Reality Competition Shows – Just say no!

the-voice-logo-200I no longer suggest to my students that they go to  auditions for singing or general-talent competition/reality shows. I have seen too many people, get through early and then, and not be seen on TV, as promised?

Some have been on, and knocked off. Others were given performance contracts to appear on TV, and never were contacted, again. Not even a courtesy phone call from the show producers. Just silence. Over time, I have developed a skeptical view on how truly real these shows are.

I was watching The Voice because I enjoy  the format.  The talent somewhat inconsistent. Some deserve to be heard, and others… well, not so  much.  I don’t understand how they got on. Oh, ok…  just like it often is, they knew someone.

Then, the audience takes over judging, and that is a huge mistake. It becomes a popularity contest, not a singing competition, judged by professionals.

Look who won last year…  exactly, you can’t remember, either, can you? Well, I do remember, and she was young and country and NOT ready for Prime Time.

Have we heard anything from winners of The VoiceAmerican Idol, has produced many recording stars. The Voice is highest rated and has produced no one.

I like the format of The Voice. Contestants can be voted off from their coach and another coach can steal them, putting the contestant back in the mix, for another chance. Love That idea!  Brilliant!

Many of this year’s crop of singers are just so-so, and I just don’t see the big deal. I see judges get overly excited and I wonder, do they really need the money from judging, that badly?

Do these singers sound better in person?

I can count on one hand, the singers, this year, that are good. Not great, but good.  So, as I said, “This was the last year, for me.” I was getting any excitement about the season.  One of my students asked me about the show and if they should audition. I was honest, and said, “I wouldn’t invest your time in it, if I were you.” I explain the previous experiences I’ve observed and I simply don’t advise taking that path… PERIOD.

American idolThe whole reality show thing has run its course for me. I never really liked it and it didn’t grow on me. When my student, Scarlet, was on American Idol, it was exciting, until she texted me. She was allowed only two hours sleep, and was made to do a dance and learn a song in an hour. This was pure sleep deprivation for ALL the contestants, bordering on torture.

By the end of that stretch, Scarlet just wanted to get out of there!.  Then I saw another contestant pass out and fall off the stage. I am certain it was all  staged; nothing was real.

If you have talent, define it; be the best you can. sing with a live band, get plenty of experience, work clubs and pay your dues.

There are rarely overnight success or lottery ticket winners. From reality competition shows, only a scant few of the winners establish sustained, successful careers.

“Earn it your success with hard work. You are far more likely to hit the jackpot.”

That’s my take…

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

10 Success Tips For Singing Competition Auditions

Singing Competition Judges

Singing Competition Judges

I have watched countless singing competition auditions on TV shows. Now, having judged a talent show, I can tell you, how to get winning results.

Song Selection and Execution: Choose your song carefully. It should climb to a crescendo, quickly, and make sure it shows your range. Get to the bridge, fast, leave out a verse if the verses are too long.  We want to hear you really in control of every note.Do not bore them, with a ballad that doesn’t go anywhere.

You need to relate to the people, even if there are just three people there. You need to perform. To feel the song. Choose a song you love . A song close to your age (age appropriate) and will showcase your emotional range as well as your vocal range.

Breathing and Phrasing: Proper breathing and phrasing are  a must. If you are not trained, you can still learn a song correctly, by breathing where you would, if you were speaking the song. Take the lyrics, and speak them, pay attention to where you are breathing. That is where you should breathe when you sing it.

Then you need drama, and emotion. That’s why the song is important. You want the judges to have goose bumps. Move them. Make them feel something. You can go another way, and do a comedic number, but they won’t take you as seriously.

Song Choice Examples: ‘Nothing ‘ From ‘A Chorus Line’ is a great song for a Broadway show audition. Also ‘Blue Hair’  for theatre., ‘Life Of the Party’ from ‘The Wild Party’ Broadway show.  ‘Listen’ is great for pop.

If you are a belter, any song by Janis Joplin, Jesse J, Aretha Franklin, or Etta James are excellent picks… or the English singer Sam Brown, ‘Stay Baby Stay’.   But stay away from the overdone ‘Adele’ songs.  A nice ballad, ‘Wish me a Rainbow’ of the film, ‘This Property is Condemned’. Judges are tired of listening to Adele songs.

Some of these song choices are on the Las Vegas Vocal Training YouTube channel.

Top 10 Tips for Singing Competition Auditions

  1. Singing Competition AuditionsKnow the genre of the show, and what they are looking for. Look at video from past seasons, and study the people who got through.
  2. Choose a song that starts out strong, and if it doesn’t, start at the bridge.
  3. Wear something comfortable and flattering. Wear heels if you are a woman. Dress nicely, but not over done.
  4. Be comfortable onstage. Feel as though you belong there. Introduce yourself, and warm them to you. Breathe deeply before you go in, and exhale all the negative feelings.
  5. Look judges in the eyes. Then as you sing, concentrate on what you need to do to, and reel them in. Make them feel your song.
  6. Song selection will make or break you. Prepare three songs. I have had observed X-Factor auditions for my students. They were told to prepare 90 seconds. The audition person with the mic, asked for two entire complete songs from each of my students. That made three entire songs from start to finish. They even gave one student time to go out and think of another song. Be prepared and have more in mind, just in case.
  7. If they ask you questions, answer, clearly, loud, and with energy. These shows are largely about personality. If you hem and haw and yes or no, short answers, they will pass on you. You are not good television.
  8. Thank them after you are finished, and smile as if they are British royalty.
  9. When you sing, move about, as if you own the stage. Do not let them know you are frightened or insecure at all.
  10. Be as prepared as you can, and bring bio, picture, and an mp3 or a DVD. They will video record your audition, but having the tools makes you professional and makes you stand out!

The art of the audition is just that, an art. It takes time, thought, preparation, and practice. Really do your homework and get professional help if you can.  If you need sheet music for 16-bars or 32-bars or a  CD track, go to www.auditiontrax.com. Tom Grieps, in Los Angeles, provides this service for a reasonable fee. It’s a one-day service. He will send a pdf of your song, in your key;  CD or Sheet music and your music is ready.

Be prepared, be yourself, have fun. This is what you want to do, so act naturally.

Good Luck!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Why I’m mad at American Idol, and not going to take it anymore

american-idol-logo Last year Idol was the worst season of all, this year, was the second worst. I just can’t sit there and watch Randy Jackson use the word brilliant when someone was just OK I just cannot do it!! The judges have become cheerleaders for so-so singers, who I can hear at karaoke bars in Las Vegas. These guys were screaming, not singing. Pia was good but not BRILLIANT, and has room to grow. What was the big deal?

The X-Factor has not begun, yet I have my distaste for it already. Paula is a judge… again! Please, save me. Not just that, I have two students who have been through 2 and 3 audition segments and  did not make the cut. These are real singers, not potentially good, but real good, ready-for-primetime good.

The shows that I have faith in, are The Voice’ and the “Sing Off’   These are shows that showcase real talent. Not someone in a E T costume, then it is just a freak show.  I find the superstar coaches on the ‘The Voice’ are really honest, helpful and not just showing up.

I’ve had it with the Simons, and Paulas. They did a good job the first give years, but all good things must end. I would never want any of my students to sing for Simon, I just don’t think he is qualified. He likes ‘Il Divo’ and that’s fine, but it gives you an idea of his taste. Classical!  Good luck with pleasing him.  ‘America’s Got Talent’ is its own entity, jugglers against singers? I enjoy it, Michael Grimm deserved to win.

I remember ‘Star Search”.  that was a great show, but we have evolved and ‘The Voice” gets my vote!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Fifth Avenue took me back in time!

This weekend, the Suncoast Hotel booked the local vocal group Fifth Avenue as the showroom headliner.

Fifth Avenue member, Jerry Jones, is a friend, and I went to support him, support live music, and simply enjoy the show.. The band was great, Bill Fayne, on keys and Musical Director,  John Wedemeyer on guitar, Mike Meecham, on drums, Jamie Hosmer on second string keys, and last, but not least, the infamous Lenny Lopez on vocals and percussion.

The audience was filled with celebrities and retired gray-haired seniors who live nearby, play the slots and see whatever show is there. The people next to us had no idea who they were seeing. The showroom was filled to capacity.

The show opened with big screen comedic bit on cavemen about how harmony started, featuring Sid CaesarThe cavemen dropped heavy boulders on the feet of people and their screams became a vocal choir. Very funny concept.

Fifth Avenue then sang us through vocalese history and did bits of songs from different decades, another clip from the Music Man with Robert Preston setting up the barbershop music segment.

A significant chunk of the show took me down memory lane. My dad was the drummer for the Hi-Lo’s (which is mis-spelled on Fifth Avenues website). I grew up on the music of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, when Annie Ross left, it became  Lambert, Hendricks, and Bavan. I was singing “Twisted” and “Cloudburst” as a child. So, it was great to hear this music again. Are they as clean and precise as the Hi-Lo’s? No, not all the time, but the performances were superb.

The arranger Rob Hyatt is extremely talented as a vocal arranger, I just felt that some arrangements were unnecessarily complex. At times, less can be more.

I was in a vocal group, Commonwealth, and I know the hours and hours of rehearsal it takes to pull this off. We used to sing the horn parts and use fewer musicians, and had to be perfect every show. It is very demanding and I hope the audience realized just how hard these guys worked to make it happen.

The singers, Jerry Jones, Bryce Robinson, Jeff Celentano and Rob Hyatt, all have great stage presence and are funny, too.  Rob has an amazing range, went from top to bass, and Jeff has a great lead singer voice. Bryce has a great voice for theater and recording. Jerry has the mid-range, root note range with warmth in it.

Together, they do have what it takes to be a great group. Guest and new singer for the band, Tyriq Johnson joined them for Maroon Five’s “Sunday Morning”, the song they did for the TV show “The Sing Off”, they are waiting to see if they come back to do the show this coming season.

They opened with “Come Rain Or Come Shine” one of my favorite songs, and when they got to the 70’s era, Jamie and Lenny sang The Beatles’ “Come Together”.

One of the high points of the nights for me was the Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away”. Beautiful job on a splendid arrangement.

They spoofed The Jordanaires singing with no lead singer, and brought someone up from the audience to play Elvis, He didn’t know the song and it was pretty  funny when “Teddy Bear” was just back up. They killed it when they did the Four Seasons because Rob had that high Frankie Valli range.

If you get the chance to see Fifth Avenue, You will have a good time.  If you are a music lover, you will love every genre they cover, and that is many.

It all ended on a positive note for me, go on guys, Sing Sing Sing.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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