The Overnight Singing Sensation – Fantasy vs. Reality

Miami Vocal Lessonson October 7th, 2012No Comments

Have a great voice? Want to be a singer? There have never been as many opportunities to jump-start your musical dreams come as there are today. From England to Mexico to Australia, televised competitions catapult singers to fame, and the U.S. is no exception. Your friends are probably telling you to audition. You’re good. Really good. And if Susan Boyle can do it, why can’t you? If the audition process isn’t for you, you can put your songs on YouTube and watch your video go viral. Isn’t that all Justin Bieber had to do?

Most amateur singers don’t understand that what people expect from you as a professional is totally different from what you can get away with as an amateur. When you’re an amateur, your audience is supportive – and forgiving. When you’re a professional, they are highly critical. They have a right to be, because they paid money to come and see you. You need to prove to them that you’re worth it.

No matter how beautiful your voice may be, if you’re serious about going pro, you need to do these three things:

1. Get professional help – The voice is a complex musical instrument instrument, just like the piano or the violin. To learn to play the violin, chances are your first step after buying one would be to find the best teacher you could afford. Yet for some inexplicable reason, a surprising number of novice singers hoping to win national competitions and get record deals think that they don’t need any help.

It’s hard to objectively assess your sound when your instrument is part of your body. Think about the difference between how you think you sound and what you hear when you listen to a recording of your voice. Your first instinct is to say that the recording is distorting your voice, right? That’s why you need a voice coach with a trained ear and proven techniques to guide and teach you as you develop your polished and professional sound.

2. Realize how much you need to learn – A good voice coach will tell you up front if you’ve got the raw talent. S/he will assess your strengths and weaknesses and customize a step-by-step plan to help you reach realistic goals. Once you get this feedback, you’ve got to internalize it. I did this by studying performers who inspired me, comparing their singing to mine. It’s an intimidating exercise, but music is an intimidating business. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to face the good, the bad, and the ugly.

YouTube is a great place to start. Find the types of music and the singers that interest you. Study their breathing, their phrasing and timing, their tone, note choices, improvisation, and the emotion and sincerity they put into their delivery. Watch their body language and movement, their energy, facial expressions, and when you can find it, their interaction with their band and audience. Next, go to hear live performances as often as possible. Notice what you like and what you don’t, and why.

As you start to appreciate how much you’ll need to learn, don’t be discouraged. Remember, you have the raw talent. The only way you can reach your true potential is by accurately mapping the journey you need to take to get there.

3. Practice, practice, practice. Millions of people have the voice needed to pursue a singing career. What separates the wannabees from the winners isn’t luck or even talent; it’s hard work and persistence. That means practicing every day to hone your craft. If you want people to take you seriously, you have to be serious.

Follow these steps and you will get better and better over time. As you put yourself out there, you will be noticed. More importantly, when you’re noticed, you will be ready. That’s how you become the overnight singing sensation that is every amateur singer’s fantasy and the successful singer that is every hard-working professional’s reality.

By Liz Bieler

X-Factor/American Idol or Any Singing Audition: Top 10 DO’s

Miami Vocal Lessonson November 6th, 2011No Comments

Last week, I talked about the ten mistakes that I see most often as people approach auditions and singing competitions.  Now that we’ve talked about what not to do, here are the top ten things you should do to help get you to the next level in your vocal career.

X-Factor/American Idol or Any Singing Audition:  Top 10 DO’s

1.  Plan ahead.  If singing is what you want, don’t just react when there’s an audition.  Be proactive and start working on your voice now, so when a show like X-Factor or American Idol comes to town, you’ll be ready.

2.  Get a good coach.  There are lots of people who give singing lessons.  To sing professionally, you need to work with a professional voice coach.  He or she can help you diagnose your strengths and weaknesses and explain to you what you need to do to help you sing your best. 

3.  Pick songs you really believe in and make sure you can sing them well.  If you say you can’t find them, then you aren’t looking hard enough.  This process can take days to do right, so don’t procrastinate. I coach my students through the process, but you’ve got to be willing to do your homework. 

4.  Be real.  Singing a song is telling a story.  That’s why it’s important to believe in the songs you sing.  Don’t make hand gestures for the sake of making hand gestures, etc.  Be in the moment.  Forget about the audience and do what feels real to you.

5.  Confidence is Critical.  Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  No matter how good you are, if you get up and look nervous, no one will see your talent.   You have to believe in yourself if you want your audience to believe in you.

6.  Take advantage of YouTube; it’s a tremendous resource.  It has karaoke versions of most songs to help you practice if you don’t have karaoke tracks of your own.  Even better, YouTube is an encyclopedia of performances for the songs you want to sing and the songs you don’t yet know.  Study other artists’ interpretations and deliveries as you learn to develop your own individual style.

7.  Feedback is a gift.  Don’t expect your voice teacher to rubberstamp your performance.  Whether it’s with your voice teacher or with the likes of Simon Cowell, you need to listen and learn from your mistakes.  If you are only looking for compliments, then the music business is not for you.

8.  Respect and care for your body.  Your voice and your body are you instrument.  The stress that we all feel before an audition, a show, or a recording makes many performers sick, including me.  Rest up.  Hydrate.  (You can’t drink enough water).  Eat well and exercise.  No matter what, the show must go on, so do everything you can to support your immune system.

9.  Dress for success.  Every music genre has a look.  Don’t walk into an audition dressed in your Sunday sweats.  Make an effort to look good.  Think about your what you want your look to be.  That includes hair and make-up.  If you want to stand out, take a risk.  It may backfire if you can’t believe in it and pull if off, but it can also be what makes you stand out from the crowd.  After all, where would Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, Kiss or Madonna be without their unique looks?

 10.  Keep your eye on the prize.  People come to me for lessons because they have a dream.  It’s not fair to lead people on, so I give each student an honest assessment of what I think he or she can realistically achieve.  But dreams usually take time.  Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get there overnight, because you can’t lose focus.  You have to have faith.  Stay confident.  With faith, confidence and consistent hard work, many of my students have made their musical dreams come true.   If it’s really what you want, then go for it!  Remember to enjoy the journey.  I wish you all the best.

This blog has been brought to you by The Kramer Voice Company

http://kramervoicecompany.com/

X-Factor/American Idol or Any Singing Audition: Top Ten Don’ts

Miami Vocal Lessonson October 26th, 2011No Comments

X-Factor/American Idol or Any Singing Audition: Top Ten Don’ts

The X-Factor came to Miami earlier this year for auditions.  Because this competition places no age limits on its talent search, whenever they come to South Florida, people come to me from West Palm Beach to the Florida Keys – people all ages, experience and walks of life for coaching and singing lessons.  They come to mend every possible crack in their vase, so when the pressure is on, they won’t shatter.

This year we coached a 55-year old traveling salesman from Ft. Lauderdale.  He had sung in high school, lost the dream, and wanted to audition.  There was a Hassidic Jewish man who sang Fiddler on the Roof for his audition.  There were teens and pre-teens.  The music ranged from 50’s doo-wop to Latin pop and Latin rock to jazz, country, mainstream rock and mainstream pop.

Teaching people how to reach their vocal best is the Kramer family business.  We are the exception that makes the rule – teachers who can – and do – actually sing professionally.

I had a dream and I fought for it – hard – until I became the proverbial rock star.  Twenty years later, I’m still singing, still performing, and still releasing albums.  It’s not an easy business, and I’ve learned some pretty important lessons along the way.   If you are thinking about auditioning for a competition, increase your chances for success by avoiding the following mistakes:

Top 10 DON’TS for a Successful Audition:

1.  Start earlyYou can’t cram six months’ of work into three weeks.  Yes, we can do quick fixes, helping you with your diction, breathing, and interpretation.  We can work on the basics of increasing your range and improving your stage presence.  But we can’t do the long-term work of polishing your voice and getting you to a professional level.  That takes time.  Don’t wait for an audition deadline to get started if you’re really serious about singing.

2. Don’t get stuck on the wrong song.  Too many students insist on singing a song they like rather than a song they sing well.  Start by picking 10 songs.  Be open to feedback. Really listen.  I narrow my students’ list to three songs that sound best for them by the second lesson.  Favor one, but prepare all three.  If you make it to round two, you’ll need them.

3. Don’t try to sing out of your range. Many singers think they have to show that they can hit certain notes.  The bottom line is if it sounds bad, it’s over.  Stick to your sweet spot for an audition.  We can work on increasing your range over time.

4. Be original. Don’t follow the pack.  Pick a song that isn’t in America’s current top 40.  If everyone else is singing the song you bring to the audition, you are automatically compared to them and it’s much harder for you to stand out.

5. Don’t be a carbon copy, but don’t venture too far off the ranch.  You need to be original within commercial zones.  You can and should vary your timing or your note sequences, but keep in mind that you need to appeal to a national audience, so don’t get carried away.

6. Don’t worry about getting the judges to like you. Trying too hard is a turn-off in any situation.  Tell your story your own way.  Don’t watch the judges to figure out their reaction; compel them to watch you.

7. Sing in tune. It’s not as simple as it sounds – for any of us.  Most people are too distracted when they’re practicing to pay attention to their pitch.  Record yourself so you can listen when you’re not busy singing and identify your rough spots.  A phone, PC, or any smart electronic device will do.  Once you’re aware of them, I can work with you to hit the right notes.

8. Proper breathing – It’s easy to teach a singer to breath correctly if they’re willing to let go of old habits.  I work with my students to vocally “choreograph” each song so that breaths are planned and they stay in control of their vocal delivery.

9. Don’t scream with the crowd the night before your audition. You’ve come too far to blow it now.  If you plan on arriving to your audition the night before to get a good spot in line, don’t get caught up in the excitement and blow out your voice.  And make sure that you get good rest for the two nights prior, because if you’re tired, you’re not at your best.

10. If you’re old enough to drink, don’t. The time to celebrate is after your audition not before.  Your instrument is part of your body, so take good care of it.

Check back with us next week for the top ten DO’s for your best audition.

This blog has been brought to you by The Kramer Voice Company

http://kramervoicecompany.com/2011/10/26/x-factoramerican-idol-or-any-singing-audition-top-ten-don%e2%80%99ts/

How to Overcome Stage Fright

Miami Vocal Lessonson October 18th, 2011No Comments

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that I never get stage fright.   They tell me that everybody gets it.  It’s true that many – maybe most – singers get stage fright before a performance.  From opera to pop to rock, acclaimed artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart and even Elvis Presley have all succumbed to it.

When Rod Stewart made his U.S. debut as the lead singer for the Jeff Beck Group in 1968, he was so nervous that he sang the entire opening song hiding behind a stack of speakers.  Carly Simon is said to have poked herself in the hand with safety pins before performing to help herself get past the jitters.  And Barbra Streisand was so distraught after forgetting the lyrics to one song during her 1967 live performance in Central Park that she stopped performing live for 27 years, fearing she would make the same mistake again.  Streisand is quoted as having said that, “Some performers really do well when they forget the words.  They forget the words all the time, but they somehow have humor about it.  I remember I didn’t have a sense of humor about it.  I was quite shocked.”

So what makes me so special?  Nothing.  I’m not a better singer than those who get frightened.  I’m not better prepared.    I don’t have better musicians backing me up, and the audiences who come to hear me aren’t any more accepting or forgiving.  In fact, I’ve been heckled by drunken air-guitarists sitting in the front row who want to put me in my place or impress their girlfriends more times than I care to mention.  I’ve gone onstage with the flu.  I’ve gone on stage on the verge of laryngitis.  No matter the circumstances, I don’t get nervous.

Why?  Because I refuse to let anyone or anything get in the way of my dream.   When I go onstage, I have a mission.  I want to be successful in reaching and moving my audience, and I expect that I will be – no matter what.  I may have a bad day – everyone does, and I am no exception.  Some of my performances are much better than others.  It doesn’t matter.  When I walk onto a stage, I own that room.  I visualize what I intend to make happen:  that every eye turn toward me and my music will take my audience exactly where I want them to go.

The key is confidence.   The audience takes its queues from the performer.  If they see you sweat, they know you are weak and insecure.   They see that you don’t believe yourself, so why should they?  Once they see your self-doubt, your stage fright becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Generally, one of two things can happen.  Best-case scenario, they lose interest in you and start talking to each other, checking their emails, or simply stop paying attention.  Worst-case scenario, they turn against you.  They came to be entertained, and watching someone hesitate and hold back just doesn’t cut it.

The best way to conquer stage fright is to stop thinking about yourself.    The audience isn’t looking for perfection.  In fact, perfection can be boring.   Whether you are a singer, an actor, an executive, a motivational speaker or anyone else who has to get up and address an audience, what matters most is that you tell your story and connect with your audience.

I came across a personal story recently on the internet written by a man named George Knight that I think can help give us perspective.   Knight was the MC at a dinner where Tom Landry, the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach, gave the keynote address to 300 people.  Landry is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  He played and coached in some of the most important games in NFL history.  He flew missions over Germany as a bomber pilot during World War II.  And even he suffers from stage fright almost every time he addresses an audience.

Noticing his sweaty palms and his clear nervousness before his speech, Knight asked him about it afterward, wanting to know how he overcomes it.  Landry explained,   “I remind myself of what I often told my players,” he said. “Walk through your fear with faith. And you never let the fear of failure become the cause of failure.”

 

So the next time you are about to perform, remember there is no need or place for being nervous.  Mistakes are ok.  It’s confidence that matters more.  You’re there to tell your story.  Not everyone will listen, and not everyone will like it.  It doesn’t matter.   Don’t ever apologize.  It’s your story, and only you can tell it.  Focus on what you want to achieve, and don’t let anyone or anything take your eye off your prize.   It is by pushing through your fear that you get to the next plateau as a professional, and as a human being.

This blog is brought to you by The Kramer Voice Company

http://kramervoicecompany.com/2011/10/18/how-to-overcome-stage-fright/