patterns, obvious or inferred?


3/ What instruments are being used? (Are there prominent instruments in the mix?)

Awareness of these elements, will help define a "direction" of how you can approach your song.


What I DID (and still do) is-

Use the introduction of the song as my "zone in" time, to focus on which direction I am headed in, which shall now guide my "ATTITUDE".


- When singing in "Big Bands", I would imagine myself as "Mr Smooth".

- When singing "Country" I would imagine "a horse, a check shirt and storytelling".

- When singing "Blues", I would go inward, for "passion and soul"

- When singing "Modern Pop" in function bands, I would be jumping around like an idiot, and leaping off the stage, to involve everyone and get them engage in the song.

Each of these "zones" in my head, determined my ATTITUDE toward the piece. Keep in mind, these are "My" mental pictures. Yours may be, and perhaps, should be, totally different.

NOW - Your turn!

1/ Find a song you would love to perform well

2/ Consider the lyric content

EG What is the mood? Is it melancholy? Uplifting? Hopeful? etc

3/ Read the lyrics "out loud".

This will bring your words to "life". You will notice natural "breathing spots", exclamations, questions, pauses, statements etc which will direct and enhance your "attitude".

4/ Write a sentence or 2 next to the lyrics of your summary of the story in the song words.

5/ Time to sing the song!

- Use the introduction to "zone" into the mood.

- Listen for the rhythm of the song, so you can lock your syllables on to the feel.

- Allow the "picture in your mind" to influence Attitude you are using to present your piece.

- Sink into your performance, and forget about "you".

- When you finish your piece, feel yourself "releasing" from the world you just spent the last 4 minutes in.

6/ Now get ready to change your attitude, ready to zone in on the next song.

Here comes the intro ........... and ........

Did you do it?

The  only way to involve and engage your audience is to give them your soul.

An audience wants to see and hear you "bleed".

If A tightrope walker is 6 inches from the ground, is it as exciting as when they are high above the ground?

 A wonderful example of soul - Stevie Wonder.

 Check out - Stevie Wonder “Master Blaster Jamming

He sings as though every song is the last one he will ever sing. Watch the whole clip........Now that dude knows that "attitude is everything!"

How to find your soul-  Develop an attitude that allows you to access it.

I have the words of a wonderful mentor of mine, Renee' Williams, from one of her workshops, ringing in my ears.

"You have permission to - forget words, sing the wrong notes, trip over on stage (Jimmy Buffett, Dave Groll), we are human. We don't have permission to, bore our audience".

Attitude is everything!!


How to sing "boring" songs!

Early in my career I was guilty of the sin that many of us singers fall into -

"this song is too easy. It's boring. I don't like it!!!"

My statement should have been -

"What have I missed? It sold 5 million copies!"

Over the years I realised, through experience and great mentors-

"It is never the song's fault".

What skills do I have that I can bring to this song, to make it come to life? The song is the canvas and I am the artist with the paint brushes and colours.

When practising, using backing tracks or even singing along with the original artist is fine, sometimes, but when doing that, you have a blanket to hide under.

As an audience member, I want to know what the singers personality, skills and musical feel can bring to the song. I don't want to hear an "impersonation" of an original artist.

I, still now, always search for a more creative and individual approach to whatever song I am performing. My basic toolbox for taking ownership of a song is usually...

The typical singer's skillset of:

- Timing - eg syncopation, feel, groove etc

- Tonal options

- Dynamics

- Light and shade

- Stylistic requirements

- Story telling  eg attitude, emotion, interpretation etc.

The one that I take the most advantage of is - 

My 4 octave Range

Using options of:

- Bass resonance

- Full "chest voice/register"

- The vocal flick from chest to "false voice" (yodel style)

- Clean passage through the break (mixed voice sound), from chest to head voice

- Whistle register ...... (not bad for an old fella!).

And 2 of my favourite skills-

- Consonant awareness

- Rhythmic integrity.

These 2 are the ones I find that so many singers miss.... and they are sooooo important. (I will write more blogs including these skills as the weeks go by).

One of the best examples of fantastic musicianship, that might be taken as a joke to the more inexperienced singer, or instrumentalist is-

"Mary had a little lamb".

What, I hear you say? Yes really!! A nursery Rhyme.

Dial up "Stevie Ray Vaughn's" version of this silly little lyric.

His basic formula:  

An old children's rhyme

Add a funky blues groove (which is his trademark style)

A key that has him using a "low, foggy" vocal timber

Add a hot lead break with the support from hot players

BINGO!! A terrific song created from a simple and basic lyric, by a master of musical craft.

Now your turn:

I have given you "my" basic toolbox of skill sets and an example of a nursery rhyme being turned into a great song by a master musician.

Now why don't you sit and think of what your toolbox of skill sets are?

What have you learned from your coaches?

What have you learned from your performances?

What "don't" you like about certain artists and what would you do differently?

Now with your vocal toolbox in clear thought, how might you take a song you really quite dislike and turn it into a song you can call your own?

Send me an email, send me a recording and I'd love to hear how you change what you call a "simple and boring' song, into your creative masterpiece.

Have fun!


How to sing a song you don't really know!

The motto I have always performed by is

"Any SONG, Any KEY, Any TIME!"

" Melodic Flexibility" is a valuable skill when you are:

* Filling in for a singer, in a band you haven't rehearsed with

* Jamming with other musos.

* Joining a band that has an established repertoire in original keys.

* Singing songs you only half know

Melodic Flexibility is "the ability to find, at will, an alternative melody within the chord progression".

For example - Most cover bands tend to play in original keys, and require the singer to have the vocal range of 30 of the world's best singers. The voice, as a human instrument, will struggle with a song melody that requires it to sing outside of it's accessible range.

I always had a huge amount of work, as the "guy to get", when the regular singer in a band was unable to perform. This was because I had -

* Melodic flexibility

* A large vocal range supported by a well developed Vocal technique

* A broad Knowledge of music styles.



1/ Find a "backing track" to your favourite song on youtube.

2/ Listen to and identify the different instruments in the arrangement.

EG Drums, Piano, rhythm guitar, strings, bass, percussion etc

3/ Can you hear the musical "progression" of chords in your song?

4/ Listen to this progression and then try to sing "ooooooooooo"  with notes that "blend" nicely through the chord changes.  (IE Try and stay away from the notes of the original melody).

The more you start to listen to the music behind your singing, the more you'll notice, generally, melodies are supported by chord progressions.  The more you listen to those chord progressions, the more predictable a melody can be, and you will be able to anticipate where the progression is likely to go, and therefore sing with it.



1/ Pick an instrument from within the arrangement and vocalise it's "sound" along with the progression.

EG Become the bass guitar and vocalise "boom boom boom boom" to notes within the progression.

Try this to "Fever" by Peggy Lee.

2/ Now find another song you know well, and vocalise through the chord progression as something else.

- Maybe vocalise the lead break..

- Maybe make a vocal sound to what you hear the patterns that the rhythm section is playing…

- Consider where a "string section" may sit.


With Melodic Flexibility in your vocal tool box, you are ready to explore improvisation, harmony singing and rhythmic integrity. Keep an eye on this page where we shall talk about these skill sets.

Have fun!!




Do YOU love to sing? But believe that you can't? Or, can't sing well?!

I would like to invite you to continue reading, to find out the 3 main elements, that I believe, when addressed, are the key to unlocking the answer to Bob Roach's question, (the Founder of 'Megalomaniacs Without Borders),

"Why don't more people sing?"


MYTH - The ability to stay in tune, or hold pitch is usually the NO. 1 element we judge a good or bad singer by.

MYTH BUSTED - According to Sean Hutchins, of Conservatory of Music, Toronto, only 2% of the population have a 'pitch perception deficit'.

As vocal science suggests and my teaching experience says, to gain pitch control largely comes down 'motor control'. Meaning,

Is the pitch you hear, the same as the pitches  your voice is creating? 

Or in other words, is what you are intending to do, actually happening?

The body needs to learn the coordination, and develop 'muscle memory', of the physical processes involved to control pitch.

Is this possible? Absolutely.

I have a student , who started lessons recently, because she believed she "cannot hold a tune". By her 2nd voice lesson, we had a process in place to help her link the pitch being played to the sound she was making. And with excitement she said, "I have never been able to do this before".


MYTH- To be a good singer, you have to be a natural, right?! Singing is just something you are born with.

MYTH BUSTED -  The Second element that plays an important role in what we sound like, that perhaps we don't know is a contributor, is our natural 'physical make-up'. Eg the shapes and sizes of our vocal folds, pharynx, nasal cavities etc all vary.

One of the beautiful things about voice, is that it is a human instrument. No two people are the same, hence, no two voices shall sound the same. To play it well, means understanding and embracing what God has given you.

With training, you can learn how to use your body to create and develop a sound you would like.  

My voice was always a very "soft, sweet" sounding voice.  As I learnt about good breath support, placement and resonance, my voice became much stronger and is now quite rich in tone and has a pleasant timbre (that even I am happy to listen too).



MYTH- "I sound terrible. I hate my voice".

MYTH BUSTED - Reality check.

This third element, from my experience, is the most influential part in singing well. What you believe about your voice, is going to play a significant part in how you sound.  When internal dialogue is negative,  the consequences become a self fulfilling prophecy.

It's not that you have to "lie" to yourself, eg "I am a fantastic singer" or " I love the sound of my own voice", when reality is that we are singing flat, or the tone is nasal etc. However, just like when you were young, with the right instruction, and with patience, practise and perseverance, anything is possible.

As Sean Huthchins says, “The psychology involved can make a very big difference. I've given talks where a number of people have come up to me afterwards and said that a teacher had told them they didn’t have any musical ability when they were young and they should just mouth the words in the school choir. And that just made them think, why bother to try. Which is tragic really, as trying is the only way you’re going to improve the skills you have.”

Imagine where the world of sport would be, if:

- Every basketball player that missed a match point, stopped playing?

- Every football player got distracted by the crowd cheering for the opposing team?

- Every Olympic athlete stopped racing, in case if they "didn't" win?

Check out what these famous brands had to say about having a go!


michael jordan3.jpg

How to discover your voice


A topic I have found myself referring to with singers a lot lately, has been the early part of "my" singing and teaching journey. So I thought I would share some of "my" experiences with you in this blog, and hope that it may encourage you.

I have always been a shy and quiet person, and always loved singing. My Dad is a singer, and my sisters grew up wanting to sing and perform like him. As a teenager, something that was a very big struggle however, was not being allowed to have an opinion about most things, nor being allowed to express it.

This made the start of my singing lessons, a very interesting 30 min sessions, for my vocal coach, Danny Stone.

I never started lessons, wanting to be a performer or in the limelight. To be the centre of attention was just not who I was. I always thought to be a "good" performer", I had to be someone like Danny. eg Bubbly, chatting, joking, full of laughs and lots of movement. If that is what it took to be good on stage, you could count me out.

As I did my practise at home, Dad would come in the room and to tell me his opinion on what I was doing wrong. This then made singing in front of Danny, (my coach at that time), even harder, as I was constantly waiting for him to criticize me, tell me what I was doing wrong or judge me.

You can imagine the obstacles that this presented.

Danny tells me now about how "quiet" I used to be. He had to have the music very soft, because he could "barely hear me". Thanks to Danny's constant patience and encouragement, my general vocal skills developed, eg my breathing control, tonal control, range etc. He likened my voice to "Karen Carpenter" and would tell me that I

didn't have to be a "loud singer" to be a "good singer".

With time, I eventually gained the confidence to participate in my first few performances. I remember standing with both feet planted in the one spot on the stage, the mic was in one hand and my head titled to the side. I dare say, I wasn't very entertaining to watch. Never wanting to perform anyway,  this proved to me that I'm clearly not good at it.

Hmmm.... doesn't see me with a bright singing future?!

In the early days of my "teacher training", we had a performance coach working with Danny Stone Voice Production. She said something to me, that made the way I thought of performing, change dramatically. 

                                                      "All you have to do is be yourself", she said.

It was about this time that Danny and I were talking about "song interpretations" and how to teach it. He would ask me to write a few lines next to the song words, about what "I" thought my songs were about.  Being guided by what the "song words" were saying, and how they made me feel, became a way for me to start expressing "my point of view".

I was finally in a place, where I was "accepted" for just being myself. I was encouraged to be me, and I was "allowed" to express my thoughts and feelings, without being judged or criticised for it.

What a difference to what I had been shown all my life?!

With these 2 tools, they became massive turning points in my performance and my singing. They helped me to "discover" my voice.

From such humble beginnings, of being told what I am doing wrong, to now being able to:

            - Sing stronger than many "strong" singers.

            - Sing songs I never thought I could or would.

            - Sing duets and trios with amazing singers, with complicated harmonies

            - Sing in a 15 piece harmony ensemble

            - Participate in workshops with world renowned vocal coaches and singers

            - Perform at in-house concerts, corporate and private functions, community events

            - Be a senior voice coach at Danny Stone Voice Production

            - Record and produce EP's and albums

This has come together with a lot of hard work, practise, determination, patience and perseverance. It has always been my love of "singing" that has motivated to get me here. If I relied on how I felt or how I sounded, I wouldn't be here now.

If you love singing, but have

            - been told you can't sing,

            - worry what people may think etc,

I can tell you from experience, that these obstacles are possible to overcome, if "you" want too. With your coach in your corner, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


"It's what is in your heart that makes good music"

Quote from Soundbreaking- Stories from the cutting edge of recorded music.

If you get performance anxiety, or like me, believe you are an introverted performer, check out this article by Renee Grant Williams and try this "shyness survey". You may be very surprised by what you discover.



Kylie - Singing teacher at Danny Stone Voice Production


YOUR VOCAL IDENTITY   -  What does your voice say about you?


As vocal coaches, Danny and I consistently hear from so many people of how they dislike the sound of their own voice.  Ask yourself the question, "What am I doing about it?" Do I just accept that this is my sound and do nothing about it?

While doing my study and research this week, I found an article by the world renowned Renee Grant-Williams, who Danny and I had the opportunity to see in Melbourne last year,  which has prompted this week's blog.

The way we speak and deliver lines of communication, like our personal  image, is one of the very first impressions we leave with people.

Not happy with your look? You change your look.

What if we consider our voice as our very own trademark to separate us from everyone else, to get that job we really want, or make that presentation or  to get that promotion we are after?  

Why not work on your voice to achieve an improved vocal identity?


Here are a few simple ways to improve the quality of the way we sound, and how we execute them.

1/  Breath control -

When we speak, we very rarely think about breathing, let alone controlling it. This causes our breaths to be shallow and therefore our sound to be quite breathy and weak.  Engaging the diaphragm will provide the control and support needed to give fuel to the vocal cords to make your vocal footprint. 

"If you breath shallow, you sound shallow", says Renee.


2/ Tone control -

 "I sound like a whiny cat when I sing", is something Danny and I hear a lot. What people are actually referring too is the "tone" of the voice. When we speak don't think of getting the richest, most beautiful tone we can, therefore it can sound thin and white.


3/ Pitch -

Rise and fall in our conversation makes us more interesting to listen too, and makes "what" we say more convincing.


4/ Be present -

We have all had the phone calls with someone where the "vocal drone" on the other end becomes hypnotic and we just "ah huh, yes, Ok etc" every now and then during the conversation. Meanwhile we are thinking about  other things. Being present in mind and thinking, while communicating with people can keep them engaged or make them feel like they are being ignored and not important to us.


5/ Passion -

Do you think about what you say before you say it? "Believing" the things you say and feeling passionate about it, changes the way you sound and the delivery of your information.