The keys to successful singing

Term one is underway and all of our choirs are now back into rehearsals with excitement and enthusiasm for the year ahead. So, we caught up with a few of our conductors to find out their top tips and tricks when it comes to learning new music and getting the most out of every rehearsal. Whether you are finding your voice or are a seasoned performer, new to Birralee or have been singing with us for some time, there are pearls of singing wisdom and friendly reminders for everyone to take on board.

Kate Littlewood 2019

Katie Littlewood

Conductor of Birralee Kids



My top tips for maximising every rehearsal:

  • Smile! We are here to have fun and enjoy the singing and learning process with our friends
  • Give everything a go – even if it’s new and you’re not sure whether you can do it yet
  • Be prepared and make sure you have your Birralee bag packed and ready to go on rehearsal morning so you always have your music with you

My top tips for learning new music:

  • Search YouTube for recordings of your pieces (or listen to the links your conductor sends you)
  • Practice your reading skills and read through the words at home. There will probably be some tricky words that you haven’t learnt at school yet; you can impress your teacher!
  • Ask your parents to test you with your lyrics. Have them read the first three words of each sentence and see if you can finish off the rest

Warm-ups to practice at home or in the car:

  • Practice your unvoiced fricatives (a fancy term that means your sss, shh, fff, and thh sounds)
  • Do some lip trills or tongue trills. Get your siblings involved to make your car sound like a bird chorus!
  • Do a siren (as high as you can go to as low as you can go). This one is quite loud though so perhaps best not to do this one in the car or else your parents might make you walk the rest of the way to rehearsal!

Remember we are a team and we are all here to help each other! If your neighbour is struggling to find their place in the music you might be able to help them, or if you yourself are ever unsure about anything your conductor and lovely music assistants are here to help you. Together I know that we will have a wonderful time learning, singing and making beautiful music!

Peter Colour 4

Peter Ingram

Conductor of Birralee Recycled & Co-conductor of Resonance of Birralee

I am so excited to be back for my 6th year as conductor of Birralee Recycled and my second year as co-conductor of Resonance. I can think of nothing more satisfying than working with singers (young and not-so-young) as together we explore some wonderful repertoire while having loads of fun and (hopefully) become better people because of it!

I’d like to share my Mantra for Rehearsing. The main points all start with M and are in the form of some questions for our wonderful Birralee singers to consider at each rehearsal.

Peter’s Mantra for Rehearsing

MUSIC…Are the notes, rhythms & words (& everything else) right?

MUSICALITY…How do I make it musical/beautiful/meaningful?

MEMORY…Do I know it?

MESSAGE FOR ME…How can I apply to my part what “they” are doing?

MUTE…When others are working, am I singing along on the inside?

MY RESPONSIBILITY…What do I need to do to make the choir the best it can be?

Essentially, these ideas are all about us as a group becoming even better versions of our choral-selves than we currently are. Singing in a choir is all about teamwork and so we need to do our best to support each other, work efficiently and let the conductors do their “thing” while we continue to work (both out loud and on the inside) during each rehearsal. Imagine how much we can achieve together this year if we all were to embrace this Mantra?

And, for all of that, the most important thing for us to do is to ENJOY OUR SINGING! I know the Birralee conductors are committed to doing all they can to make this a reality. And I for one can’t wait to be a part of it in 2020.

Albury, Kate

Kate Albury

Conductor of Birralee Singers



My top tips for maximising every rehearsal:

  • Be on time
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Make sure there’s a pencil in your folder
  • Do everything your conductor asks you to – even the silly cat noises

My top tips for learning new music:

  • When sight reading – don’t give up!! – just keep going, no matter how bad you sound
  • Listen to recordings from other choirs if available (and try not to judge too harshly)
  • Circle where on the score you make a mistake – don’t wait for your conductor to ask you to circle something.  If she can see that you already have your pencil out, she won’t need to stop to fix the mistake

Warm ups to practice at home or in the car on the way to rehearsals:

  • Lots of sirens and cat noises – anything that annoys your siblings is a bonus

Remember – if your conductor makes a mistake, she’s likely just testing to see if you were really paying attention

Paul Holley 2(photo credit Maxine McCabe)

Paul Holley OAM

Conductor of Birralee Blokes & Co-conductor of Resonance of Birralee



My top tips for maximising every rehearsal:

  • Attend rehearsals regularly so that the choir can create a fantastic ensemble sound.
  • Use your pencil to mark reminders in your score at rehearsal – your memory might be good but it won’t remember every detail you worked on the next time you do the piece.
  • Bring a water bottle to every rehearsal and stay hydrated.
  • Go to the toilet before rehearsal so you don’t have to leave rehearsal for toilet breaks.
  • Sing through each of your songs at least once during the week between rehearsals.

My top tip for learning new music:

When learning new music don’t just listen for someone else and follow along, do your best to read the music and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. When learning, “loud and wrong” is fine.


Deb Daley

Conductor of Birralee Piccolos



My top tips for rehearsals:

  • Always go to the toilet beforehand.
  • Bring a water bottle.

My top tips for learning new music:

  • Break up the song into small sections…don’t always start at the beginning…if there’s a chorus, maybe start there.
  • Practice following the words and music at home.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. At this age children may still be learning to find their singing voice.
  • Remember music is fun.

My top warm-up games to play at home:

  • The tune detective game.
  • The rhythm detective game.
  • “I Have Lost the Cupboard Key” game.
  • The inner hearing game eg. Leave out parts of the song and think it in your head…eg. Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes or Bingo.
  • The Owl conversation is a good warm up for the car before rehearsal.
  • Sing a song or play a singing game from your Piccolos booklet each week.

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