Hot or Not? 5 Famous Dead Romantic Composers

I think it’s fair to say that COVID has made all us single people a little thirsty. Some of us have been preparing for a music history exam at the same time. Which leads me to the following investigation. Of the most famous dead composers, who was hot and who was not?

For the purposes of this post, we will look at hot dead Romantic-era composers.

  1. Felix Mendelssohn

PROS: A brilliant pianist and composer, he also spoke several languages and was a master chess player. He dropped out of law school to pursue music, but was one of those guys who was so smart he could have done anything. He was also from a rich Jewish family 🙂

CONS: Prone to fits of rage.

VERDICT: HOT – I would totally swoon for this guy and need lots of therapy.

2. Fanny Mendelssohn

PROS: Fanny was not only a musical prodigy, she was also a badass babe who eventually was one of the first female composers to publish her own works under her own name, against the wishes of her family. Previously she had been publishing under her brother Felix’s name, and many of her works are falsely attributed to him. She also helped him out, like A LOT with his composing.

CONS: Constantly pressured to commit herself to family and marriage over composing, and probably would have had a much greater output had it not been for sexist BS.

VERDICT: HOT HOT HOT!!! This gene pool is brilliant, gorgeous, and dead by 40!

3. Richard Wagner

PROS: A brooding, passionate Romantic visionary, this guy would pay attention to the little details as well as the big picture. His innovative “Ring Cycle,” Der Ring des Nibelungen is a series of four three-hour operas, meant to be performed back-to-back over four nights, for which he created an entire festival and built a specially designed theatre, over 20 years. The guy had patience and stamina. But his Gesamtkunstwerk approach to opera placed the music on equal footing with the staging, costumes, set design, and every other element of the show. He definitely thought big.

CONS: Constantly in debt, cheated on his partners, and pretty anti-semitic.

VERDICT: NOT HOT. How are you going to tell your mom that you’re dating Hitler’s favourite composer?

4. Clara Schumann, née Wieck

PROS: Besides being drop-dead gorgeous, she was a piano prodigy who definitely marched to the beat of her own drummer. When daddy disapproved of her marriage to composer and his live-in pupil Robert Schumann, they got a court order allowing her to marry him the night before her 21st birthday—the day she would have been legally allowed to do so without her father’s permission anyway. Up yours, dad! She also famously ran across a Dresden battlefield to save her children during the 1849 uprising.

CONS: Having stood by Robert through his mental and physical deterioration, raising their children almost single-handedly, and advocating for his work well after he died—and she never remarried—this woman was definitely taken.


5. Franz Liszt

PROS: Franz Liszt was the Slash of his time. He was tall, brilliantly talented, and had very, very long fingers. He was a generous teacher, often taking on pupils or giving master classes for free. He helped his friends out when they were in a bind, including helping Wagner escape to Switzerland because of his controversial political activism. As a conductor, he promoted many forward-thinking composers including Hector Berlioz and Frédéric Chopin.

CONS: Bit of a player. The rock star of his age, he was a ladies man who had numerous affairs. He fathered children by a few different woman, one of whom was married to someone else.

VERDCIT: HOT for a good time, not a long time.

Tone Deaf? Probably Not.

Over the course of my career, I have worked with many people who considered themselves “tone deaf.” The condition amusia in which pitch and musical memory is impaired, either congenitally or as a result of brain damage, affects about 4% of the population. That means that 96% of all people everywhere are not tone deaf!

I have worked with a fair number of folks who have trouble matching pitches or singing in tune. If a new student presents intonation issues, that is the first thing we will work on. There are a number of reasons why someone might have trouble singing in tune.

Confidence. Most people who consider themselves “bad singers” were told that they were bad singers as a child. I have seen it over and over again. It is a childhood trauma that most people remember vividly. And I only see the folks who are willing to face their fear and come to singing lessons. It saddens me to think of the many people who don’t. Without musical encouragement, children cut themselves off from their musical potential and don’t develop the skills they otherwise could have.

Hearing Issues. Anecdotally speaking, many students who have come to study with me presenting significant pitch issues usually admitted that they had some kind of hearing issue. If that hasn’t been ruled out, I do recommend students get their hearing checked for the full range of sound frequencies.

Imitative Deficit. A study out of Montreal suggests that, independent of other factors, some people’s brains are wired to produce the wrong pitch. They can accurately match pitches using a computer program, but when it comes to reproducing a given pitch with their own voice, the brain gives the voice incorrect information. Many of these people can be successful musicians as instrumentalists. With hard work, patience, and a good voice teacher, the brain can be remapped to produce correct pitches.

Fortunately, I have had great success with “rehabilitating” students who struggle with pitch. While everyone’s “treatment” is a little bit different, it usually involves a combination of ear training exercises, piano work, and a good set of head phones.

And, of course, a great deal of practice and determination.

MY TOP 5 Insane German Musical Words

Gustav Mahler says “Gesundheit.”

I’m so pleased to tell you that I completed the ARCT History exam over the weekend. As I’m now in the home stretch of my ARCT diploma program with the Royal Conservatory of Music, this was the toughest music history exam I have yet written. If the sheer amount of material wasn’t challenging enough, there was no lack of completely ridiculous German words I had to remember. Not only did I have to know how to spell them, I had to be able to define the unfathomable things that they meant.


  1. Gesamtkunstwerk

Let that roll off your tongue a few times. It sounds like you’re burping pure garlic. In fact, Gesamtkunstwerk is German for “total art work,” and refers to an approach in Romantic opera where all the elements—music, staging, acting, choreography, set design, costumes, everything—is treated with equal importance. That’s why Wagner operas are A LOT.

2. Sprechstimme

Now that you’ve wiped the spit off your screen, get a load of this. Sprechstimme was a style of talk-singing—or was it sing-y talking?—invented by Arnold Schoenberg to make his weird music sound even weirder. Check out Pierrot Lunaire if you ever feel like listening to about 35 minutes of this.

3. Klangfarbenmelodie

Perhaps my favourite crazy German word, it sounds like pretty much what it is. Used by the twelve-tone atonal composers like Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern, klangfarbenmelodie is what happens when a melody is played one note at a time by every instrument. And it sounds like Klang Klang Klang! Fart fart fart! Check out Webern’s Symphony, op. 21 and you’ll see what I mean!

4. Weltschmerz

This word kinda feels like when my grandmother would give me a real sloppy kiss right on my ear canal. But my grandmother was Greek, and this word is German, so not nearly as affectionate or messy. Weltschmerz is the very artsy German idea of world-weariness and melancholy. Keep in mind these were Romantic composers who loved to be sad. 19th century German Lieder was the original emo music, after all.

5. Durchkomponiert

While my instincts translated this to “dirt compost,” it actually means “through-composed,” which is a fancy way of saying that no sections of the song are repeated. Whereas a normal song would have verses, choruses—you know, stuff that comes back—this is just one long meander into the musical abyss, with no recognizable tunes or any indication of where we are, until finally this floundering nightmare comes to an end.

Honorable mentions to go: Sehnsucht (longing for the unattainable), Sturm und Drang (“Storm and Stress,” very Beethoven), and Liedenschaft (passion).

What are your favourite German words?

Vote for Laura Bailey Music!

Photo credit: Me!!

I am so honoured to be nominated for Best Music Instructor in Guelph by the Guelph Mercury Tribune! As a Guelph singing teacher with a fairly new business, it is so wonderful to be included among all these amazing teachers.

If you have a moment, please head over to their page to nominate me. Nominations close tomorrow, Sunday July 26. And as always, if you are looking for singing lessons in Guelph or from anywhere in the world, I am available for online video lessons.

The Future of Singing is Online

As Ontario enters Phase 2 of reopening, and restrictions are starting to ease, I know that we all are eager to return to a sense of normality. Of course, every business owner is asking themselves not only how they can reopen now, but when they will be able to regain full capacity. It seems to me that for singers, singing teachers, and choir directors, at this point a return to business as usual is unlikely until we have a vaccine.

It’s very important to me to prioritize my students’ safety and make sure I’m continuing to offer my services responsibly. In the age of COVID-19, singing is considered a high risk activity. Although more research is needed, evidence suggests that singing projects respiratory droplets further than other activities like talking or breathing. The tragic case of the Washington choir group who rehearsed together shortly before the virus was declared a global pandemic, resulting in two deaths, is foremost in every singer’s mind. Despite some choirs’ attempts to rehearse responsibly with physical distancing measures, the virus has continued to spread in these environments.

I can certainly see the risks of returning to lessons in an indoor studio. Vocal warm-up exercises such as panting, lip rolls, and other breathing techniques absolutely come with a bit of a spit zone. Furthermore, it is hard to imagine being able to effectively coach a singer who is wearing a mask. Vowel placement and vocal strain are often indicated on the face of the singer.

Going forward, all my lessons will remain online for the foreseeable future. My Self-Isolation Special rates allow folks to continue to improve their voices very affordably. I am still seeing lots of success from my students doing online lessons, and there are some great advantages, too. Sharing screens for music and videos, recording lessons, and zero commute time have all created a unique experience.

That being said, I am hosting an outdoor Laneway Open Mic on Tues Aug 18. My students will have the opportunity to perform for my neighbours in an outdoor setting. If you’re interested in coming or performing, ask me how!

In the meantime, here are some tips for safe singing in the age of coronavirus.

  • Sing by yourself. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Perform for friends and audiences online. Take advantage of live-streaming on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and more. Record your performance on your cell phone and upload it to your account or a group. Host or participate in Zoom Open Mics to sing for others.
  • Conduct all group singing activities outside, at least 10 feet apart. Enjoy the summer weather. Host a bonfire or a songwriting circle in a park or backyard. If your choir must rehearse, let it be outside.
  • Explore home recording. Now is the time to put together that nifty home recording studio you’ve always wanted and make your own music at home. Check out my post for building a basic home recording studio.
  • Get into video editing. Amazing video performances like this were created from editing together pre-recorded performances. You can make one in iMovie with your friends or family!
  • Use your own microphone. If you do participate in a performance, I recommend not sharing mics. If you happen to have disinfectant wipes—you lucky minx—wipe it down before using it.

Stay safe! How do you feel about online singing lessons vs. in person? Let me know in the comments.

5 Unwritten Rules for Campfire Singalongs

A still from the video for Rainbow Camp, the original theme song I wrote for a new camp for LGBTQIA+ kids. Photo credit Merik Williams Photography.

Summer is here! As folks are craving to meet up outside and enjoy the weather, I’m sure that campfires and singalong circles will become the hottest party in town.

I’m lucky to have grown up in a musical family with regular campfires and year-round hootenannies. But for the uninitiated, here are some standard rules of etiquette to follow so that everyone has a good time.

  1. It’s ok to be a wallflower. It’s important to know that there is really no pressure. You don’t have to sing, you don’t have to play an instrument, and you really don’t have to prepare anything. You can just sit back, drink your beer, roast your marshmallows, and enjoy the tunes. On the flip side, don’t pressure anyone else to sing/play/perform if they don’t want to. And as a general rule, avoid making a lot of random song requests. Folks have to play music they know, so if you’re not prepared to lead a song, don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.
  2. If you do want to play, come prepared. Have a loose plan of what you’re going to play. It’s always good to have a “fake book” on hand–a binder or book of chord/lyric sheets or lead sheets–full of songs that you already know, and can play or sing along to. Also, feel free to look up every song imaginable on if you bring your cell phone or tablet. Avoid making people wait around in mosquito-ville while you look for songs or noodle endlessly.
  3. Share the spotlight. Remember that this is a singalong, not a private concert. Yes, it’s ok to perform a couple of solo songs if the crowd is into it. (N.B. Read the crowd!) But generally speaking you should pick songs that are simple enough that most people could sing and/or play along with you. Be sure to start by showing other players what the chords of the song are before you begin. Let other players take the lead, and enjoy your breaks with sweet coolers!
  4. Be as musical as possible. Obviously you will see all experience levels at a campfire, and that’s fine. But there is a point when music is played so badly that no one else can even follow along. Take the time to tune your guitar, and make sure all the instruments being played are in tune with each other. If you struggle with playing on beat or singing in tune, let a more experienced player take the lead and try to follow along. I learned AN INVALUABLE AMOUNT from trying to keep up at campfires as a kid when I could barely play guitar at all. Consider it the best free music lesson you could ever have.
  5. The best campfire song of all time is… Asshole by Dennis Leary. You’re welcome.

What are your tips and tricks for great campfires? What are your favourite campfire songs to play? Let me know in the comments!

The Basics of a Home Recording Studio

Someone asked me this week to share with them what equipment I use at home for making demos and recordings. I’ll be honest, I’m not a producer or engineer, so my set-up is pretty basic. My purposes are purely to be able to record decent voice tracks for auditions, interviews, and demos. But for many of you looking to get into home recording, this would be a great place to start.

Roland Duo-Capture EX

This console is what turns the sound from your instruments/mics into something your computer sound editing program can read. This is a very basic console with two inputs, so you could record vocals and an instrument at the same time if you wanted, say if you’re making a video.

Sure SRH440 Headphones

When recording vocals or instruments, you’ll want to listen to your background music or the click track to make sure everything you record lines up. I like these because they had the least sound bleed into the mic of any I tried.

Yorkville Speakers

Great studio speakers for listening back to what you’ve recorded in high quality audio.

Ultra Mic Stand

This is a standard boom mic stand, which is always the ideal. Boom stands bend and allow you to position the mic with the stand away from your body, if let’s say you are wearing a guitar or want to put a music stand in between you and the mic stand. Be careful not to wrench the joints while they’re tightened, as this will break the stand. Always loosen the joints and retighten to reposition the mic stand.

Audio-technica Condenser Mic

Condenser mics are standard for recording, because they are more sensitive and get a crisper sound from a wider range of space. For this reason they are not used much for live performances, where they can cause a lot of feedback. Make sure you are singing into the “logo” side where the sound is actually being picked up.

Shock Mount for Condenser Mic

You’ll want one of these to hold your condenser mic while recording, so that any minor movements or adjustments don’t mess with your mic and your sound. Traditional mic stands do not come with the attachments to hold condenser mics, so you’ll need to get something.

Pop filter

This pop filter screws on to the mic stand and is totally adjustable. Pop filters help to reduce sibilance and other noise from your plosive vowels that is hard to edit out in post. You know, the hissing s’s and the popping p’s! It seems like a small thing but it makes a big difference when using such a sensitive mic.

What do you have in your home recording studio? Let me know in the comments!

Online events and groups help singers keep singing!

Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the pleasure of singing for or with others. Especially if you are practicing something, it’s important to have opportunities to perform and stay motivated. Watching others can also inspire you to try new things! Here are some online events to help you keep singing.

Guelph OPEN MIC Nights is a Facebook group curated by local singer-songwriter and open mic mainstay Dan McLean. In a pre-COVID world, this was a group devoted to listing up-to-date information about local open mics and jams. Nowadays, folks have been posting self-taped videos of their performances here, including covers and originals. It’s a very supportive group!

Watch that Facebook group for future info about Matt Zaddy’s #TogetherAtHome Open Mic nights, where Matt hosts a zoom call for folks to perform live for each other. Sadly I just missed the last one, but you can email him to sign up for the next one.

CHOIR CHOIR CHOIR has been hosting some themed sing-along parties online that look like a lot of fun. Watch their Facebook page for future events. They do ask for donations.

In looking for online karaoke, I was intrigued to find this event being hosted by the Delaware LGBTQ Social Group tomorrow night. Queer karaoke sounds like the best.

And for those looking to watch some incredible local talent perform, check out Silence’s Digitally Curated Concert Series. By tuning in, you can help support artists whose live shows have been cancelled.

If you know of any other great opportunities to sing online, please leave them in the comments!

Pilates: The Best Workout for Singers

“I’ve become a Pilates fanatic. Pilates is especially beneficial for performers, because it’s strength and flexibility training. I enjoy it.” – Renee Fleming

Many of us are adapting to life at home and finding new ways to get in our exercise. If you’re a singer or aspiring one, I highly recommend Pilates as a way to strengthen those “down there” core muscles that help us support our sound.

A big part of the study of singing is discovering how to use a whole bunch of muscles you may never have been consciously aware of before. That’s why singing teachers use a lot of visual metaphors like “imagine the sound as a waterfall rushing over your head,” or “send the sound into a cone in front of your face,” or my personal favourite, “poop out those high notes.”

Whereas crunches will get you that six pack, Pilates—with all its planks and pelvic rocking—is perfect for developing the inner abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. These are the main muscles involved in supporting the singing voice. It also strengthens the spinal erectors and intercostal muscles between the ribs that help us keep an open chest for proper suspension, or appoggio technique.

There are many online Pilates videos you can follow. I am a particular fan of the Element Pilates DVDs. If you have any favourite online Pilates resources, please leave them in the comments! I will leave you with my attempt.

Sign up for my Email List and get a FREE Voice Lesson Video!

There’s never been a better time to finally learn how to sing! I know you and your kids are at home looking for things to do, and maybe money is tight. That’s why I’m giving away lots of free lessons, including the #1minutemusiclessons on my instagram and Facebook page.

I’m also starting a new email newsletter full of tips and tricks for the aspiring singer. Sign up for my email list and you’ll receive a free vocal warm up video, where I take you through the full warm-up that I do with all of my students. Email me at to sign up!

And for a limited time, I’m also offering the Self-Isolation Special to make music lessons more affordable for you over Skype. Sign up before this pandemic is over!