Monthly Archives: March 2009

Getting Started with Improvisational Singing — Location, Location


Improvisational singing is one of the most delightful activities in the entire Universe!  Nothing like it.  If I have my underwear all in a bundle when I walk in, by the time I’m done singing, I’m a Zen girl.  Not bad.  It’s totally free therapy, and I didn’t even have to tell anyone a dreadful story!

Free singing, improvisational singing or making it up as you go, has only one requirement:  Leave your mind at the door.  It just gets in the way.  Pack it in a bag and drop it in a safe place. You can retrieve anything needed when you leave.  Or let it go and travel lighter…

Location matters.  Find a location to sing that makes YOU happy, and makes it easy to experiment with sound.  Here I am in the wine cave at the Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery in Newport Beach CA, owned by friends of mine, Richard Moriarity and Loren Blackwood.

Loren gives me the key and I go sing.  There are no people around, so I feel free to experiment to my heart’s content.   It feels easy and natural to make any kind of sound I want — loud, soft, “ugly”, or beautiful — I can play with an unlimited range.    Also,  there are no interruptions and no time limits.  I can sing as long as I want to.  Love that!

It’s to your advantage to choose a singing environment that can actually help you acoustically — meaning that the environment is encouraging, beautiful and supportive.   Let’s be real — we are more likely to do something we enjoy if it feels easy and effortless.  Find a place that allows you to fully appreciate the  sounds you are making and how the vibration of your singing registers throughout your body.  This is nurturing and calming.

If the walls are reflecting your sound back to you, it is easy to produce sound.  If you’ve had an arduous day, or if you are feeling emotional and eeking out a small sound is all you can muster in that moment — fear not! Even the softest sound is amplified,  and this “microphone effect” from the reflective walls is like having a supportive friend by your side.

Also, as you sing in an environment that echoes a bit, the sounds you’re making mix together, causing it to feel almost like there is someone else singing with you.  This is a beautiful thing; the stone is your singing partner.

My preference is to sing in stone or cement environments.  One of my favorite locations (so far) in the US is the St. Joseph Chapel in the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

Cathedrals or old stone churches are outstanding.   However, in a pinch,  a stairway or hallway of an office building, a resonant parking garage, an empty church, or your very own tile bathroom will do just fine.

More next time on what to sing, how to sing, vocal experiments to try, and so on! Here’s to your Tra-la-la!

My thanks to Stevie Strang for the beautiful wine cave photo.  Stevie creates the most beautiful words and pictures!  Read more about her and see her photos at

And my thanks to Loren and Richard for their generosity in allowing me to sing in the cave on their little chunk of southern California paradise!