TO SING OR NOT TO SING, THAT IS THE QUESTION
I must admit that I had been swept in by the latest American Idol craze. Like millions of other Americans, I used to tune in every week to watch the singers vocally slug it out. Again, like millions of other Americans, I am turning 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; some singers just need direction! In this lesson we'll discuss the first reason, and explain how to prepare for an audition.
Watching and experiencing the pressure that the singers are under 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 learned a lot from. John Zipperer was my favorite coach. He made you feel like anything was possible. Brian Kelly, was my personal instructor. He reminds 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 for review 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 sugar coated it 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 Aerosmith's Dream On. Totally unprepared and now very intimidated, I completely botched the song. It was awful. 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 to 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 compassionate 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 for the song, don't bother. If you are planning on performing or auditioning, then 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.
After you figure out the pitches, practice singing the song several 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.
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 out the song in order to make it easier to sing the song.
Once you have studied the technique of the song, sing it once more, only this time record yourself singing. How did you do? Come on; be honest. Most of the comments on American Idol deal with how unprepared the singer was. Another repetitive comment is the singer's pitch. I have heard Randy comment several times on how flat the person sang. If they would have prepared for the song and recorded themselves singing it, they might have done a better job. They would have noticed if they were off pitch and could have worked to correct the problem.
In the next lesson we will discuss techniques to help you discover and correct pitch problems. If you want to learn more about The Musician's Institute, you can visit their website at www.mi.edu.
Author of "Raise Your Voice", "Mindset: programming Your Mind for Success" and "Online Teaching Secrets Revealed"