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Vocal Coach in Residence August – David Combes

Vocal Coach in Residence August - David Combes
David Combes has sung with great artists from all genres of music from Beyoncé and Chaka Khan to Kylie and Lionel Richie.

The incredibly active gigging life of David Combes includes performing as a soloist at The Royal Albert Hall, being a part of a jazz vocal harmony group at Ronnie Scott’s and work in the studio recording backing vocals for contestants on the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

On top of this, he is a well-respected vocal instructor, ready to share his wisdom this month with our VoiceCouncil community.

Pre-performance routine?
A few sirens just to check that my whole range is good, that there aren’t any areas that feel weak or need particular attention.


David Combes with the Steve Sidwell SFX Choir and Katherine Jenkins in Zurich

Best advice someone ever gave you about performing?
If you want to be heard, sing loud, but if you want them to listen, sing quietly.

Where most singers mess up with vocal health?
Singing too loud and pushing too much air over their cords to try and compensate for poor monitoring; you have to learn work with mics and monitors and sound engineers, and to sometimes have the courage to ask everyone else, nicely, to turn down on stage.

The perfect (or a favorite) live mic for you?
I really like the AKG D5. I have a high voice and some mics seem to favor the brighter overtones but this mic seems to keep a little more depth which warms up my tone nicely.

Worst singing advice you’ve ever heard?
‘That’s close enough, we can fix it, let’s move on…’. It’s tricky when time is short and a producer wants to get as much done as possible and so they accept mediocrity knowing they can use software to tidy things up – it can just get disheartening when you know you’re actually at the point of finding something great.

Weirdest thing you’ve ever seen happen in a singing performance?
Usually that’s me! I sing in a sound effects choir so I’ve been everything from a coffee grinder to an ice skater’s blade being sharpened.

David Combes (center, right) in a sound choir

What drains your batteries?
Having my time wasted. I’m better at this these days, now I have a Kindle so when I’m kept waiting around I just read a book.

What charges them?
Working with dedicated people, and this doesn’t always mean great singers or musicians. I’ve recently done some work with actors who need to sing for roles and in several cases the dedication and work ethic they’ve shown has been so strong that the results, in even a short amount of time, have been inspiring and really motivating.


David Combes doing backing vocals for Gary Barlow

Your biggest performance blunder?
You haven’t seen my wardrobe then…

Vocalists who inspire?
So many! Chaka Khan is a real inspiration, her voice has many colors and she uses it to express rather than impress.

A favorite nerves remedy?
I studied NLP for a while and found it fascinating, especially the concept that you can recall emotional states using triggers – if you see me on a gig and I press my left thumb between my right thumb and forefinger then you can rest assured I am beating back some performance anxiety!

Favorite Album?
That’s just impossible to answer – everything from Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ to AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ via ‘Take 6’ by Take 6.

What you’d never leave home without?

Top recording tip?
Be fearless, trust the producer/engineer and enjoy the failed takes as they are part of the route to that one great take.

What’s different about a vocalist vocation today compared to 20 years ago?
You have to be more versatile these days. To get and keep the work you need to be someone that people want to work with because of your talent, your attitude and because they know you will have a decent knowledge of how to sing in more than one way.

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t….you’re probably right

Bad thing to say to a venue manager?
I bet this place used to be gorgeous.

Good thing to say to a venue manager?
Even without the PA on the acoustic seems great.

Your life philosophy in 10 words?
I need 12! ‘Whether you think you can, or think you can’t… you’re probably right’.

The perfect day?
My partner, my dogs, comfortable shoes and a long drive to explore somewhere new…

David Combes

David Combes has backed Beyoncé Knowles, Chaka Khan, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Lionel Richie and many more. He’s sung on several series of “The X Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent”. His vocals have been in films such as “The Corpse Bride”, “Transformers”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Nine”, and “Pan” (end of 2015). He is also a solo performer and a tutor on the vocal faculty for The University of West London and for The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. www.davidcombes.com