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

Usher Inspires Me Every Week

Usher

Usher

Usher is a wonderful coach on The Voice. He really gets through to the singers how important being in shape is, as is breathing.

When my students arrive, the first step is to breathe and stretch. If someone says, “Oh, I worked out before I came here”, I can tell if they have.

Let me repeat…

“Singing is not working out!  Working out is working out.”

Jessica Marciel

This week, Usher took his team to a gym, and made them jump and box while singing. That is a great way to get your stamina up.  You must move around when you sing. Do you want to have to lip sync when you perform?  No, I didn’t think so.

Of all the years of watching The VoiceI am more impressed with Usher as a coach, than anyone.

American idolHarry Connick, Jr. did a very surprising thing on American Idol, I didn’t see it live, but the newspaper account was emailed to me by the acclaimed Carl Saunders, and I thought it was right on the money.

He had told these four finalists that their mandatory performance  from the Great American Songbook, needed to be different than the Pop songs they got to the finals with.

They needed to understand  the lyric this time.  Something they did not comprehend, or recall from his advice on their night of performance.  The press snapped the rolling eyes and hands on forehead as. Connick watched the girls make a joke of these great standards.

I happen to have a lot of respect for Harry Connick Jr., so even without seeing the episode, I think he was probably right. If someone gives you good advice, don’t be a fool, TAKE IT!

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

The State of Singing Competition Shows

singing competitionI watch a lot of singing competition shows, and feel compelled to write this post about them. The first thing I have to comment on, is the mediocre singing skills of many of the entrants who have gotten through to higher rounds.

“I do not understand, or believe that these vocal competition contestants represent the best talent, out there.”

The judges feel badly when a so-so singer is let go, and my biggest annoyance is when they say, ‘You are a great singer, don’t worry’ If that were true, they wouldn’t be not chosen and going home.

I am listening to singers on these shows who would be fine for a cover band at a hotel. They shouldn’t be upset at that evaluation. They can work as singers. There just isn’t fame in the cards for them.  You don’t need ‘fame’ to be a singer with a career.

“To crave ‘stardom’ is the worst reason to sing.”

The sad, sappy stories really get me. I don’t mean in a good way. I happen to know, first hand, many of the stories aren’t real or have been greatly exaggerated. They make up a lot of this drama, to make the show more interesting. Why can’t you just be a good singer and not have a tragic past.

I tell most of my students not to bother with these shows. I have had some students make it all the way to the 4th day, on American Idol.  She was cut when they made her learn a new song in an hour and learn choreograghy. That was my student, Scarlett.

She made it to Hollywood Week on American Idol last season. When she got to Los Angeles, she was asked to function on two hours sleep, learn new songs, and then put in a groups with dance choreography. She is not a dancer, but a great, strong.. a Jesse J type singer.

So, they cut her  when she couldn’t remember lyrics to a song they gave her an hour before she had to sing it. She was exhausted, getting sick, and couldn’t think. She was dying to come home.

I have another student who made it through to the third audition, and got her hopes up, only to be let go before the last set of auditions.

Many people I know are tiring of these shows, American Idol is going downhill fast. People have grown up with it, and have moved on, I know I am very disillusioned with that show. I can go to a lounge show in Las Vegas or Los Angeles and hear far better talent.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Your comments would be appreciated!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Please… give me The Voice!

screamI have followed American Idol as long as it has been on. I was thrilled at talent such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. It seems the last three years have been pathetic.

I just feel like they try to make it so difficult and to deprive people of sleep, when that is so important to a singer, it baffles me.

“A little sleep deprivation is good for them once in a while”

~ Steven Tyler

Really? My body is my instrument, I rarely scream like Steven Tyler does. When I do, I do it correctly with my stomach muscles, not my throat.

The lack of talent this year is amazing to me. I feel like I am watching Karaoke contest. No one yet has blown me away.

There were three strong singers from the Houston, Texas audition. One who became my student, when they had that 2-month break. Scarlett Peavey found me ion the net, and moved here to prepare for the Los Angeles American Idol boot camp. The problem she experienced was pain when singing. It was too late for her to get well, so when she went to LA with the correct way to sing from me. Her vocal cords needed anti-inflammatories and rest.

The boot camp of the Hollywood Round consisted of no sleep, exhaustion, and no rest at all, inflamed her voice more. It was not a bad thing when she got cut the third day. I told her to see an ear , nose throat doctor, immediately. He said she had over done it, and needed vocal rest.

And resting is what she has been doing since December. When she is OK we will record her and shop her and I swear she will out sell anyone American Idol produces this season. No one I’ve seen this season can touch Scarlett. Since we live in Las Vegas, we hear great talent all the time. We hear real singers, who nail it every single time we hear them.

Why is Jennifer Lopez a judge? She is a dancer and actress, who lip-syncs her records. Give me a show like The Voice that has singers for judges, and I am interested. I cannot even remember who won American Idol last year.

Former Idol contestant, Katharine McPhee, co-stars on a new TV show on Smash“. It is a legitimate show about Broadway. The problem I have with her, is , she is a good singer but not as good as the rival REAL Broadway singer she is up against on the show.

Having sung professionally since age 12, and now, decades later, I can still sing. And as a coach, my new career, I have earned the right to an opinion.

Singers need sleep. rest, coaching, multi tasking, dancing, and ‘IT’ these people need ‘IT’ and I haven’t seen ‘IT’, this season. That’s why I don’t watch American Idol on a regular basis. It is painful to see a good show devolve into a hot mess.

~ Jessica Marciel

Love, Peace, and SOUL

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

“The Voice” What happened?

My biggest sorrow about  my guy Cee Lo is when he choose cute over talent. He chose Sisters Tori and Taylor, over Kelsey.The song,Unwritten”. Kelsey knocked it out of the park. The sisters sounded like a dated version of The Dixie Chicks. Kelsey Ray deserved that win.

When I started watching ‘The Voice” I was so excited about the concept, and the judges.  The first Battleground show was good, and made me realize that what we see and hear at first, may turn out to be not as good as we thought.  Haven’t you made a friend, and thought they were all wonderful, shared your views on the world and Bam , they change their stripes.

The problem I am having is that this great show, has turned into a “Top Chef ” kind of show.  This competition, all up to the judges, is fine, I like their opinions more than I would trust America’s vote. However, they pair two completely different singers and give them a song that only one of them is capable of doing well, giving one an edge.

I am starting to think, we need to stop all the contests. Why can’t we have a show with a format that showcases good talent, without sending them home humiliated. Why can’t we bring back a variety show, with new talent, like the Grand Ole Opry does.  I think that is what is needed. Enough reality, that  is not real, all scripted, all so silly, and irritating.  The old-time reality shows with a twist, not Carol Burnett or Donny and Marie, but new talent , undiscovered gems. Talent that can be seen and heard by promoters.

Well, that is where I stand now. I am just  not as excited as I was at first. I am glad my life is busy, so I don’t have to be entertained by anything I really don’t love. I will continue to watch. I want to see how far Nakia, Javier, and Bev, go. I also love Raquel Castro, she isn’t the best singer, but she is different, dances, and played Gertie, in ” Jersey Girl”, with Ben Affleck, so I loved her in that!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Battleground: “The Voice” Week Two

I now realize how you can really think someone has a good voice, at first, and then, the more you listen, the more  you hear,  and the more you can change your mind.  I had some early favorites who are still my favorites. Then there are some who I thought were good enough, but after last night, I know they are not. I have NOT changed my mind about Tarralyn leaving last week. I even joined her fan base and checked out her website. I think she really has something special. Their loss, someone else’s gain!

The first round last night went to Cee Lo’s team and he chose Nakia and Ty both excellent singers. Hate to see either one of these guys go. The song he chose for them “Closer.” Ty had a rough start, but gained his ground later. Nakia just nailed it. NO contest, so sorry because Ty has a smooth really serious voice.It went to Nakia. Got one right!

Blake was next, Josh and wife Nicole, and Jarod were going to battle. Jarod is one of the strongest they have so I felt for Josh and Nicole. Jarod got it, thank you, pure raw talent.  Josh and his wife sounded very weak compared to their Battleground comrade!

Adam was next with his team. Adam has one of the BEST singers Javier Colon. When I heard him, wow, it was amazing. He was paired with Angela. Angela didn’t stand a chance with Javier. he nailed it, and got it, and will be hard to beat.  Adam has a strong team, he was slow to fill it and had a good opinion every time he got someone, they had something special.

Christina was next and chose Beverly, and Justin,  Beverly is very strong, Justin strong enough if he were not in a competition!

The song was a rocker song by the Who, something foreign to Justin. He did his homework and fought a very hard battle, tough fight, held his own, but Beverly is a force, a force that will be hard to beat.

I am still enjoying this show so much, the talent is there, the concept  is great, and I just can’t wait for Tuesdays. So bring it on next week guys, I am watching, and listening, loving it!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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