Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Auditions, Auditions, Auditions Abound! What can you do to prepare?

Auditions, Auditions, Auditions Abound!

Ah,’ tis the season of auditions all around!  It seems at every corner I turn, there is another student asking for help with an audition.  Some are right around the corner and some a few months away.  How do you prepare?  What do you need to do to really make an impact at that audition?  Although the type and format of auditions can vary greatly, there are a few things that you can always do to prepare for any audition.

1. Find out all of the information that you can about the audition as soon as possible.    Auditions vary greatly for different things, so don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions.

-    Do you need to prepare a certain song for each role you are auditioning for?
-    Do you need to prepare 32 measures of a song of your choice?
-    Do you need to have more than one selection prepared (one English, one Italian, one musical theater song)
-    Is there a sight-singing, monologue or dance component to the audition?

       2. Once you know the requirements for the audition, take them to your teacher and        PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE!

-   Learn all the notes and rhythms so you can sing it backwards and forwards
-   Research the text and look at it separate from the music.  Analyze the poem so you know what you are saying or research the opera or musical theater production so you know the character and what is happening with them when the song is sung
-   Add inflection and acting to the song.  Communicate with the audience.

    3. Work on the audition selections with your teacher numerous times. 

                         - Getting suggestions and corrections from your teacher will help you 
                             perfect it
                         - Work on diction, accuracy, and delivery of the audition selection

      4. Sing the audition material for your family, significant other, or members of 
       your studio.

                          - Singing in front of others will help you be more comfortable
                          - You can learn to control your nerves and your voices’ response to if 
                           you do get nervous
  - Getting feedback from multiple sources will help you to know if you are   really communicating the meaning of the piece
       5. Practice and prepare in the shoes and hairstyle that you will use for the 

                            -Shoes affect your posture and in turn how you are breathing
                            -Hair should be worn so that it does not fall in your face while singing, 
                            a distraction to both you and the audition panel

By doing all of these things you are arming yourself with the best thing you can going into an audition: CONFIDENCE in your product and yourself!  If you perform with confidence, you give the audition your best shot! You also minimize the chances of feeling like your nerves got the best of you.  With confidence and preparation you increase your chances of success! Break a leg in that next audition and stay tuned for more tips on acing that next audition!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

There are so many ways to practice, but can you practice singing with your mouth shut?

Can you successfully practice singing with your mouth shut?  ABSOLUTELY, many singers say.  All singers sometimes need to practice without actually singing due to illness, travel, being in a confined space when they really need to practice, preparing for a performance with a napping toddler in the house.  But according to Dean Southern in Practicing With Your Mouth Shut, we should make it a part of our regular practicing!  I agree with him 100%!!! There is no better way to really get the music in our systems then to think through it, research it, speak it, act it out, and live it!  Do not underestimate the power and efficiency of "mental practice"!

"The length of time that one can spend singing varies greatly from person to person and is dependent on a myriad of factors," Dean Southern states.  Every BODY and VOICE is different.  Throughout history, many great professional singers state that they spend just as much if not more time mentally practicing than physically practicing singing. Mary Garden, Debussy's Melisandre of the 19th century said she "sings it over mentally time and time again, studying harmony, phrasing, and breath so that I know it inside and out when the time comes to sing it."  Another great dramatic soprano of today, Christine Brewer, balances her practice between singing and study of the score and translation.

It makes complete sense to spend just as much time with the text of a song or role as one spends with the melody and rhythm.  When you really KNOW what you are saying, the phrasing falls in to place easier and you are truly communicating the song.  You absolutely need to spend time vocalizing and knowing how to sing the phrases with proper technique, but you also can accomplish so much by score and text study!

Gyorgy Sandor, a great piano pedagogue, states in practice we can "go through the motion mentally and the sequence becomes automatic: there are no wrong notes, no fear of a section, and we (sing) play with feeling".

Dean Southern further expands that when mentally practicing, we use our conscious mind to do 5 important things: Align our Body, Breathe, Relax the Jaw, Control the Tongue, and Work on Our Stage Presence.  Nothing can physically get in our way as we are not producing sound, but focusing our minds and bodies and imagining the sound, phrases, pitches, everything happening!  If you hear it correctly in your head when mentally practicing, then when you DO sing it, it will be well-rehearsed and beautiful.

Mental practice is "intelligent, effective, and efficient practice" which is a true bonus and compliment but not a substitute for physical practice.  Add some mental practice to your weekly practice sessions and see the difference!  Happy Singing!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Make Practice Less Frustrating - Use the 5 Whys Technique.

Make Practice Less Frustrating with the 5 Whys Technique.

A few days ago, I was writing articles on the best ways to practice and came across this wonderful technique.  While it is applicable specifically to musical study and practice, it also shows us how using the Why Technique can help in our business and work world as well.  Please click and view this link before continuing:

So, the 5 Why’s give us many avenues to explore to make our practice less frustrating!  Identifying WHY the problem occurs and working from there to solve it.  It is like a science experiment and exciting to figure it out.   “When you are practicing, there is something you are doing (or not doing) that produces the undesirable result you are getting”.  Don’t just do it again, figure out how to fix it!

Here is an example of how it goes in a practice session:

-Sing through your piece and isolate a tough spot. Why did the phrase not sound the way we wanted it to? Take a moment to think about it and trouble shoot to find the solution. 

-Are you unsure of the right note to sing? Review the pitch and try it again. Did it not fix the problem?  Why?

-If you now know the right note, do you know when to come in?  Review that and sing it again. Still not right?  Why?

-If you know the note and when to come in, are you sure of the rhythm of the whole phrase?  Check it, clap it, and do it again. Is it still not right?  Why?

-Are you taking a good breath before the phrase? Check your breath. Sing it again. Is it slightly better?  Hopefully, yes, but still not how you want it?  Again ask Why?

-How is your posture?  It that affecting your sound?  Find your good singing posture and sing it again. Was it vastly improved?  I hope the answer is yes!

If so, you successfully used the 5 Why Technique to solve a problem in practicing your repertoire.  This is a much better way to work something out in your practice time than just repeating the same mistakes or getting frustrated.  This technique can be used in many aspects of your life.  Try it out the next time you practice and share the results with your teacher!!