Why Being Mindful and Intentional Are Important In Voice Training

Very often, singers wonder why they aren’t progressing at the pace that they’re expecting or hoping to. They find themselves treading water, so to speak, stuck with the same technical limitations and problems that they’ve been stuck with for months or maybe even years. It’s frustrating and discouraging, to say the least.

There are numerous reasons why aspiring singers might be progressing slowly, or not at all. But what I’ve found in the vast majority of cases of singers whose skills aren’t steadily improving is that there is a lack of mindfulness in how they’re approaching their voice training. When singers are not being intentional about their voice use and their practice habits, they tend to meander and are apt to apply technical concepts inconsistently and/or incorrectly, which leads to slowed, stalled, or even regressed progress.

“If we hope to see changes in our singing for the better, we need to actively change what we’re currently doing. Change is a prerequisite for improvement.”

 

Although sometimes casual singing is exactly what we feel inspired to do and what feeds our souls in the moment, simply ‘singing’ (using our voices for mindless music making) while crossing our fingers that our unfocused vocalizing is going to lead to improvement is not going to help us achieve the desired results. Instead, if we hope to see changes in our singing for the better, we need to actively change what we’re currently doing. Change is a prerequisite for improvement. We need to practice with the intention of making deliberate adjustments to our existing technical approach to singing. If we’re not being intentional, we will find ourselves doing the same things in the same ways that we’ve always done them… and achieving the same undesirable results. We will intuitively default to the coordination that we’ve habituated. The primary focus of voice training should be the undoing of former, unproductive, inefficient ways of using our voices and the adoption of new, more productive and effective habits.

attractive-beautiful-beauty-1937394

How do we demonstrate and improve mindfulness in our voice training?

1.      Accurately assess our training needs and goals. Once we have an idea of the areas of our technique and artistry that require the most attention and the type and level of singing that we’re aspiring to, we’ll be able to come up with a practice plan that’s designed to help us reach our goals. Then, we write these training goals down in a journal that we can refer back to every so often as part of tracking our progress and keeping us on track. Sometimes singers have difficulty knowing where to begin because they can’t precisely pinpoint the nature of their vocal challenges. A qualified voice teacher who has experience in helping many different types of singers with a variety of training needs and goals can help.

2.      Make a detailed training plan. Once we know what needs to be adjusted, we need to figure out how to adjust it. This is where a skilled voice teacher who is well versed in vocal function and can diagnose and demonstrate is invaluable. Using a journal or calendar, we can create a daily practice plan that includes the specific exercises that we might have been assigned by our singing teachers and the specific areas of our technique that they’re designed to address. This will keep our practice times more organized, focused, and efficient. Our training plan will need to be revised periodically as we begin to master certain fundamental technical skills and are ready to take on the next set.

3.      Practice with focus… and without distraction. This means that, while we’re in the technical ‘renovation’ phase of voice training, we analyze what we’re doing in every moment, on every note. We listen intently to the vowel that we’re forming, and we analyze its quality, purity, resonance balance, and consistency of definition (how we’re shaping it from start to finish). We pay attention to how our throats, tongues, and jaws are feeling. We stop and start again when we’re not coordinating our voice effectively so that we’re not reinforcing poor habits. When the coordination is right for the first time, we repeat the scale or exercise, drilling the skill, in order to solidify the coordination into our working technique. We take our time, resisting the urge to rush ahead before we’ve mastered (or are closer to mastering) that particular note, vocal phrase, or technique. And… we turn off our phones and find a time and space for practicing without interruption or worry that we’re going to be disturbing others. The more divided our attention, the more inefficiently well be practicing and the slower our progress is likely to be.

4.      Track progress. Tracking our progress by recording our lessons and private practice sessions, writing down our pitch ranges and any skills that we were able to execute effectively for the first time, and taking note of any changes (for better or worse) in our voice quality, vocal health, physical comfort while singing, or skillfulness will provide us with trackable progress and objective confirmation that we’re on the right track.

5.      Invest in voice lessons. Perhaps the most intentional action that we can take is to invest in voice lessons with a skilled singing teacher. Aspiring singers who attempt to ‘go it alone,’ employing books, blogs, forums, YouTube videos, and prerecorded programs (courses) as their teachers often find themselves confused and overwhelmed by the abundance of information on singing and myriad of training methods that exist. They either don’t know where to begin or have incorrect ideas of what their training needs are and then find themselves working on the wrong things or the right things in the wrong order, misapplying technical concepts, and expending a great deal of time and effort only to make little to no progress. Voice teachers are trained to know what to listen and watch for, how to determine the root causes of vocal limitations and/or pathologies, (rather than merely addressing symptoms directly), and how to systematically build the voice and safely and effectively teach technical skills.

Although thinking about and paying attention to every little detail while we’re studying voice might initially seem as though it would take the enjoyment out of singing, in actuality, mindfulness encourages faster results and greater success, which in turn frees us up to be the vocal technicians and artists that we’ve always wanted to be. And since careless application of technique can lead to tension, pain, strain, or voice injuries, it’s in our best interest to be intentional about our voice use at every step of the way. In time we’ll find that, much like riding a bike was difficult and precarious until our bodies figured out and memorized how to consistently and readily balance atop two wheels, most aspects of vocal technique that initially require intense focus and analysis will become second nature. We’ll be able to transition from thinking and analysis to emoting and spontaneous expression. But early on in our training, if we wish to see results, we will need to devote some mental energy to our physical endeavours. We will need to assess, plan, practice, track progress, and study until we reach our goals and become the singers that we aspire to be.

Source: Singwise

Vocal Coaching or Vocal Technique Instruction? Are they the same or different?

woman-s-singing-3388899

Researching what kind of a singing teacher to choose can be confusing, especially for a beginner who has never taken lessons before. An aspiring singer hopes to find not just any competent instructor, but the right instructor for him or her, and it is a daunting task.

In the following sections, you will find summaries and explanations of the basic roles of vocal coaches and vocal technique instructors, the fundamental differences between the two types of singing teachers, and some considerations to make when deciding which type of instruction will best suit your needs, skill level and goals.

COACHING

A vocal coach guides a student through his or her repertoire of songs and gives feedback and advice on how to improve not only the execution of those songs, but also the vocal arrangements, vocal phrasing, articulation, enunciation, correct lyrics, pitch, volume (e.g., when to sing softly and pensively, or when to sing more loudly and energetically), breath taking (e.g., when to breathe during a song to minimize awkwardness and maximize breath availability and relaxation), rhythms and overall approach to the song. He or she will listen closely to ensure that the student has not learned the song incorrectly. Essentially, the vocal coach will help a student prepare and polish a song or repertoire of songs to be recorded or performed in front of an audience.

In addition to the above list, these preparations generally include teaching a singer to emote (interpret the meaning of lyrics and then convey emotion to the audience through body language as well as through expressive vocalization) and how to have good stage presence (e.g., making eye contact, moving well with the music, posture, hand gesturing, microphone technique, etc.).

The vocal coach seeks to help his or her students create a flawless performance. The overall goal is to help the singer achieve a finer grasp of musical style, which could include discussing performance practices of certain eras, style characteristics of selected genres and unique compositional traits of specific composers.

Since vocal repertoire comes in a variety of languages, the vocal coach will help students with the diction, pronunciation, cadences and inflections that are unique to the language being sung in. They will help in translations and in discussing the poetry (e.g. meaning) of the song. A singing coach typically provides piano accompaniment for his or her students, playing along as the student rehearses.

Note that a singing teacher who regularly provides instruction in basic through advanced vocal technique and who doesn’t spend the bulk of his or her teaching time helping students work on the artistry of their songs is not, by definition, a vocal coach. Rather, he or she is operating in the capacity of a technique instructor. However, a vocal coach would be remiss if he or she did not address any errors in the technique of his or her students, even though technique is not his or her principle focus.

TECHNIQUE INSTRUCTION

A vocal technique instructor focuses primarily on the fundamentals of good singing, such as breathing, support, posture, tone creation, placement of sound, range, blending between registers to eliminate vocal breaks, endurance and excellent control. A technique instructor seldom tackles the intricacies of a particular song with his or her students, although he or she may by request.

(Again, while good vocal coaches will also address a student’s problematic technique during their lessons, this is not the main purpose that they generally serve.)

However helpful a vocal coach may be at ironing out the kinks of a song performance, a flawless performance can’t be achieved without solid technical skills backing it up. In other words, a singer’s execution of a song will either be aided or hindered by his or her technique. Therefore, no matter how much coaching one receives, without a solid foundation in technique – and the stamina, range and agility that technique builds over time – a singer will not be able to tackle more complex, vocally challenging songs.

Just as gymnasts do not start out at the Olympic level and, instead, need to gradually build their strength, flexibility, stamina and skills, a new singer does not start at the skill level of a highly trained one.

A vocal technique instructor typically teaches a student how to interpret the sensations of his or her body while singing, how to produce desired tones, and how to make adjustments. He or she will first focus on establishing controlled breathing; the chief building block of vocal technique. Since breathing requires the use of many muscle groups in the body – please refer to my article on the Anatomy of the Voice for more information about the physiological mechanisms required in singing – the student will need to ‘workout’ consistently in order to build up strength and stamina.

Next, a technique instructor will begin to focus on building other skills, such as achieving pure vowels, correcting nasally, breathy or throaty tones, seamlessly transitioning and blending between vocal registers, smoothly sliding between notes (legatos), and gently broadening a student’s vocal range. All of these skills take time to develop.

Everything learned in technique training – all of the technical skills acquired – can then be applied to any song or genre that a singer would like to sing. (This is the versatility of which I often write.)

NON-SPECIALIZED TEACHERS

There are many ‘non-specialized’ singing teachers out there – those who are neither exclusively coaches nor exclusively technique instructors – who combine both technique and coaching in their approaches to teaching. This type of singing teacher is probably the most abundant, and typically teaches in one’s local music store.

Source: Singwise

 

 

 

So decide, which would be best for you? 

6 Vocal Exercises for Both Head and Chest Voice

There are a number of vocal exercises any singer can do that will strengthen both low and high notes and allow seamless transition between the two.

This process is also known as learning to mix registers. When working on mixing registers, the most important point to keep in mind is that every person’s register breaks are unique; some of these exercises will be more effective for you than others.

Microphone On Laptop

Image Source: Pexels

1.  Yawn-Sighs: The yawn-sigh is exactly what it sounds like, mixing high tones from a yawn down to a gentle, low sigh. Starting from the very top note you can hit, “swoosh” down to the very bottom note with an exaggerated sigh. Slide your voice down the scale as slowly as possible, especially during transitions in which your voice often breaks. Chances are, one of these awkward “bumps” in your voice is an indicator that you are not hitting every single pitch from the top to the bottom.

 

Repeat this process multiple times, sliding slower in challenged sections each time. Male singers should take special care between the falsetto (highest pitched) notes and the head voice (the next octave down). Female singers, conversely, should focus on the transition from baritone to bass transitions.

 

 

2. The Grunt: The grunt exercise focuses on the vibrations your vocal cords make in your body, and just like the name suggests does so through a series of guttural grunting sounds. Start this exercise by placing your hand on your chest and making a sustained grunting sound—if it suits you, feel free to imitate a gorilla! If you’re feeling vibrations in your chest, this means you’re creating these notes with your chest voice. Now raise your pitch slowly and imitate the low grunt again. The higher the pitch goes, the harder it will be for you to feel the vibrations in your chest. Work on adjusting tone and vibration in the higher registers because once you do, that means you’ve successfully combined the high and low registers of your voice.
3. Slur Up The Scale: The slur up the scale technique requires a slow methodical approach; the purpose of the exercise is to determine your weaknesses in moving up and down the chromatic scale. To begin this exercise, start at the bottom of the chromatic scale and slide up into the next note, taking notice of each pitch between the two notes. Take your time during the process, so you can sing and discern every pitch between each note.

 

Once you are satisfied with the transition between those two notes, take a deep breath. Then, sing the last note you ended on and again slur up to the next pitch, taking all the time you need to get there seamlessly. Once you have reached the top of the scale, you can either repeat these steps or move on to the next technique.

 

 

4. Portamento: Portamento is an Italian word which literally means, “to carry the voice,” but most refer to these warm-ups as slides. Much like slurring up the scale, portamento relies on an in-depth understanding of the pitches and tones between notes. In portamento, you begin by choosing a vowel sound, creating a note with it, then buzzing your lips throughout the exercise. Unlike slurring, though, portamento asks that you slide from high to low and vice versa.

 

Through this, you can learn to mix and connect registers. By sliding from either the top to the bottom of your voice or vice versa, you are able to work on specific transitions between them. It is best to pick two pitches, one above and one below the break you are experiencing, and slide between the two over and over. Through repetition and a keen ear, you should be able to rid yourself of those vocal “bumps.”

 

 

5. Messa di Voce: Messa di Voce literally translates to “placing of voice,” and in the warm-up refers to singing a certain pitch in crescendo then decrescendo. Singing soft-to-loud and then loud-to-soft on one pitch teaches you to sing that particular note in both registers. Because this is a particularly difficult exercise, be sure to start on a pitch you are comfortable singing. You can pick any syllable or vowel to practice on, but most music teachers will start you off with “la.”

 

The point of Messa di Voce is to allow you to gauge the power of specific pitches within your vocal range. Once you have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses at opposite ends of the scale, you can more easily transition between high and low notes you sing well.

 

 

6. Octave Leaps: An octave consists of eight notes, so an octave leap means leaping 8 notes at a time, essentially hitting the same note at a higher or lower octave. To adjust for your ​vocal crack, it is best to pick a note above or below (whichever you are more comfortable singing) the note where your voice is wont to crack. Sing the note then leap up or down one octave wherein you will have sung both registers once you’ve completed the task.

 

Octave leaps are different from slides in that instead of gliding through all the notes between, you directly jump from singing a lower note to the same note an octave higher. Your goal here is to seek a fluid transition without “scooping.” Though it is challenging, finding a balance between smoothness and excessive scooping is necessary for a beautiful singing voice.

 

Credit: Article sourced from Liveabout.com (Katrina Schmidt) 

 

Why Being ‘So Busy’ May Be Hurting Your Career

Sticky Note Lot

Photo Source: Pexels

I’ve started to notice something recently.

 

Every time I see friends and ask how they’re doing, they always say with an exasperated sigh, “Argh! I’m sooooo busy.” Or, “You know, I’m just going and going and going, never time to rest!” Or, “Ugh. I’m exhausted. So much to do.” It’s often said with an equal mix of angst and a little pride, so happy to be able to report that things are happening but being overwhelmed by what it’s taking to get there.

I’ve been a guilty of this too. I mean, it’s harmless, right? The short answer is no, as evidenced by a situation one of my students went through recently.


This actor was part of several developmental readings of a film, creating great relationships with the producing team in the process. Each time the actor spoke to them, he excitedly talked about all the projects he’s been a part of and how busy he’d been, hoping they would see how in-demand he was and that he was a viable, working actor. 

He finally saw a breakdown come out for the project and noticed that the role he had read was pre-cast—with someone else. Hurt and embarrassed, he reached out to the filmmaker to find out what happened and why he hadn’t been contacted about the role. The filmmaker apologized profusely and said, “With everything that you’re involved with, I assumed you were too busy.”

Record scratch.

Yep. My student lost an opportunity because he had made it seem like he was too overloaded to take on more work.

This really made me think: how often have I done the exact same thing, unburdening myself with “busy-ness” when someone asks how I’m doing? So I started an experiment. For one week, I tracked how often people asked how I was doing and how often I felt the need to say, “I’m really busy,” as a response.

Interestingly, I felt myself wanting to say, “I’m so busy” almost all of the time. But I noticed something even more interesting. The conversation stopped there. Very few people asked, “What’s making you busy?” It’s almost as though “I’m so busy” is a back-off answer, something we say when we don’t want to talk about what’s really going on. 

Much like we reflexively say, “Fine” when someone asks “How are you?” we may say, “I’m so busy” as a reflex that encourages people to back off. The conversation never moves on from there—no further inquiries about what we’re up to or what it was like to be so busy. It’s a roadblock to real conversation. 

So I took my experiment to the next level. Whenever I was asked what I was up to, rather than saying “I’m so busy,” I chose one thing I was really excited about and shared that instead. I also banished any talk of “busy-ness” from my social media pages. It was magical. 

By being so open and focused on what inspired me, I no longer needed to share my anxiety. Instead, I got to make a real connection about something that mattered to me and let another person into my world. And I began to wonder what would be possible if actors owned what made them busy and saw it as a benefit rather than a curse? Would my student have been offered the role if he had been focused on the quality of the work he was sharing rather than the quantity?

I invite you to try the same experiment; see how many times you’re compelled to say “I’m busy” rather than really engaging with your peers. Catch yourself each time you try to unload your “busy-ness” and see what’s really there for you to share. And let me know how the experiment goes and what you learned.

 

Credit: Article sourced from Backstage Magazine (Erin Cronican – Professional Actor)

Auditions Songs for Musical Theatre

Man Wearing Teal Dress Shirt

Image Source: Pexels

You’re probably looking for a long list of really good audition songs that no one else knows about, right? Well we’re sorry to disappoint, but you won’t find that list here. And you’ll be hard pressed to find it elsewhere on the internet.

Why? Because the truth is this: Any song you choose is a good audition song on two conditions:

  • 1. You love it. You’ll be singing it a lot, so choose something that speaks to you. Something that really fires you up.

  • 2. You present it well. This is crucial. To have a good singing audition, you must present your best work. We’ll discuss how to do this a little later. So, to use a cliché, instead of giving you a list of songs and feeding you for a day, we’ll give you the information you need and feed you for a lifetime. Let’s get started.

What Should You Sing?

We’ll give you the same advice we preach over on our free monologues page: Sing what you love. You’ll go to see a musical, or be in a talent show, or attend a class and you’ll hear a song. And you’ll say, “I have to sing that. I love it.”

At least that’s the way it happens for most actors.

Another good way to get song ideas is to ask your friends who are in the business. Maybe they just heard this one beautiful ballad and thought of you.

And if all else fails, here’s the absolute best way to find auditions songs:

  • 1. Pick a Broadway star you see as a role model. It should be someone you can see yourself taking after.

  • 2. Go to the iTunes Store and type their name in the search box. iTunes will let you listen to 30 second clips of songs before you download them. Find something you love, and write down the title.

  • 3. Find the vocal sheet music.

Other things to consider when choosing a song:

  • • Type: Remember, casting directors love to put you in a box based on your age, height, weight, look, etc. Don’t fight that. Play into it. For example, if you’re the girl next door type, don’t sing I Enjoy Being a Girl from Flower Drum Song. A better song would be Notice Me, Horton from Seussical.

  • • Vocal Range: Not as important as it used to be with the advent of transposition software. But still, make sure you can physically sing the notes. So many singers come into auditions with music that’s wayyyyyyy to high for them.

Diversify Your Songbook

God willing, you’ll be auditioning for a lot of musicals. And no two musicals are alike. And sometimes, it’s not even a musical. It’s a concert, or an opera, or something else. So you’ve got to be prepared.

How? You diversify your songbook.

The most basic songbook has two ballads (slower songs), and two up-tempos (faster songs). But there are other considerations too: Something comedic and something dramatic. Something to show off your upper vocal range, and something that shows you can get down and dirty.

And don’t stick to just musical theatre songs. Branch out into pop, rock, classical, country, and every other genre. Ideally, you want to have at least 15 to 20 songs ready to sing.

Overdone Songs

Singers often ask about songs that are overdone. They figure that casting directors have heard Tomorrow from Annie way too much. And that may be true. But 9 times out of 10, they heard it done really badly.

What they really want is a singer who can march into that audition room and blow their socks off. And that’s going to be you.

In short, there’s no such thing as an overdone song. Just sing it well, and sing it with truth.

Audition songs are everywhere, you just have to pay attention. What’s more important is that you choose the songs that fit you best so you can ace your audition.

Credit: Article sourced from Ace-Your-Audition

Singing Auditions for Actors in Musical Theatre

Woman Sitting on Armchair

Photo Source: Pexels

If you want to be in a musical, singing auditions are usually required. Now don’t panic, We’re sure you have a beautiful voice.

We’ve done our fair share of musical theatre, so we know that wonderful feeling of singing your face off, baring your soul onstage, and hearing that thunderous applause. It’s quite a thrill.

First, let’s clear up some common misconceptions…

The Myth

When you think of singing auditions, you probably think about American Idol.

At the beginning of every season, potential contestants are shown parading into the audition room. They wear big numbered signs on their chest, sing a cappella, and are given feedback about their talent. It’s like watching a train wreck: you don’t want to look, but you can’t turn away.

That stuff is great for ratings, but it’s not reality. (Thank God.)

Singing Auditions

The Reality

For starters, you won’t have to sing a cappella. There’s almost always an accompanist in the room. And there’s no feedback from the auditors, just a polite “Thank you.”

Don’t let me fool you, singing auditions are high pressure situations. And how you perform will determine if you get hired. The very best thing you can do? Prepare.

Preparing for your Audition

Frequently, you’ll spy a musical theatre actor walking around holding a three-ring binder. That’s his songbook. It contains the 15 to 20 audition songs that he rehearses and uses at his auditions.

Your own songbook should contain the piano and vocal sheet music to your audition songs. When you walk into the room, it goes in front of your accompanist.

It’s important to create a diverse array of audition songs. Pick from different genres of music, and you’ll be prepared for any type of audition.

Singers often ask if they should use choreography in their songs. Well, that depends. Do you think it’s appropriate?

You may wish to use light choreography in your more comedic songs, if it seems to fit. But if you’re singing a heartfelt ballad, perhaps you’d rather just stand there and sing with truth.

If you choreograph your audition songs, commit to that 100%.

The Bottom Line

The goal at singing auditions is the same as with your monologues, resumé, headshot, etc. Present your best self. Because you’re selling you. Do that, and we promise you’ll be working as an actor in no time.

Credit: Article sourced from Ace-Your-Audition

Top 7 Tips for better Headshots

Selective Focus Photography of Woman's Face

The headshot. It’s the single most important marketing tool for an actor, singer, dancer or model, and it’s amazing how many people do it wrong just to cut a few corners. Artists, it’s time to take it more seriously. When that little headshot jpeg pops up on a casting director’s computer, you want them to say, “Yes, bring that person in!” Not “Yikes, that guy kinda scares me.”

Your headshot is your calling card. A nice color 8×10 of your face, from which people will hire you, and you will make lots of money for them. It will be sent out and emailed to tons of casting directors and agents, who see hundreds of these every day, on their desk and on their computer. If your headshot is bad, you look bad. You want to be seen as a pro, not an amateur, so the way you present yourself in your picture is everything. If you want people to take you seriously, you must have a good, high quality, killer headshot. Not an iPhone pic, not a Facebook photo of you outside with the wind gently blowing your hair, and not a JCPenney glamour shot with palm trees in the background that you reproduced at Kinko’s. Save those for your grandma’s mantle.

Here is what you need to keep in mind when it comes to your headshots:

1. Go pro. 
Spend the money. It’s worth it. Go to a professional, who is trained, understands lighting, and takes headshots for a living, not some friend who happens to have a decent camera who “sorta knows a little about photography.” Save those pictures for Instagram, and leave the headshots to the pros. Good headshots range from $400-$1200, and to get them professionally duplicated (not at CVS) will cost you another $100. Anything less is just a glorified passport photo. If the headshots look cheap, they probably are. And you look like you don’t care about your career.

2. Go for personality over glamour. 
Make sure it looks like you. Chill with the airbrushing. Casting directors expect you to look just like your headshot, and will not be happy when you show up looking totally different, or 10 years older. It’s not about looking pretty, it’s about representing your type, age wrinkles includedIt should look like you on your best day, showing your age, and who you are now. It’s not about the type you want to be, it’s the type you are.

 

3. It’s all about the eyes. 
Just like with on-camera acting, it’s all about the eyes, and what’s happening behind them. It’s your closeup, your moment. Your eyes should be perfectly in focus, alive, and energized, and not dead and glazed over. There should be strong inner thoughts, implying a backstory and a life behind the eyes. A slight squint and strong piercing eyes will bring a picture to life and help it stand out in a pile of hundreds. A good headshot photographer knows how to bring this out in you.

4. Pay attention to framing, lighting, and background. 
In general, a good headshot is chest-up with good lighting on your face, and no strong dramatic shadows, unless you are going in for “The Phantom of the Opera.” Three-quarter shots are good for print, and extreme close-ups are good for, well, nothing. Look directly into the camera, and the focus should be on the center of your eyes, not your left ear, or your shirt collar. No peace signs, weird facial hair, or the famous “hand on face” pose. Be sure the background is blurred, which means it’s shot with a good, high-quality camera with a high depth of field, which makes you stand out. We don’t need to see that you are standing on the beach in Santa Monica, or on a tour boat in front of the Statue of Liberty. It’s about you, not the environment.

5. Natural light vs. studio.
Some photographers do both, as they offer a different look and feel. Natural light gives a very real, “film” look, which I prefer. Studio lighting tends to be a little more polished, with a more neutral backdrop. Both can be wonderful. If you are more of a sitcom actor, perhaps a good well-lit studio headshot is more suited for you. If you want to look like you are on “True Detective,” then go for the outdoor look.

6. Clothing and props. 
I once saw a headshot of a guy with a bird on his head. Why? Because he wanted to stand out. Let’s not get crazy here. Keep it simple and classy, and follow the standard format. Professionalism gets you noticed, not desperation. Leave the Ed Hardy and the “statement” shirts at home. A simple, solid color shirt with a little texture that fits you well and matches your eyes should do the trick. No whites and no graphics or anything you think might distract from your face. And no props. (You know that, right?) If you think you are going to play cop roles, you don’t need to wear the outfit in the headshot. It’s a bit much and very limiting.

7. Don’t go crazy with the makeup. 
Yes, lots can be done with retouching. There is no need to put on tons of makeup. You want to look like yourself on your best day, and not look like you tried too hard. Girls, be yourself, do your hair the way you would for every audition. Guys, bring some oil sheets to take down the shine, and maybe use a lightly tinted moisturizer to take out the redness and even your skin tone. Some people spend way too much on makeup, only to have to get their headshots redone afterward because they look fake in all the photos.

Find a photographer that gets you. You have to vibe with the photographer, and that person has to make you feel very comfortable, as you will hopefully be using this headshot for a couple of years and sending it to everyone in town. Research photographers online, go to Reproductions and look through their portfolio books, look through the list of photographers in Backstage, ask for a consultation, get a feel for how they photograph your type, your ethnicity, your gender, etc.

And most importantly, don’t cut corners.

Credit: Article Sourced from Backstage Magazine (Matt Newton)

Singers Audition Do’s and Dont’s

Photo of Woman Singing in Music Studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Source: Pexels

Do arrive on time and prepared. Tardiness will reflect poorly on you, as no one will want to hire or work with someone who is unreliable or inconsiderate of others who must wait on them in order to start rehearsals and performances. No one likes a self-centered diva.

Do dress appropriately. Your outfit should reflect your personality. However, it should be neither too revealing nor too modest (e.g., loose and frumpy to the point where it hangs off you in an unflattering manner). Avoid costumes and overly quirky or eccentric attire – unless you are auditioning for a band that would expect you to have a unique look – or you may not be taken seriously as an artist. The outfit should appear clean and pressed. If you have a long drive to the audition, consider changing into your audition clothing at the venue. If it is likely that you will have a long waiting time, be sure to dress comfortably. For women, ensure that, if you wear high heels, you can walk and move gracefully in them. Clumsy tripping is not the kind of entrance that you will want to be remembered for. Above all, the clothing that you choose to wear should not interfere with your ability to sing. It should, therefore, not be tight-fitting or constricting to the point where your ability to breath efficiently and support your tone is affected.

Do warm up your voice before entering the audition room. This may be challenging with others around who are also warming up, but it is important that your voice be ready to give its best show. Don’t be self-conscious if others are around. The only judgment of your voice that matters will be the one that the audition panel gives you.

Do remain hydrated throughout the day of your audition in order to effectively lubricate your vocal folds so that they will function optimally.

Don’t allow your nerves to get the better of you. Nervousness can weaken your voice by making it sound shaky and uncontrolled. While it is normal to be nervous, do your best to hide how you are feeling. Nerves are often interpreted as a lack of confidence and experience.

Don’t allow yourself to become intimidated by the other singers around you. While some of them may have more vocal training or skills or experience than you have, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will get the part over you – (they may not be right for it) – or that they will be moved on to the next round of auditions instead of you. Don’t psyche yourself out, because your fear and doubt surrounding your abilities may negatively affect you during your audition, making you appear more nervous and self-conscious before the judges. Convince yourself that you have just as much business being there and auditioning as those other singers do.

If you are auditioning for a choir and you must audition with a solo, don’t become obsessed with having to sing by yourself when you are more comfortable singing within a group. In a lot of cases, the choir director is not auditioning you as a soloist, (or even a potential soloist), expecting your voice to have a certain quality, but is going to be listening instead for how well you articulate your words, how well you pronounce the words in a foreign language piece, how well you will blend with the rest of the ensemble, or how well you can hold a tune.

Do try to enjoy yourself and think positively about the audition experience. It can be rewarding on so many levels. Try to learn what you can, and expect that you will be better at auditioning on the other side of this audition.

An audition often includes a bit of an interview component in which singers will be asked to provide resumes or fill out forms asking for biographical information, and answer questions about their training and performance experience. Do come prepared with a list of the shows that you have been in, and the roles that you have played.

Do appear to be proud of your achievements and don’t be apologetic for your lack of accomplishment or training so far in your career. The panel may not be looking for the most experienced performer or the most highly trained vocalist. Rather, the directors may be seeking someone with presence, personality and an impalpable quality about them over someone with exceptional skills. Also, you may be asked to ‘promote’ yourself, just as you would in any other interview, so be prepared to tell the judges why you feel that you are the right person for the role (e.g., why you believe that you could be the next American Idol). Think through your responses ahead of time so that you can articulate them well, which will help you to appear confident.

Do be mindful of how you carry and present yourself from the moment that you enter the room to the moment that you exit it. The judges will be looking for confidence but not cockiness, and friendliness but not inappropriateness or a lack of interpersonal boundaries. Confidence in your own skills is necessary in order to succeed on stage as a performer and to sell yourself to an audience. Cockiness or arrogance, on the other hand, makes you difficult to work with or resistant to following direction, and they suggest that you are unwilling to learn and grow as an artist.

Do smile. A genuine smile will make you appear pleasant to work with and less nervous, and will invite feelings of goodwill amongst everyone in the room.

Do be yourself. If you are hired either because of the personality or the style that you present during your audition, you will be expected to be that same person or vocalist later on. Faking takes a lot of energy, and you will eventually be found out.

If you are going to be auditioning without instrumental accompaniment (i.e., a cappella), do use a pitch pipe – a harmonica-like device with marked openings for different notes that is used to give a singer a pitch reference (i.e., a starting note) – or find a nearby piano and strike the correct key to give you your ideal starting pitch. Another trick that can be employed when singing a cappella if a pitch pipe would be too noticeable or awkward and if a musical instrument is not available is to inaudibly (e.g., either very quietly so that the judges won’t hear or silently in your head) sing the highest note of the song, then find your starting note in relation to that highest note. For example, if the highest notes occur in the chorus – more often than not, they do – quickly run through that chorus in your head, imagining yourself singing those notes in the ideal range of pitches for your voice.

Once you have finished singing through the chorus in your head, begin singing the verse aloud for the judges. Nearly all singers are able to use this trick successfully, as it is difficult to imagine themselves singing notes that they are physically incapable of singing or that are in weaker parts of their ranges. The judges likely won’t mind if you take a brief moment to find your starting place before beginning to sing your audition selection. Few people have perfect pitch – which does not mean singing perfectly on tune all the time – and it’s very easy to start out a song in the wrong key, especially when nervousness is present. Beginning a song either too high or too low can make you struggle to sing the highest or lowest notes of the song, which may lead to pitch errors and poor tone as you attempt to cover up for the difficulties reaching those notes. Even though the judges may be sympathetic and will recognize what has happened, they will nevertheless be unimpressed and may not allow you a do over.

Do move a little as you sing, but avoid excessive or exaggerated movements. Also, avoid cliche or ‘theatrical’ hand gestures and poses. You want to come across as lively and interesting, not cheesy and over the top. Resist the urge to snap your fingers either to keep yourself on tempo or to look like you’re singing ‘in the groove’.

Do not move around very much with your feet. While a little movement over the audition space will probably be acceptable to the judges, you don’t want to dizzy them by nervously pacing on the stage, rocking back and forth or side to side, or dancing frenetically. You want to show that you are feeling the song with your whole body, but you don’t want to shake your head or move too dramatically.

Do make eye contact with the judges. They will be looking for someone who has confidence and who will be able to connect with and engage an audience. It is usually okay to close your eyes, but only briefly and infrequently. Closing your eyes, though, may be interpreted as a sign of discomfort with singing in front of an audience, as a lack of self-confidence or as shyness.

Don’t become visibly flustered or stop singing if you make a mistake. Instead, continue on with singing your piece as if nothing has happened. In a live performance setting, this is precisely what you would have to do, and the panel of judges may be looking to see that you are quick on your feet and can successfully cover up your mistakes, hiding them from an audience and critics. If the people who are evaluating your skills point out the mistake or comment on it, it is fine to acknowledge that you were aware of it, but don’t apologize, give excuses, beg and plead to start over or begin crying. They may be looking to see that you can accept criticism or direction, or that your internal ear is capable of recognizing when your vocal performance is less than perfect. There is also no need for you to voluntarily bring your error to the judges’ attention. It is possible that they may not have even noticed it, or that it wasn’t really that significant to them.

Don’t panic or get discouraged if the person who is auditioning you doesn’t make eye contact with you while you are singing. Sometimes a choir director or judge will close his or her eyes or look away in order to be able to listen more critically to the texture of your voice without the distraction of watching you. His or her lack of direct eye contact does not necessarily mean that he or she is not paying attention to your singing or is not enjoying your audition.

Do invite and accept constructive feedback so that you may continue to learn, grow and improve your auditioning and singing skills.

Do not become combative or argumentative – (again, no one likes a diva) – but humbly listen to and accept what the judges have to say about your performance and their reasons for either accepting or rejecting you. Their critique may help you to do better at your next audition, or in the next round of auditions. Additionally, you may encounter these same judges in a future audition or working situation, and you don’t want to give them a lasting undesirable impression of you. Don’t burn bridges, professionally speaking. While you may not be right for the particular part or competition that you are auditioning for this time, you may be right for the next role that these same judges are casting for, and they may think of you first because you stood out in a positive way when they first met you. Sometimes, you are simply not what they are looking for right now, and their rejection of you is not a reflection of what they truly think of your talent.

Do thank the judges for their time, and let them know that you have appreciated the opportunity that they have given you to sing for them. (You would do the same at any other job interview.)

Credit: Article sourced from Singwise

Social Media DONT’S

Image Source: The CW

When you think about embarrassing social media behavior, you probably think about octogenarians who accidentally post their phone numbers in a Facebook status. But embarrassing social media perils are everywhere for users of all ages, particularly for actors.

 

But it’s 2019 and social media is as important to your acting brand as your signature monologue or audition song, so we want to help you avoid these digital landmines and lead with your best online foot forward.

Contacting industry professionals you don’t know.

“If you met them at a pay-to-meet or networking event, it’s a perfect time to follow up. In NYC recently we queried over 50 top industry professionals at our Actor Marathon, and only one percent wanted to be reached via Facebook, none via Twitter. On the west coast about 20 percent said it was OK and actually had a separate professional Facebook account for actors to reach them. Still, you need to ask first.” —Gwyn Gilliss, manager, casting director, and Backstage Expert

Not actually learning how to do it.
“Many actors dislike social media because they don’t understand how it works. They sign up for a new platform, spend 15 minutes on it, then get angry at themselves for not being more socially savvy. Sound familiar? You can learn to use social media to create the career you want. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how good you are with technology—learning a new social media platform is like learning how to ride a bike. It takes time, practice, and determination. Trust your training wheels before you tackle the big hill. Start slow and learn the basics of each platform before you try posting 20 times a week.” —Heidi Dean, social media expert and Backstage Expert

This. 
“Never send out a tweet with specific details of an audition or job. That will get you fired.” —Marci Liroff, producer, casting director, and Backstage Expert

Total social media insincerity.
“Above all, you have to be yourself. Before you post anything, ask yourself, ‘Would I say this in real life? Would I talk about this in real life?’ If you wouldn’t, don’t post it; people see right through the fake and the phony. Your audience is following you not only for the information you’re putting out there but how you’re putting it out there and that’s where your personality comes in. Anyone can find the facts, but there is only one you.” —Arda Ocal, NYC-based broadcaster and Backstage Expert

Your green monster is showing. 
“Seeing your social media ‘friends’ post photos from the audition waiting room or on set along with #SoBlesed and #ActorsLife can make you feel like you’re not enough. There you are looking at Facebook in socks and underwear eating cereal for dinner in your tiny apartment comparing yourself to a well-filtered image of your Facebook friend next to the steady-cam operator. Then that negative voice inside your head starts to pipe up. It compares you to the actors you see on social media. All of a sudden you’re paralyzed with feelings of inadequacy that prevent forward motion as an actor. Worthlessness sets in and you start to believe that you won’t succeed.

“But most often it’s comparing the worst parts of your life with the best parts of other people’s. And when the comparison is with a social media picture or narrative, you’re comparing yourself to a skillfully manipulated image designed to present an image of success. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, most of us use social media to present a facade to manipulate the viewer into believing something about us that we are trying to be. The comparison is flawed.” —Risa Bramon Garcia and Steve Braun, Backstage Experts

Trying too hard to be social media “famous.”
“Social media is a very powerful tool, and being a social media figure isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and planning, and I can tell if someone is really ‘working it’ or just phoning it in. I’m looking for an organically authentic person—and perhaps someone who isn’t just concerned about getting photos of themselves out there, but who has taken on a political and social stance that can, dare I say, make the world a better place. Look at Yara Shahidi of ‘Black-ish.’ She used her platform to start Eighteen x 18, an initiative to encourage young people to vote for the first time.” Marci Liroff

Falling off the digital map. 
“Fans love keeping up with actors and social media makes it easier than ever, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. With new platforms launching practically every day, it seems nearly impossible to keep up. Don’t panic! Instead, concentrate your efforts on fewer platforms so it’s easier for you to stay active without burning out. What you don’t want to do is go M.I.A. as it’s the fastest way to lose fans.” Tammy Lynn, publicist and Backstage Expert

Credit: Article Sourced from Backstage Magazine

12 Top Tips for Singing Your Best

NG

Are you straining to sing high notes? Is your voice tired or sore after long rehearsals or performances? If you want to sing with clarity, power, projection and effortless, here are a few simple things you can do to sing with FREEDOM now. In preparation for your International journey to iPoP! I will be available for Online lessons HERE

1. Warm up your body before your voice. Aerobic exercise is a great way to warm up before singing. When your body is energized, your voice responds faster. You’ll know you’re warm when you start to sweat.

2. Release tension. Tension is a singer’s worst enemy. Yoga or deep stretching before you sing will show you where you’re holding tension. Don’t hold your breath and try to push past your limit. Gently exhale deeper into each stretch. Your mouth and jaw should open and close freely, your facial muscles, lips, tongue, neck, and shoulders should move without tension, and your eyes should be relaxed and alive.

3. Don’t “take” a breath. When we speak, we don’t run out of breath in the middle of our sentences and we don’t actively “take” a breath before we speak. Our body knows how much air we need because it responds to what we want to say. In much of our vocal register, the same rules apply. Actively “taking” a breath can cause tension in your chest, shoulders, and neck. Think your thought and you’ll have the air you need for the phrase you need to sing.

4. Don’t hold your breath before you sing. Read any sentence in this blog out loud. Done? Notice you didn’t hold your breath and you exhaled as you spoke. Now sing that sentence. It should feel the same. If you took a breath and held it right before you sang, you’re causing tension by doing too much. Just say what you have to sing.

5. Open your mouth. Open your mouth. If you’re not holding your breath you’ll feel an instant connection to your belly moving in and out. If this feels like it does when you’re yawning, you’re open wide enough. At least two fingers’ width between your teeth is a good position for singing.

6. Sing like an idiot! Imitate the village idiot’s slack jaw (open mouth), fat tongue, loose jaw, lips, and neck. Your head should float like a bubblehead doll. Now reclaim your intelligence, but retain the idiot’s relaxation and you’re in a good state for singing.

7. Speak on pitch. Singing should feel the same as speaking. Rest your fingertips on your Adam’s apple (or where it would be for women). This is your larynx which houses your vocal cords. Swallow and it moves up. Yawn and it comes down. When you speak normally it stays in place, even when the spoken pitch varies. The same thing should happen when you sing. It stays still whether you’re moving up or down in pitch. Relax your larynx to keep it steady and sing the way you speak.

8. Care deeply about what you’re singing. Whatever you’re saying/singing must mean everything to you. You must understand your lyric in a deeply personal way. This makes your performance believable and allows your voice to relax and open in response to your thoughts just as it does when you speak passionately in your life.

9. Singers are athletes. Singing is physical. You must express your passion with your whole body. Bend your knees and engage your quads (thigh muscles) while keeping your upper body relaxed and free as a bird.

10. Warm down. Try humming on low pitches or sliding from your highest, easily reached note, down to your lowest note for a few minutes to warm down after a performance. These exercises re-lubricate tired vocal folds and have a calming effect.
11.  High notes go down, not up! When you approach a high note, think that it goes down, not up! It’s like the way a seesaw works. When a bigger kid sits on one end, it goes down but your end goes up. The heavier he is, the higher you go. Likewise, give your high notes plenty of oomph “down” if you want them to pop up on the other end.
12. Work with a good coach. It’s safer, more fun, and you’ll learn to sing well faster with a good coach—so give me a shout if you need me. I’m happy to help you. No matter who you choose, your coach should sound good when they sing.

Credit: The Vocal Coach – Nico Goosen