Unique Stage Antics of the Stars

There’s a big difference between singing in a studio and singing on stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people. Live performances can be difficult, singers and musicians need to perform with their music to keep the audience entertained. It’s why Michael Jackson danced, it’s why Bruce Springsteen slid along the stage, it’s why Chuck Berry did the duck walk. A little coordination, a little creativity and you can have something that keeps the crowds’ eyes on you. Some artists though, particularly rock artists, have had a… different approach to live performance

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  • The Who- A hugely influential rock group during the 60s and 70s, seeing The Who live was a treat. Pete Townshend, the band’s guitarist would “windmill” while he played, swinging his arm around and around to strum the guitar. While that was entertaining, at the end of a performance the band would sometimes destroy their instruments, not burning them in a fire, not sending them off someplace, they would literally smash their guitars, amplifiers and drum kits to bits with their hands and feet. The sounds were awful, but the spectacle was unlike anything seen on stage before
  • Iggy Pop- A late 70’s and 80’s Punk and Rock Icon, his band Iggy and the Stooges were known for putting on a high energy but somewhat grotesque live show. The inventor of the stage dive, Iggy would break glass onstage and roll around in it causing him to bleed all over his top half because he almost always performed shirtless. Famously he performed at a concert where, after heckling a motorcycle gang, he jumped into the crowd and was promptly beat senseless by a biker, effectively ending the show.
  • Pink- Pink’s identity is entirely unique in the world of Pop. Her image, her voice, but her stage presence has always pushed the limits. Her aerial performance of “Glitter in the Air” during the 2010 Grammys brought down the house.

These artists and along with others found their voice in more ways than one. By establishing themselves in an original manner and remaining true to their art and their identity, their legacies continue to make a lasting impression on the performers that follow them.

Creating and cultivating a unique presence is important to us as it was to these artists. At Singing Pro we provide more than singing lessons around Wallingford, PA, we work to nurture and grow artists, to help them develop their own voice.

A Brief History of Televised Talent Shows

American Idol is in its final season, The Voice has won two Emmys and The X Factor is popular worldwide. Audition-based talent shows are as popular as ever, TV audiences love watching an amateur performer go from a nobody to a household name in one season, but how did all this start?

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In 1948 “Original Amateur Hour” was Aired on the Dumont Network, a year later it moved over to NBC and made history by showcasing talent from across the U.S. for the first time. The show was similar to the current model; performers would audition for the judges on TV and if picked they would return to face off against others who had also made the cut. The final competition was held each year at Madison Square Garden and watched by millions. Ted Mack, the longtime TV host of Original Amateur Hour, awarded the winners of the competition a trophy and a check for $1500; a stark contrast to the 1 million dollars received for winning the X Factor or the multi-million dollar recording contract received for winning American Idol.

Original Amateur Hour helped create a number of stars. Gladys Knight performed on the show at age 7 and went on to win the show 3 times. Frank Sinatra, old blue eyes himself, performed on the earlier Original Amateur Hour radio show. Notably, The King, Elvis Presley failed to make the cut when he auditioned for the show in Tupelo, Missouri. The show ran for 22 years on TV before it was finally canceled in 1970.

Next in the line of national talent competitions was Star Search. Star Search switched up the formula by having multiple categories to compete in: vocal group, male vocalist, female vocalist, model, spokesperson and comedy just to name a few. The show awarded winners for each category $100,000 but did not guarantee any kind of recording contract. The show saw many recent pop idols audition at a young age including Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Aaliyah, Jessica Simpson and Usher. It ran for 12 seasons between 1983 and 1995 and was consistently among the top Nielsen ratings. It was briefly revived in 2003 where it saw lukewarm reception competing against American Idol. Speaking of American Idol…

American Idol premiered in 2002 and became one of the most successful TV shows in history. America loved the exciting singing competition. It’s model for competition and success in ratings led to a surge in new televised talent searches including: So You Think You Can Dance, X Factor, Rockstar INXS, The Sing-Off, Dancing with The Stars and most recently, The Voice.

Talent Searches have been televised for 68 years and they’ve captivated audiences for generations. While we at Singing Pro are known for our vocal training around West Chester, PA; as artists ourselves we enjoy seeing the talent of so many others as they perform for the judges and vie for their shot at stardom.

Why Vocal Lessons Make the Perfect Gift

Coming up with unique, creative gifts for the family and friends who merit that special touch in their holiday loot can be exhausting… and expensive. A great present needs to be useful, flexible, unique AND tailored to a person’s interests  – so for the singer-songwriter or burgeoning performer in your life, we at Singing Pro propose an affordable, personalized alternative to space-wasting junk and generic gift cards: singing lessons! Read on to find out more about why vocal lessons make for the perfect holiday present.

Experiences > Stuff.

So here’s our thoughts on this one. We love unwrapping that thing we wink-wink-nudge-nudged over for the three months before Christmas as much as anyone else, but sometimes, even with close friends and family, there’s simply very little we can think of, materially, that they’d want or need. When you know the recipients’ general tastes and preferred activities, though, you can start to get a little creative.

If you’ve got someone in your life who loves performing, already regularly captivates karaoke crowds, or used to sing but now considers themselves a tad “rusty,” vocal lessons from Singing Pro can simply provide a fun and informative musical outlet, or give a former performer the confidence to get back onstage. Our lessons cover everything from breathing techniques, posture, reading music and much more – plus plenty of opportunities to get real-life experience at our quarterly performances in local bars and cafes. Way cooler than a Yankee candle.

Collateral benefits.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning how to sing just for the joy of it, buuuut, if you’re looking into gifts for the little ones in your life, music lessons can have some seriously beneficial side effects aside from the fun factor (and aside, of course, from your getting to hear acapella renditions of the Frozen soundtrack again…and again… and again). Learning music theory from an early age has been a proven factor in bolstering brainpower, as it helps children to learn new ways of absorbing information, while also improving their ability to develop math and pattern-recognition skills (read: less parental assistance with Algebra homework later on). An understanding of music helps to develop the left side of the brain, which also influences kids’ ability to learn and manipulate languages.

Studying music has also been shown to raise IQ scores and SAT results, too. Mom and Dad can thank you later, when that first Harvard tuition bill comes in the mail.

More relaxing than a desktop Zen garden.

Yep – learning to sing or play a musical instrument is proven to lower stress. Physically, you get literal “good vibes” throughout your body from the actual act of using your voice; mentally, singing releases endorphins and oxytocin, hormones associated with feeling happy. We’d wager that simply knowing that you’ve accomplished something, gave your voice a chance to soar, and learned a little more about your passion is enough to boost the spirits, whatever the scientific reasoning behind it!

Think of the perfect recipient for a set of singing lessons? Match ‘em with the perfect deal. This holiday season, Singing Pro is offering 50% off of new students’ first month of singing lessons, available for purchase in packages of four one-hour lessons, two one-hour lessons, four half-hour lessons, or two half-hour lessons. View our rates page or call us at our studios in Exton and Media, PA, to learn more.

In It to Win It – How to Prepare for your Singing Audition

Preparing for an audition should include more than gargling salt water and warming up with a few halfhearted scales an hour beforehand. If you’re ready to take the next step to setting your singing career live, chances are you’ve put in hundreds of hours of hard practice time developing your voice, technique and style. So why drop the ball when audition time is around the corner? Taking the time to really sit down and come up with a plan for each individual audition is a great way to boost your own confidence in your ability to succeed, as well as actually set yourself up to perform better and in a way best suited to the occasion.

Giving you personalized advice on preparing for auditions, as well as working with you to perfect your audition songs, are part of the artist development services we provide to all students at Singing Pro. Below are just a few tips we’d give to any of our students before their tryouts. Do something different? Let us know in the comments!

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Choose the right music – for both yourself and for the context of your audition. You may not always love what you’re paid to sing, but an audition is your time – meaning that unless otherwise mentioned, you may get to sing on your own musical turf, so to speak, by picking a song that best exhibits your vocal strengths. Not to mention that it’ll come through positively to judges if you’re clearly passionate about your song. Be sure to carefully consider the context, however – no one looking for a metal singer wants to hear your rendition of “A Whole New World” (unless you can growl it exceptionally well), while your Eminem cover is likely unwelcome at an audition for a children’s entertainment position.

Come up with a plan for last-minute song learning. Okay, so maybe you don’t get to choose the music you’re auditioning with, or maybe you need to pick a song in a genre you don’t normally sing, pronto. Your first concerns, of course, are memorizing the words and melody – and everyone has a different strategy that works for them.

We recommend starting with the melody – whether humming, pecking it out on the piano, whistling, etc. – and adding the words in later or as you go. Reading the words aloud, in a natural tone, without attempting to set them to song, can also be helpful in adding tone and emotion to the song, by allowing you to concentrate on what the artist might have meant while writing it.

We encourage our students to come to us with their audition music – that’s what we’re here for! We’ll be able to give advice on the best way to approach a new piece, as well as provide accompaniments, corrections and encouragement.

Follow the standard night-before and day-of tips. Just as runners stretch and carbo-load the night before a race, there’s definitely tried-and-true steps performers take the day before and morning of their auditions, to help maximize their vocal capacity. We recommend all singers: get plenty of sleep and wake up early, so their voice can wake up too; avoid dairy products the day before and day of; stay hydrated; take a steamy shower, to clear out sinuses; and plan the route to their audition in advance, to avoid needless stress.

Bow out with grace. It’s not at all uncommon for first-time auditioners to be so nervous that they forget to thank the judges after they’re done. Don’t be that guy (or gal)! If you’re disappointed in your performance, it can also be tempting to slink offstage wearing your heart on your shoulder…but we recommend giving your acting skills one last chance to shine and smiling as cheerily as if you had just won American Idol. We promise you’ll be glad you did later.

You may have noticed that we left out what you should do while you’re actually performing during your audition. That’s because those aspects of performance – breathing and postural techniques, projection of your voice, showmanship and others – are all things that our students become comfortable with over time, and with plenty of practice, until it’s second nature during any performance or opportunity to sing. Plus, we can’t give everything away!

Be sure to keep up with the Singing Pro blog for more info from industry insiders.

 

Frog in Your Throat? Hoarse like a Horse? Try These Voice-Restoring Lifehacks

It’s officially fall, and while there’s a lot we love about pumpkin-spice-everything season, there’s one thing we definitely don’t: the start of cold and flu weather. Singing Pro has already been hearing from worried students about what to do when their voice is giving out, but their performance opportunities are picking up, so we thought some advice from the pros might be in order!

If you’ve got a recording, performance or even non-musical event, like a speech, coming up soon and you’re worried you won’t be in top form for the occasion, try one – or all – of these tips to speed your vocal recovery.

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1) Avoid irritants like the plague. We KNOW our students value their voices too much to smoke themselves, but being inside a smoky bar or around a lot of fine particulate matter – like dust – can worsen irritation on your vocal cords and larynx (the two membranes responsible for your voice). Super-cold air can also make things worse.

Try staying inside in a climate-controlled space, and vacuum or dust to lessen the chances that you’re inhaling any material that will further stress your throat.

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2) Drink like a fish – water, that is. Drinking a lot of filtered water (and hot tea) serves two purposes. First, it helps rid your throat of the irritants we mentioned above by constantly flushing it out of anything that might worsen inflammation. Second, it prevents the area from drying or cracking – which is part of what causes pain.

There’s a ton of natural products out there to help make your water more palatable, too – throat coat teas both restore your voice and relieve pain, and there are remedies involving apple cider vinegar, honey or even cayenne pepper that many people swear by.

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3) Eat garlic – and lots of it. Take care of your vampire issue and sore throat all at once by consuming garlic, which has antiseptic, antibacterial and numbing qualities, thanks to a natural compound known as “allicin.” Cancel your dinner date, buy a few (whole) garlic cloves, and suck on them like lozenges. While you don’t need to actually crunch down on these, it helps to bite them gently to release more allicin from time to time.

If this doesn’t sound doable (which, though we love Italian food as much as the next person, we understand), you can also make and sip garlic broth or even just cook a garlic-heavy meal to reap some of the same benefits.

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4) Take a page out of Celine Dion’s book – quit talking! Temporarily, at least. Channel your inner monk and take a short vow of silence to help preserve your vocal cords for when you need them most. While this form of therapy is normally associated with vocal cord strain – such as that experienced by Dion after years of weekly casino performances – speaking much less when you’re ill can help prevent further irritation to an inflamed throat.

If it isn’t possible to stay silent all day, try keeping your speech to a minimum and avoid shouting or even attempting to speak loudly whenever possible.
We know how exciting an upcoming performance or recording session can be, but at the end of the day, if you’ve drank your fill of herbal tea and honey, gnawed on garlic until even your dog avoids you, and only spoken to buy a dust-filtering face mask, but you still don’t feel well – reschedule. It’s a bummer, but as performers ourselves, we know that we’d always rather feel and sing our best than risk putting on a sub-par show. Just remember – it happens to everyone!

Struck with Stage Fright? So are These Famous Singers!

Often, when we start lessons with a new student, one of the first conversations we’ll have is about conquering stage fright. A lot of eager performers start their careers assuming that in order to make it big, they should love to be in the spotlight, and feel excited and energized at the thought of all those eyes on them. In reality, though, we’d be willing to bet that pretty much every artist has battled fears of being in front of a crowd – even Singing Pro’s own Tino!

If you’ve got stage fright, it turns out you’re in great company – some of the biggest names in every genre of music have openly discussed the difficulty they’ve had (and still have!) performing in front of a group of people, whether 25 or 25,000. Some of these artists may truly surprise you – at least, they surprised us. As for those who haven’t come out with their own tales of battling the butterflies, we’re not buying it – as they say, fake it ‘til you make it!

Taylor Swift

Although she’s probably the biggest name in the pop scene right now, even Taylor Swift suffers from bouts of the jitters. So who can a Grammy-winning artist look to for comfort before a concert? Turns out…herself! Swift, who’s by her own admission a “nervous wreck” before her gigs, will talk to herself in the mirror before going on stage in order to calm her nerves. These “conversations,” says the artist, range from reassurances (“It’s going to be OK!”) to convincing herself that “[the audience] aren’t going to throw things at me.” Interestingly, Swift mentioned that she’s especially nervous when she’s NOT the headliner (probably not a frequent occurrence these days), because she can’t be sure of what the audience thinks about her.

Harry Styles

This One Direction superstar kills it onstage during stadium-sized concerts, which made it all the more surprising when he opened up to the media about the paralyzing stage fright he’s experienced throughout his career. Along with admitting that he used to get sick before performances, Styles has famously had to retreat backstage several times mid-performance to deal with his nerves. Despite his battles with extreme stage anxiety, he’s still the face of one of the biggest groups in pop music – you’ve got to admire that kind of fighting spirit!

Lorde

Lorde may exude confidence in everything she does, but this Kiwi is not all about the limelight; before every show, she says, she goes through anxiety she “wouldn’t wish on someone I hated”. Luckily for Lorde, she reports that the jitters vanish as quickly as they came once she’s on stage, where, according to her, it “gets replaced by something magic.” We know that feeling well!

Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall

This indie darling with a soulful drawl is famous for her well-publicized stage fright – but despite an on-stage persona sometimes described as “fidgety” and “uncomfortable,” still sells out nearly every venue she plays. When asked about how her fear of playing in front of large groups affects her performance, Marshall said that “Sometimes going from one song to the other, I remember that the audience is there and go into a panic. And I think, come on, Chan, what song? What song? And I can’t sing and I can’t concentrate…”

Even with these issues, Marshall continues to delight her international fan base with worldwide tours – and has stated that in spite of her fears, there’s nothing else she’d rather be doing.