Anna Fraser – Singing – My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean


Music: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean: traditional folk song

Warming up:

  • Stand up
  • Do some stretches to warm up your body to breath freely
  • Find your optimal singing position
    • Exercise: shake your right hand for 10 seconds, shake your left hand for 10 seconds, shake both hands, shake your right foot for 10 seconds (keep shaking your hands and keep your balance!), shake your left foot for 10 seconds (keep shaking your hands and keep your balance!), shake everything for 10 seconds and then jump on the spot letting everything go and allow your body to relax into an upright position which feet shoulder width apart, no locked knees, shoulders lowered and relaxed, top of head extended to release tension in your neck, arms by your side. Breathe freely – a few focused inhalations (in through the nose) and exhalations (out through the mouth) of breath enjoying the relaxed position your body is in.
  • Warm up your voice by starting with gentle humming and then some siren slides on ‘ng’ getting gradually higher and lower.


Breathing and Breath Support:

It is important to do approximately 5 mins of breath support exercises each time you engage with your lesson plans/personal vocal practice prior to working on any melodic material. This ensures that you are engaging the breath appropriately and your instrument is responding to the active use of the breath which is different from just breathing passively/normally.

Task:    While doing your breath support exercises place your hand on your stomach or hold each side of abdomen with your fingers and sense the muscles engaging with each execution of the exercise. You should be able to feel the bounce (if articulation is short), a holding of the muscles (if the gesture is legato) and the muscles releasing at the intake of breath when the exercise is over.

NOTE: To check your muscles are engaging keep your hands on your abdomen and cough lightly, laugh or sob (depending how you’re feeling about the current world situation!). There should be slight differences in muscle engagement – can you notice the difference? It’s all to do with the engagement of the breath…


Technical exercises:

  • Breath support – unvoiced and voiced consonants;

NOTE: short (s=staccato) and long (S=legato) articulations

Exercise:           s-s-s S-S-S, z-z-z Z-Z-Z;

f-f-f F-F-F, v-v-v V-V-V;

sh-sh-sh SH-SH-SH, ȝ-ȝ-ȝ Ȝ-Ȝ-Ȝ*

(*this is the phonetic symbol for a soft ‘g’ i.e. voiced ‘sh’)

Exercise:           Sirens (sliding up and down in pitch – glissandi)

Carnival whistles (sliding up in pitch incrementally by supporting the rise in each pitch step with the breath)

Try singing both these glissando variations on different voiced consonants

‘zzzzz’       ‘vvvvv’       ‘ȝȝȝȝȝ’      ‘mmmmm’        ‘nnnnn’          ‘rrrrr’


  • Which type of sound requires more air?
      • Remember to take a controlled breath in before the exercise and allow the abdominal muscles to support the phrase/vocal gesture.
      • Be aware of any tension in the body and re-find your optimal singing position – no contortions of the head, face, shoulders, crossed legs, leaning on furniture/walls
  • Extension of the speaking voice (pitch awareness, warming up the lower register/chest voice, sustaining breath over a sustained phrase

Exercise: “Hello, how are you today?” (I hope you’re well!)

      • Speak the sentence at your normal spoken pitch – relaxed and mp volume;
      • Find a pitch close to your speaking pitch and sustain the sentence on that pitch at an mp volume;
      • Draw out the phrase to elongate the vowels and use the breath to maximise the consonant opportunities i.e. aspirate the ‘h’ more, sustain the ‘w’ and ‘y’;
      • Ensure the phrase is as legato and connected with the exhalation of the breath as possible – allow the abdominal muscles to support the phrase/vocal gesture;
      • Don’t forgot your relaxed preparatory breath.

Variation: Change the pitch by a semitone going down gradually on each reiteration of the exercise (down about a third in pitch); then gradually take the exercise back up in pitch by semitone step and return to your starting pitch, continue up incrementally another third.

  • Drones and harmonics – channelling your inner didgeridoo

This exercise draws your awareness to the colours and natural resonance of vowels

Exercise: “Moree”

  • On a low note/pitch (say a B) sustain/sing the word by stretching out the consonants and vowels like a big rubber band or chewing gum.
  • Remember to take a 2 sec breath in before you sing the word and use the breath to support the sound across the whole exercise
  • Linger little at the beginning and enjoy the buzzy-ness of the ‘mmm’ (voiced consonant) in your nose – maintain this forward focused sound production when you open your mouth to sing the vowels
  • The tip of the tongue should always be sitting behind the lower teeth and you will notice the rear of the tongue will move up and down as you change the vowel from ‘o’ (or) to ‘i’ (eee)
  • Sing this exercise at a medium volume – don’t push the sound and ensure there is lots of air flowing.


  • As the sounds change can you hear another note above the low note your holding/singing?
  • Can you find a more ambient or resonant space to sing in? This might help you hear the natural harmonics you’re producing.
  • Can you hear them better when you sing the exercise slower or faster?


Melodic Exploration:

“My Bonny lies over the ocean” – Gestural Round

  • Tongue roll or lip trill the melody and allow the air to flow freely


    • Can to get through all the phrases without running out of breath?
    • Are you taking a deep enough breath before each phrase? Initial intake of breath should be half the length of the first phrase, say 2 sec intake.
  • Sing the melody again on ‘ng’
    • Question: is it easier to sing on ‘ng’?
  • Sing the melody on ‘doo’ checking all your intonation
  • Sing the melody on the words and accentuate all consonant opportunities – slow the tempo to explore how you can particularly elongate the voiced consonants by sustaining their pitch
    • Task: Underline all the moments you would elongate consonant opportunities
      • My bonny lies over the ocean, my bonny lies over the sea, … , so bring back my bonny to me. Bring back, … , o bring back my bonny to me, …
    • Task: Record yourself doing a version of this i.e. elongating every consonant opportunity
  • Sing the melody normally but with an added awareness of the consonants
  • Can you sing the melody of scale degrees? The melody doesn’t start on 1 however does end on 1 – can you find the starting scale degree?
  • Add physical gestures to connect with the consonants:
    • Slowly introduce the gestures to coordinate with the words while you sing
      • m words – thigh slap
      • b words – hand clap
      • l words – Pinocchio nose gesture
      • t words – finger clicks
      • o words – double waves with both arms
    • Explore different tempi to create a tempo that best allows you to sing smoothly and freely and make the physical gestures be a connected and rhythmically graceful as your singing!
    • Task: record yourself singing while doing to actions and observe how fluid and free your sound is.
      • Question – are you thinking about your vocal production?
      • Question – are you breathing appropriately?
      • Question – are the gestures causing you to sing poorly? Find a balance between sound and gesture – our brains are capable of doing many things at once!