Ken Taylor here sharing some advice with you on the “How to’s” of a singing contests. Below are a few horrifically simple tips that I all too often wish people would consider when I’m judging these contests. Do these things, and you will help present yourself in a wonderful light and up your chances of walking away with the trophy and maybe even some money.
1. It Sounds Overly Simply, but Do A Song You Can Sing & Can Sing Well
If you are going into the competition wondering if you’re going to hit the high note at the end of the bridge, you’ve definitely picked the wrong song. If you’re running out of air because the phrases are too long, then it’s probably not a safe bet. For your singing contest, I suggest picking a song you can sing most any day, not just on your best vocal days.
2. Pick Something Your Audience Will Enjoy
To illustrate this, I’m going to tell a story. I know of a group here locally that got on America’s Got Talentthat sang a barber show quartet-ish version of “Don’t Rock the Boat.” Honestly, it was kinda nifty and the singers sounded pretty good, but sadly, it didn’t take long before people were booing them and soon the three X’s followed. I believe it was Sharon Osbourne that said something to the effect of she could see them performing that song at an elderly home, but not on that show.
Lesson to Learn – Choose a song that your audience will enjoy! Consider the age range of your audience as well as the type of music they’d enjoy, then simply don’t let them down. You wouldn’t Sing Led Zeppelin at your grandmother’s 90th Birthday party, just as you probably wouldn’t get a group together to sing the Halleluia Chorus at Woodstock. Keep your audience in mind and you won’t end up with funny looks or worse, booing.
3. Know Your Strengths
Some singers sound better on ballads, and some shine singing up tempo songs. Some people have an impressive high range while others can hold out a note long after the cows come home. So, know your vocal strengths and choose a song that highlights them. Last year, I remember literally spending 3 weeks searching for the perfect song for a student of mine. Sounds excessive, right? The results… she blew the judges away and walked away with one of those shiny trophies and a check. Just a side note, the trophy was practically as tall as she was… I was proud. So yeah, it pays to know your strengths : )
4. Connect with Your Audience
You can’t just sing the song for the sake of singing it. Tell the audience a story. Involve them. Make them feel special. The more you can do this, the more they’ll enjoy it. The more they enjoy it, the more likely you’re name will be called at the end of the contest as they’re announcing the winners. Simple as that.
5. It’s Not Enough to Just Sing
They say 30% of people take in the world through sound, but a whopping 60% of people are visually dominant. So if that’s the case, you’re number will more greatly impact the majority of people if you’re able to stimulate them through both sight and sound. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should include a dance routine in your number, but I do encourage you to be brave enough to step out from behind your mic stand and use your hands, arms, body, and facial expressions to further express the depth of the story you’re telling.
6. Focus on the Audience and Yourself, NOT YOUR COMPETITION
This is a little pet peeve of mine and I’ll try not to stay on top of my soap box for too long here, but if you go into a competition focusing on beating a certain person or persons, you’re going to fail 9 times out of 10. I say this simply because you’re focusing entirely on the wrong thing. Singing/performing is about the AUDIENCE. The more you focus on how you can give them the best show possible, the better you’ll do. The more you focus on beating someone else, the more you’re not focusing on what counts. End of story. Okay, I was able to keep that pleasantly brief. Yay!
7. Be Positive
Finally, I suggest a little pre-performance ritual. Before I go out and sing, I always visualize my performance going exactly how I want it. I see the audience enjoying it, and hear a roar of applause after I’m finished. I mentally go through my whole routine seeing myself having the best performance of my life. Strangely, I’ve found this routine proves to be much more effective than pacing around telling yourself you’re going to forget your words and worrying about what the person before you is doing. Matter of fact, I’ve always gotten great results with this, and I believe you will to.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. Hope this helps! Please feel free to leave a comment with any success stories or other suggestions.
Thanks for reading and as always, Happy Singing!
~ Vocal Coach Ken Taylor