This blog is going to be a loooooong one, as it is a three-parter. But, by the time you’ve finished, you’ll be ready to tackle ANY audition. Here we go!
TO SING OR NOT TO SING-THAT IS THE QUESTION
I must admit; once upon a time I was swept away by the American Idol craze. Like millions of other Americans, I tuned in every week to watch the singers vocally slug it out. Again, like millions of other Americans, I tuned in for the chance to see singers fail. It’s sad, but the truth is, I’ve enjoyed the musical stylings of the tone deaf and vocally challenged, much more than the talented singers who were told, “Welcome to Hollywood.” I think that we are intrigued by the fact that most of the singers who didn’t make it through were in great disbelief and often stunned that the judges didn’t appreciate their “unique” voices. If some of these singers had actually been prepared, they might have had a chance. On the other hand, what were some of these people thinking?
I would never condemn anyone for singing. Singing is a beautiful thing that should be shared by everyone. The point I’m trying to make is; there are two reasons for poor singers. The first is simple. Some singers aren’t prepared for an audition. The second is a little less obvious; at least to the individual singer. Some singers haven’t realized that there is a problem vocally. Everyone can learn to sing, but many singers need guidance.
Watching and experiencing the pressure that the singers underwent on American Idol caused me to have a flashback to 1990. I was attending the vocal program at The Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, California. We had several voice coaches, but there were three that I remember well. John Zipperer was my favorite coach. He made you feel like anything was possible. Brian Kelly, was my personal instructor. He reminded me of a voice psychologist. Jami Lula was a very stern coach who believed in perfection.
Once a week we would have a class called Vocal Review. Each week we had to pick a song from a different genre of music to sing to be reviewed by one of our vocal instructors. Our performance was extremely important because it affected our overall grade. I was very intimidated by Jami Lula, so I always hated when he conducted the vocal review. At times Jami seemed ruthless; he’d rather pull out his teeth than give a compliment. He made Simon Cowell look like a saint. I was always nervous whenever I had to perform before him.
One particular week, John Zipperer was critiquing the class. I didn’t concern myself with actually learning my song because John was usually easy to please. If you did screw up, he usually lifted your spirits and made you feel like you’d do better the next time. Imagine my surprise when I walked into class and discovered my worst nightmare. John couldn’t be there, so Jami Lula was handling the class.
I was singing “Dream On” by Aerosomith. Totally unprepared and now very intimidated, I completely botched the song. It was horrible. I forgot words, messed up the phrasing, and sang some pretty sour notes. I knew I hadn’t prepared for the song, and Jami definitely let me know it. Afterward, one of my friends, Jeff Chase, said, “What happened?” Of course my reply was “ I don’t know, he just made me so nervous that I lost my train of thought.” I knew all along that I was in the wrong. After class, Jami pulled me aside and scolded me some more. He told me that the reason I sucked was because I was too lazy too prepare. In that moment, I knew that Jami wasn’t the cold, insensitive coach that I had once thought he was. I had discovered a person very passionate about the art of singing; one who only wanted his students to strive for the best in themselves.
No one is safe from botching an audition. If you aren’t prepared by knowing the song, don’t bother. If you are planning on performing or auditioning, you must do your homework. The best way to prepare for an audition is to dissect the song.
The first thing you should do is to write down the lyrics. Next, write the pitches above the words. Use a keyboard or guitar to pick out the pitches. Once finished, practice singing the song multiple times until you feel that you are familiar with the tune and can sing it without a lyric sheet. You might discover that you were singing some words on the wrong pitch or possibly singing the wrong lyric.
When you are comfortable with the song, study the singer’s vocal techniques; such as vibrato and breathing patterns. There are several different methods for breaking down a singer’s vocal technique. My book, Raise your Voice has a technique called “Song Mapping”, which as the name suggests, is a method to “map” the song in order to make it easier to sing the song.
Once you have thoroughly mapped the song, sing it once more, only this time record yourself singing. How did you do? Be honest. Could you understand the lyrics? Were you in tune? Sounds like it’s time for Part Two.
IN TUNE OR NOT IN TUNE-THAT IS THE QUESTION
Do you recall my recollection of my horrid rendition of Dream On? I thought I would go down in the vocal hall of shame, but, fortunately for me, I wasn’t the only terrible performance of the day. Do you happen to know of anyone who sings horribly out of tune and doesn’t even realize it? Read on…
After I had finished my brilliant Aerosmith rendition, the next singer gave a repeat performance of the same song. She sounded so bad that I could hear dogs howling from Orange County. She was so off key that you could barely recognize the song. She was reprimanded for her terrible performance. I felt so sorry for her. I knew how she felt inside.
One of the students made the comment that they couldn’t believe she actually got into the school considering that she couldn’t sing in key. If she would have worked on correcting her pitch problem, I believe she would have done fine. Pitch problems can be tough, but they can be overcome.
Some people don’t realize how out of tune they are actually singing. Stop using “Tone Deaf” as an excuse. Very few people are tone deaf. That’s just an excuse for either pure laziness, or perhaps the fault of an untrained ear.
If your friends are telling you that you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, then I’d suggest recording yourself and listening back to the performance to hear what they are hearing. So, take a pause and record song. Now, listen back. Did you happen to hear something different then what you thought was coming out of your mouth? Let’s say you did. What can you do to remedy the situation?
The best solution to correct a pitch problem is pitch matching. Pitch matching is a simple way to “tune” your voice. You can practice “tuning” your voice by using an electronic tuner. You can purchase one at your local music store. When practicing pitch matching, sing a note into the tuner and watch the gauge to tell whether you are in tune, sharp, or flat. If you are sharp, try lowering the pitch. If you are flat, just raise the pitch until you are in tune. If you practice everyday with different pitches, you will teach your brain pitch memory, and the less you will sing out of tune. If you are recording yourself, and you can figure out what notes you typically sing sharp or flat in that particular song, you can practice tuning those notes until you feel comfortable singing the song. There are tons of chromatic tuners available for Droid and iPhone through their app stores. Find one today! Now, that you’re correcting the flaws, I think we should address stage fright; you know, that time when it all goes sour…
I don’t know why, but stage fright has never been a big issue for me. I can remember my mother waking me up late at night, when I was only 3 years old, just to sing and dance for her friends. I realized at an early age that I was an attention hog. I eventually discovered Elvis Presley. So by the time I was 7, I had my Elvis act down pat for anyone who was willing to watch and listen.
As time went on I discovered that stage fright was a bigger issue for many singers. And I admit, I’ve definitely had my share of the jitters. There have been times that I felt that my voice wasn’t on; that’s when the head games kicked in. I’d start to ask myself, “What in the world am I doing? I shouldn’t even be here performing.”
Stage fright can definitely botch an audition. You’ve got to take control of the situation, so that it doesn’t control you. I know it’s easier said than done; the mind is a powerful thing, and once you get a bad idea brewing in your head, it’s hard to let it go.
Through my own experience, I’ve developed a simple three-part system for dealing with stage fright. If you are developing fear or nervousness before performing, follow these three simple rules and you’ll do fine: Breathe, Vocalize, Visualize:
First re-establish your breathing. When the nerves kick in, your breathing speeds up. Deep breathing calms the nerves and relaxes the body. By taking several deep breaths, you’ll slow the heart rate back to normal, and you’ll be able to focus on your performance. Try taking in 10 deep breaths, slowly. Inhale through the nose, and exhale through your mouth.
When you feel you have re-established your breathing, try warming up your voice by vocalizing on a few scales or performing some lip bubbles. This helps to enhance the blood flow to the vocal cords. Nervousness tends to produce a shaky tone in your voice. By warming up the voice, you’ll help to eliminate the waiver.
Finally, visualize a perfect performance. Visualization is a powerful tool for creating positive consequences. Close your eyes and visualize yourself performing better than you ever have. Visualize the crowd’s positive reactions. Visualize a standing ovation. If you use affirmations, you will enhance the visualization process and the over-all outcome of your performance.
Affirmations are repetitive positive statements. The more you repeat an affirmation, the deeper it is imprinted upon your subconscious. Your mind eventually accepts the statement as true and works toward manifesting the affirmation as reality. This also works when you repeat negative comments about yourself! The subconscious is just like a very young child; it doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative, it only follows orders. So be careful what you say and think.
If you want to help your vocal progress, you might wish to create a few affirmations to repeat to yourself before your audition like, “My performance will be perfect” or “ Today, my voice will sound better than ever.” These affirmations will help you to focus on your performance and not your nervousness.
Above all else, realize that you are singing for you. If you love to sing and have worked hard at it, then know that you deserve it. Once you breathe, vocalize, visualize, everything will fall into place. Don’t think about it, just DO IT! Once you start singing, all that nervousness will melt away, and you’ll sound great!
So, there you have it-learn the song, record it to check and correct any flaws, then breathe, vocalize, and visualize right before the audition and you’ll do great!