Preparing for a college audition? Trying to become a professional performer? These practical resources, skills, attitudes are what you need in your toolbox.
1. The ability to sightread and understand music theory. Yes, there are some musicians out there who have magical ears, who can hear a song one time and perform it perfectly. They are the exception and not the rule. Having a good ear is important too, but in order to work with other musicians, you need to speak the language. You may also be in audition situations in which you are given a piece of music for the very first time and asked to play, sing or analyze it. Make sure you are prepared for this eventuality. If you need more information, read the previous post on sightreading.
2. The ability to harmonize. As a singer, this is an invaluable skill. If you are a soprano or you sing the melody often in songs make sure you practice this skill. Learning your solfege and work with a teacher or a friend to practice harmony exercises and increase your ear’s sensitivity. Harmonizing on the piano is important too, you should be able to recognize chordal structure, play lead sheets, harmonize a melody with chords and transpose. Make sure you find a teacher who teaches theory, so you can work on these skills.
3. As a singer-the ability to play guitar and/or piano. Both is great! But having a melodic instrument that you can accompany yourself with will save you some serious cash on accompanists in the future when you are performing. Also, it’s difficult to check your pitches when you are singing if you can’t play any other instrument. The majority of people do not have perfect pitch (something that develops within the first six months of life) , but rather, relative pitch, and they need an outside reference point to be 100 percent certain that they are starting and ending on the right note.
4. Pianists/Guitarists-the ability to accompany! Accompanying is a real skill that is very different than playing solo. You need to be able follow another musician and make them look good. The majority of piano and guitar performance opportunities out there are not solo gigs. Work with your teacher to practice accompanying yourself and others.
5. A great teacher. There are great ones out there, but some-not so much. I have met students of previous teachers who can’t read the left hand after 1 year of playing piano, and some who came to me with excellent theory knowledge and coordination on the keys. I have even worked with kids whose previous teacher barely spoke English! Make sure you select a teacher who is knowleddgable about theory, technique, repertoire and vocal anatomy, has lots experience, and can tailor lessons for kids and adults. It’s a good rule of thumb to note that teachers who charge a low rate and travel to you probably don’t have a lot of experience. Cheaper is not usually better in this case. Keep your eyes peeled, because I think there will be a blog post about teachers in the future.
6. Performance etiquette, stage presence and a strategy for coping with performance anxiety. People are going to be watching your whole body during a performance. Make sure you make eye contact with the audience, bow (or nod-depending upon the style of music), smile and walk tall! If you are nervous make sure you have a strategy for dealing with those nerves before going onstage. For more on these topics, read some of the previous posts.
7. The ability to handle criticism. It is hard not to take it personally when someone says you are singing flat or you aren’t playing smoothly enough on piano. If you get defensive though, you are shutting yourself down to opportunities for growth. The majority of criticism you will get out there will be positive, and if it isn’t, shrug it off and keep on doing what you are doing.
8. Tenacity. We are in the business of rejection. Don’t let it stop you-use these experiences to learn and grow. Keep going to as many auditions as you can, and performing as much as you can. You only fail when you don’t try.
9. Open eyes and a open mind. Keep your eyes open and your mind open any and all music opportunities that are out there. Start by performing at your church, school, open mic nights and karaoke contests. You never know what it might lead to. If nothing else, it is an opportunity to practice performing in front of others.
10. A positive, self aware, hardworking attitude. Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses as a musician and as a performer. Accept them and love them. But also know that with time, and a refusal to give up, you will get there. Start by dreaming it, then believing it, then putting those dreams into action!
Are there any other things you think should be on this list? Let us know below.