sing2music - vocals in focus

Sing2Music has invited expert vocal coach Jono McNeil (The Voice UK, The Voice Kids) to share some of his most powerful techniques and tips in a series of eight short (but meaty) lessons on our Sing2Piano YouTube channel. We’re confident that Vocals In Focus will inspire you to take your vocal performances to the next level.

Based in London, Jono’s advice and coaching is highly sought-after, amongst some of the most well-known voices in the UK, Europe and the world. We want you to get to know Jono, so we interviewed him recently to share a bit about himself and his lessons.

S2M: Jono, thanks for agreeing to be our ‘Vocal Coach In-Residence’ for the next few weeks! We’re truly privileged to have someone with your experience and passion for vocal performance & health, build into our community of amazing singers.

To get started, can you tell us about yourself and how you got into vocal coaching?

JM: Well I’m from a family of teachers, but actually the coaching part came a little later for me. I started as a singer. I studied jazz at university, released a couple of my own albums, became a session singer, did backing vocals for a bunch of pop acts like Michael Buble, Jocelyn Brown, Josh Groban and many more. Throughout that time, I had some incredible mentors and bit by bit, I got more and more passionate for the technique of singing, particularly as I overcame my own personal technical and psychological barriers. After doing more study, I ended up becoming head of vocals at an academic institution in the UK, developed my own private studio, and then eventually got called in to work on TV shows. It’s been a journey with lots of detours, but I love it and feel incredibly passionate about helping the artists I work with achieve and exceed their goals.

S2M: What has it been like being a vocal coach on such a big TV series, such as The Voice?

JM: Coaching for TV has been an incredible education for me. When you perform in loud live venues you can get away with a lot but for the viewers at home, a vocal performance on the telly is unforgiving. Every tiny moment matters for details, style, conviction and intention – you can’t get away with anything. I’ve had to learn to be obsessive about detail to make sure a TV performance really translates both musically and creatively. Plus you have to get the performer into the mindset to deliver a performance of that level. It’s not easy but I really love it, and when that vocal hits the target, there’s nothing like it!

S2M: Why should we develop our technique and practise our craft? What is to be gained from learning and developing our vocal technique?

JM: For me, singing is all about creative expression. Authentically telling stories that happen time and again, revealing the true nature of ourselves, our passions, or that of the character we’re playing. Our technique has to be able to support those goals. If we struggle with tuning, or our sound doesn’t carry, or our tone feels contrived or constricted, it doesn’t deliver the song in the way it needs to be. Plus we don’t want to just get the ultimate vocal when the stars align, but we need the stamina and consistency to bring it every time. This is why we practise and invest into our craft.

sing2music - Jono Mcneil

S2M: What would you say to folks that love singing but feel like they’re not good enough to perform publicly or post a Youtube cover?

JM: Preparation is everything. We prepare so we can deliver a song with joy and freedom that made us fall in love with singing in the first place. I think a lot of singers dial into a “narrative” that says they’re ‘not good enough’, and consequently they don’t try hard enough. That is, they don’t put in the level of preparation that might allow them to succeed. Plus, by doing it, you get better! You’re never going to get better by just giving in to your own negative self-talk. Give it a go and see how you grow!

S2M: What can we expect from your lessons in the Vocals In Focus series? Who are these lessons for?

JM: I loved doing this series. It felt like an opportunity to reach out to singers of all levels and backgrounds. These lessons are in many ways simple, but hopefully go to the heart of the vocal issues or mindsets that many of us struggle with. I wanted to make it accessible to all and I’ve had amazing feedback from both beginners and professionals. I’d just say, try these principles out and see if they work for you.

S2M: What is the number one area you find that most singers can work on, to see BIG growth in their vocal delivery (and confidence)?

JM: One of the best ways to get better is to break things down. Too many singers sing from the top to bottom of songs, brushing over a huge amount of detail that they just can’t process at that rate. Sing a single phrase through, spot the areas that you may be applying too much effort in, take a little of that effort away each time you sing it until it feels efficient, while also being accurate. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.  That’s how the muscles and mind will learn. And when you bring all of these well-prepared phrases together, you know you’re going to be able to rely on your voice, and that will give you an incredible confidence to give your all.

S2M: To wrap up, what’s in store for you in 2020?

JM: It’s been a really exciting year for me already. The current season of The Voice UK is going really strong, and series 4 of The Voice Kids will be coming up in summer, which we’re recording now. I’m also really excited to be working on a new BBC series called Little Mix The Search featuring of course, the one and only Little Mix! They’re searching the UK for amazing singers to put together a new band to support them on their 2020 world tour. I’ve been coaching on it and it’ll all be on the telly in the UK summer. There’s a few extra surprises but I kinda have to keep them a secret!

S2M: Thanks again Jono. We look forward to having you around for the next few weeks and would love to have you connect with our singers and subscribers.

JM: I’ll be replying to comments made on the Vocals In Focus videos, so if anyone has any questions that they want to ask me then they shouldn’t be afraid to ask. I’ll do my best to respond to as many as I can!

Advance your singing now! Hit the playlist below to start watching our 8-lesson series with Jono McNeil, “Vocals In Focus”.