Tag: tips and tricks

How To Choose New Repertoire

Choosing new repertoire can be difficult. Sometimes we can find ourselves in a creative rut, or maybe we’ve just been focussed on the same repertoire for so long that we don’t know where to go from there.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not the biggest fan of finding new rep. Especially if I don’t quite know what I’m looking for. Unusually for a creative, I’m the kind of person who actually quite likes having several parameters. Maybe it’s the rebellious streak in me that likes looking for something that almost fits the rules, but doesn’t quite.

If I don’t know what I’m looking for, I often feel like I just end up wasting my time listening to song after song, aria after aria, without really getting anywhere which, as someone who really needs to feel productive and forward moving, means I often walk away from repertoire searches empty handed. A very frustrating turn of events, let me tell you.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

In today’s technological society, it shocks me how few people truly use technology to their advantage. Turn what would otherwise be wasted time into productive time. 30-minute train commute to University/ Work? Find an artist you admire (any voice type!) and hit shuffle on Spotify. Working on an essay or series of translations in the library? Leave autoplay on when listening on Youtube. I have discovered a great many wonderful pieces this way.

As a side note: I’ve aluded to it before but, please, don’t just listen to your voice type. You’re missing out on so many great artists and such great repertoire if you do. For my final recital this year I performed a selection of three wonderful Massenet songs, two of which were only available as recordings by men (one only by a baritone). 

If I only listened to sopranos all day every day I would never have found these beautiful mélodie, which would have been a real shame.

Ask for Advice

How many of you reading this have a singing teacher you respect and admire? Quite a few, I’d imagine. Why waste this bountiful resource right at your fingertips. In most cases, your teacher has been there, done that, and has been through exactly what you’re going through. On top of that, there’s a high chance they’ve probably heard music you haven’t even come across yet, and may be able to make suitable suggestions.

Having spoken to a few of my colleagues at University, I am aware that some teachers are adamant that students find their own repertoire to bring to lessons. This may well be the case, but I’ll bet you all the money in my purse (it’s not much, mind you) that a quality teacher would never allow you to realistically pursue repertoire that didn’t suit you or that you weren’t quite ready to study just yet.

As I’ve said, your teacher will almost always be far more experienced than you, so for the love of music don’t throw a diva strop just because your teacher told you singing a massive Strauss lieder or Puccini aria at 15 years old is a bit much, especially if you are likely to develop into a performer capable of the role. They know what they’re talking about.

Constantly being told ‘not yet’ or ‘maybe in a few years’ when you find repertoire you absolutely love is soul-crushing, I know, but believe me, you’d be surprised how quickly those few years fly by.

Attend Recitals

You’re studying to be a musician. Chances are, this means you love music and going to concerts. I’ve some good news; you can use these concerts and recitals to make you a better singer. Bonus!

A top tip if you’re using a recital to find new repertoire; get a program. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a recital, found the perfect song, and then been completely unable to remember the song’s name (or worse, never having even been told the song’s name) and therefore not being able to ever find the bloody thing.

Just Gie It a Go

Found a song or aria? Not sure you like it? Try it anyway. Some of my favourite pieces have been songs I’ve absolutely detested when I’ve started learning them.

If all else fails and these tips just haven’t thrown up that perfect piece, head into your university library, pick up a vocal anthology and open it on a random page. It might be a win. It might be a bust. It’ll definitely be something that may come in useful in your development as a singer.

How I’m Managing My Anxiety and Depression

Disclaimer: I am in no way a medical professional. The advice I offer here is simply based on my personal experiences.

Mental health matters. This is something I truly, utterly believe. I also believe that opening up the discussion and just talking about mental health can have a massive effect on a person and their struggles. At least, I know it really did for me.

At it’s worst, depression turned me into a complete zombie. I struggled to get out of bed, and I’d spend periods just sat staring into space, unable to bring myself to move or do anything. I am a major Type A personality and perfectionist (although I’m also a lazy shite, but more on this later) and I think this may have been the only reason I got up every day and lived some semblance of a life. Being seen as subpar or less than was something that I just couldn’t stomach.

But there was no soul in anything I did. No emotions. I got up, went about my day, and spent most of my waking moments wishing I was in bed. I turned down almost every social invite I was given because I just could not face people and existing. When I was sat in groups or out with friends, I’d just be sat in the corner on my phone because making conversation was just too much effort.

My depression has improved, but I still have some bad episodes, and to be honest, at times the episodes are far worse than the extended period I suffered from in my second year of university.

With regards to my anxiety, I’ve always been an anxious person. Even as a child people always commented on how well behaved I was, when in truth I was just so scared of what people thought that I was terrified into inaction.

Sometimes, I find the anxiety is the harder to fight. I’ve lived with it for so long that I didn’t realise it was an issue until recently, whereas when I first began to suffer from depression I immediately sought out help to figure out what was wrong with me. My anxiety also tends to keep itself pretty lowkey – most of the time. It creeps along unnoticeable for quite some time before jumping out and knocking me flat on my backside.

Having realised, though, that these things are not an intrinsic part of my personality, and are in fact little angry voices living within my head, I’ve found them easier to live with. Instead of thinking that I’m broken and never going to be able to do the things I want, now it’s just a case of remembering to be kind to these little monsters sitting on my shoulders, and they, in turn, make living my life just that little bit easier.

An Established Sleep Pattern

I love sleep. So much. So much so that the idea of getting out of bed before 10 makes me cry.

Or it did.

My phone has a health app automatically installed, and when I told it I wanted to feel more rested it set me sleep goals. These goals simply involved me going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. I was dubious (waking up at half 7 on a weekend?! No thanks!) But I have actually seen a massive difference in my moods, and getting up early just sets up my day right. I actually get shit done.

Getting Organised

Organisation is a big one. Being organised gives you the upper hand over anxiety in particular. Instead of panicking about upcoming deadlines you’re vaguely aware of, being organised, writing them down and then actually doing something about them is so much better for you. That way, even if something does go wrong, you’re prepared, and you stand a better chance of succeeding without a meltdown.

Yoga

Or just exercise in general. Get out there, shake what ya mamma gave you. I know for some people in the depths of a depressive episode the idea of getting up and exercising is the last thing you think possible, but believe me when I say that the clarity and energy you can glean from exercise is priceless.

Yoga is so gentle and easy on the body you can sometimes feel like you aren’t exercising at all. That’s why I believe it’s perhaps the best form of exercise for those suffering from anxiety or depression.

Time Off

And not just days where I pretend to do nothing and just sit there like a vegetable. I mean taking days off to do something purely for pleasure, purely for myself. Not for the blog. No university work. Just me.

I think, especially in today’s culture, days off are seen as a negative or something to be enjoyed once in a blue moon. Taking a day for yourself is actually really beneficial.

Pushing through to burnout is not the most productive way to get things done. Take a day. A bet you’ll be far more productive when you get back to work after your siesta.

These are my little tips and tricks for making friends with pain in the bum and nagging voice sat on my shoulders. They’re not perfect. They don’t work every time, and I’m not perfect when it comes to executing them. I’m improving though, and that’s the main thing.

If you’ve any tips and tricks that you’ve found really help you then leave them down below as a comment. Let’s open the discussion and help each other out. This can only improve our chances in the fight for better mental health.