The first professional I shall introduce in my ‘Vocal Health’ Series, is the incredible Dan Turnell. I have known Dan for around two years now and he is my ‘go-to’ when I’m experiencing any vocal or physical tightness. After a session with Dan, I feel tension free, happy and ready to sing!
An Introduction to Dan:
“Hi! I’m Dan Turnell, performance physiotherapist based in central Manchester and Altrincham. Specialising in work with musicians and singers, I have worked with students from the RNCM and professionals (from pop, opera and musical theatre) for several years – helping to keep everyone physically and vocally healthy“. – Dan Turnell.
I asked Dan a few questions about what he does, why it is effective and what we can do as singers to keep our voices happy and healthy! Check out his answers below:
What is LMT? (Laryngeal Manual Therapy)
A range of hands on techniques to treat the muscles of the neck, tongue and jaw, which can impact upon the voice box, or voice production.
How can it help?
It can help if you are noticing any changes to your voice: reduced stamina – changes in vocal quality or tone, breathiness, hoarseness or pain, stiffness in the jaw or neck or even headaches that seem tension related. It is a form of treatment that ensures that these tissues remain healthy and mobile, reducing muscle tension that can affect the voice box and jaw. Helping to maintain an easy and efficient voice.
What are your top 3 tips for maintaining a healthy singing voice?
Hydration. So important for general health but also vocal health.
Warm up AND cool down. As is the case when using any muscles for activity it is really important to include not only vocal exercises but also physical exercises such as static and dynamic stretches and mobility movements.
Exercise. I’m a big believer in appropriate exercise helping to improve singing performance. It can improve posture and endurance, all of which can help breath support and improve your physical awareness and physicality on stage.
Dan has also written a series of blogs regarding vocal health for singers:
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Hello! Welcome to the ‘Studies of a Soprano’ blog. This blog will feature my top tips on how to prepare for a Conservatoire audition. Although these tips are aimed at conservatoire auditions in particular, the advice can be filtered into other areas of professional auditions. I do hope you find these tips useful!
It is important to know that most UK conservatoire auditions take place each November and December, so you should keep this in mind prior to the application process to ensure you are fully prepared and thinking ahead. As soon as you receive your audition date, put it in the diary! I actually use a countdown app for important things such as auditions and assignment deadlines, so I would definitely recommend downloading something like this to remind you of how much time you have to prepare.
It is always a good idea to have a variety of repertoire on the go in your individual practice. Most conservatoires in the UK require at least three contrasting pieces at audition; one of which is usually an operatic and/or oratorio aria and the others being either French Mélodie, German Lied or English Song. The repertoire you need to prepare will vary for each institution, so I would recommend preparing a document and allocating your chosen repertoire to each institution clearly in a table. Make sure that you pick repertoire that you are comfortable with and that represents you and your voice at the stage that you are at now. Conservatoires are looking for potential and will know which direction your voice is taking – so don’t be tempted to sing a dramatic aria if you are not quite ready for it. Voices take time to develop and the panel know this. If you are unsure of what to sing, I would recommend speaking to your voice teacher. You can also get in touch with me via direct message and I would be happy to help with suggestions in any way I can.
Perform as much as possible!
To make sure you are as confident as possible with your chosen repertoire – sing it to an audience as much as possible beforehand! This doesn’t have to be in an incredibly formal manner or on a grand stage – it can be to your parents at home in your living room! Just having the experience of walking into a room, taking a bow, introducing and singing your repertoire will help you prepare for the audition room and make the experience that little bit easier and more familiar when it comes.
The dress code:
I remember vividly searching online for ideas and inspiration of what to wear for my undergraduate auditions. I also remember finding it very bizarre that most instrumentalists do not have to worry about this issue as it is common for them to audition in smart casual or concert dress! We are so often told as singers to dress up and be as glamorous as possible. If you love to do this, then by all means go for it – but I wouldn’t say that it’s completely necessary to wear a ball gown to an audition! When choosing an outfit, make sure you can breathe properly in it – and by this, I mean you should be able to do a deep and supported “singer” breath. In terms of the outfit – I don’t think you can go wrong as long as you stick to smart and sensible and you are comfortable. The only items of clothing I would be wary of are shoes. Can you walk confidently in them? Are they sturdy? You may feel brilliant in stilettos, but do you feel grounded and supported when you sing in them? I would definitely do a run through of your audition repertoire in your audition outfit beforehand to be on the safe side!
Arrive ahead of time:
Make sure you arrive at the conservatoire early (even earlier than the advised time!). This is very important to prevent lateness from traffic jams or delayed public transport. The audition may be in a city that is new to you, so make sure you work out your directions in advance. Save yourself the stress and have that extra level of preparation. Having extra time at the conservatoire will help you get your bearings and calm down before registering and heading to your warm up room.
The warm up:
Make the most of your warm up time and be sure not to ‘over’ warm up. It can be easy to do, especially if you are feeling a little bit nervous, but make sure not to overwork. Start warming up gently and vocalise until you are feeling happy, healthy and agile. You don’t want to overwork yourself and make your voice tired before heading into the audition room. I would advise also doing some stretches and breathing exercises. Not only will the breathing exercises help set your body up for performing, the regulation of breath will calm and focus you.
Chat to the accompanist:
If you are using a conservatoire accompanist, in most cases you will only be allocated a short amount of time with them. Try to make the most of this time. Top and tail each of your pieces (without overdoing it) and be sure to point out the key moments in the piece where you have made a considerable artistic decision. This could be a fermata that is held extra long (show off those high notes!) or a rallentando that is exaggerated. Do not be afraid to voice your opinions here. Accompanists are highly talented and will follow your cue but they are not mind readers – if there is something you want doing in a very precise way – tell them!
It is completely normal to be nervous for an audition. I always try to think of it this way ‘being nervous just means that you care’ and nerves can actually be a good thing. In the past, to manage pre-audition nerves, I have practised mindfulness. If you are new to this, I would definitely recommend downloading the app ‘Headspace’ which is a great introduction for beginners. If you feel your heart starting to race, try to think of five things you can see, hear and feel and allow your mind to focus on those things instead of your nerves. Have a think about what makes you happy and relaxed. Do you like listening to music, or reading a book? I would recommend bringing a book with you or some headphones to listen to your favourite music whilst you are waiting. As we all know, the waiting part is always the hardest in these situations. Above all, remember that you have prepared and done your best and that is all anybody can ever ask of you!
I cannot stress this point enough. Walk into that audition room confidently – as you. As tempting as it can be to listen to a singer you admire and emulate them as much as possible (we’ve all done it), the panel want to see an authentic performance. There is only one you and that is your unique selling point. Show them the true you, be honest and they will be sure to love you.
If you are a student who is considering auditioning to conservatoire, I do hope these tips help! If you have any questions, do drop me a message directly or leave a comment on this post!
Hello! I hope you are well. The first topic I would like to cover in my series of blogs is life as a vocalist at conservatoire. I want to share my own tips and advice to help prospective students prepare for and navigate an undergraduate degree. This blog post will discuss audition experiences, choosing a teacher and the various things I found to be very helpful throughout my own student experience.
I am due to start a Masters degree in vocal performance at the Royal Northern College of Music in September and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences and discoveries with you on this blog as I continue to progress through the (many) stages of classical singing training. If you have done a Masters degree in classical singing – what are your top tips? Do leave a comment in the chat box below as I would love to hear about your experiences!
Starting Conservatoire as an Undergraduate:
Starting life at a conservatoire is a very exciting time. At conservatoire, you are launched into an environment where you are surrounded by so many like minded people and you will no doubt make life-long friendships. It may seem daunting – entering a pressured environment of intense study – but it is these friendships and support groups that will help and support you through your student experience and you will have the time of your life.
2. Focus on ‘you’:
The phrase “the only person you are in competition with, is yourself” can be easily overlooked. I have come to learn throughout my four years at undergraduate that it is, in fact, a resounding truth. Every person and voice is unique and we will all take equally individual journeys through student life as singers. I try to remember “the only musician you should strive to be better than, is the one you were yesterday”. So do try to keep this in mind. From my own experience, I found that studying a somewhat “niche” and focused course has meant that myself and my course mates understand exactly what each other is going through, and we all strive to egg each other on and support each other without judgement.
3. Attend as many classes as possible:
I would advise that you attend as many classes as you possibly can – even those outside of your principle study. If you are not singing in a performance class, go along and support your class mates who are. You WILL learn something (I promise!). Even if the repertoire is not suitable for you or not even your voice type, attending performance classes is a great way to observe performance practice and learn new repertoire. Be the audience member that you would like to perform to!
4. Mix with students from other fields of study!
It can be very tempting (especially as a fresher!) to form a friendship bubble solely of singers – and to stick to that bubble for comfort! I would certainly advise getting to know instrumentalists from each area of study, as not only will you get to meet a great bunch of amazing people, but you will also have the chance to learn about something completely new and unrelated to your own study!
5. Attend as many concerts as possible! (Post Covid – that is!):
At the RNCM in Manchester, we are very lucky to have incredible orchestras such as ‘The Hallé’ and ‘BBC Philharmonic’ on our doorstep! Pre-Covid, both of these orchestras would perform at The Bridgewater Hall weekly and would sell student tickets for as little as £3! I found attending these concerts, even if the programme was unrelated to singing repertoire, helped me develop my knowledge of orchestral repertoire and concert etiquette! (Don’t forget the interval ice cream – a highlight!)
6. Take part in musical activities OUTSIDE of conservatoire:
Studying at conservatoire offers many wonderful internal performance opportunities, however I personally believe it is important to try to build professional performance experience outside of conservatoire life. This allows you to grow your confidence as you progress throughout your studies, and will result in you leaving conservatoire with confidence and the preparation for professional life!
7. Stay on top of academic work:
Yes – academia is still a large part of conservatoire life! It can be easy to be tempted into focusing solely on performance studies but make sure you get all of your academic deadlines written in early, research academic referencing in advance and stay on top of your readings. Your future self will thank you! I personally love academic music and would be happy to write a separate blog about this if my readers are interested!
8. Finally – Have fun!
Classical singing has a stigma of being incredibly serious and set in it’s ways – a stereotype I, alongside many wonderful organisations, are trying to change. It is important to take your studies seriously and to strive to be the best you can be. However, you must also remember that your mental health is equally important, and taking time to unwind with friends or at Student Union events is a great way to balance work and life as a student.
If you are a student due to start conservatoire (or considering auditioning), I do hope these tips help! If you have any questions, do drop me a message directly or leave a comment on this post!
Hello! Welcome to ‘Studies of a Soprano’ – a blog site dedicated to helping and advising young classical singers.
My name is Lucy Farrimond and I am a classical soprano in my final year of undergraduate study at the Royal Northern College of Music, studying with Jane Irwin. I have set up this page to share personal advice regarding the fundamentals of classical singing I have learned at conservatoire. I hope to discuss all things vocal related; from vocal health and musicianship to mental health. This page is an open place for aspiring singers to share ideas and to support each other in what can be a tough and competitive industry! I hope information shared can be of help to those hoping to attend conservatoire, current conservatoire students and anybody interested in the life of a classical singing student.
Keep your eyes peeled for content and do let me know which particular areas of the industry you would like me to explore!
I am very excited to see where this new venture will lead. Stay tuned for more information!
About The Founder: Lucy Farrimond
Lucy Farrimond is a classical Soprano based in Greater Manchester, UK: currently studying BMus (Hons) in Vocal Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music, under the tutelage of Jane Irwin. Lucy has performed at esteemed venues throughout the UK and abroad, including: The Royal Albert Hall, The Bridgewater Hall, Snape Maltings and The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Paris.
At 21, Lucy made her BBC Proms Solo Debut in Haydn’s ‘The Creation’ at The Royal Albert Hall, with the BBC Philharmonic and BBC Proms Youth Choir – conducted by Omer Meir Wellber – live on BBC Radio 3. For this performance, Lucy received a mention in The Guardian.
For a full biography and further information about Lucy, head to her website: