Happy New Years to New Vocal Resolutions! Hello all you beautiful singers/teachers of singing. Can you believe it is nearly 2016? My how the time flies! I have already been asked by at least a dozen people if I had any New Year's resolutions for 2016? For me the typical resolutions are generally in regards to overall health and well being. I am a bit of a fitness buff who always seems to sabotage any positive gains with a diet that is not in balance with my regular visits to the gym. Sweets, pasta and bread are my downfall and staying away from them has never been an easy task. Hopefully in 2016 I will see more success in this area!
A student asked me recently if I could help him come up with some goals/resolutions for 2016 that would improve his overall musicianship and marketability as an up and coming professional singer. So here are my top tips for becoming a better singer, musician, and marketable artist for 2016.
#1. Find a vocal coach who can help you realize your voice's full potential. A great coach needs to have all the tools in his/her vocal tool box to strengthen the not so strong areas of your voice, and enhance the areas of your voice that are already rich and powerful. A coach should never try to change your unique, original sound or try to make you sound like anyone else. A coach's main job is to make you sound amazing! As I state at the beginning of the Vocal Workout CD for "Let Your Voice Soar", "Always be a first rate version of yourself, never a second rate version of someone else". That quote, by the way, is from the late Judy Garland and I cannot think of a more powerful statement when it comes to being an original artist. There is only one Adele, one Bruno Mars, and only one you! I always encourage my students to find their own voice, especially when it comes to singing covers by other famous artists.
#2. Join a choir or choral group. Four years ago I saw an ad in Classical Singer Magazine for a tenor section leader position in a church close to my home. The ad read "Seeking tenor section leader. Singer does not need great sight reading skills but must be able to carry the section and teach the other members of the section the correct notes". I immediately jumped on this opportunity even though I hadn't had to sight read in a gazzilion years. I was hired for the job and spent the next few months boning up on my never too great sight reading ability. It was one of the best moves I ever made as a musical artist. I am happy to report that my sight reading kills have improved enormously since joining the choir. Being in a choir or choral group is a great way to hone your musicianship, improve pitch, rhythm and intonation, as well as learn a lot of great music that you may never have thought about listening to. It forces you to listen to other singers and not just your own voice, which is something most of us singers need to work on! Plus you get to meet a lot of really cool people who share the same love of music that you do, not to mention the performance opportunities it provides. Which brings me to my next tip!
#3. Sing anywhere and everywhere you can. My closest friends used to joke with me by saying "Jeff will sing at the opening of a letter!" I have to admit they were not far off in that statement. I have always loved getting in front of a crowd, large or small and performing whatever they needed or at least I thought they needed to hear me sing. The more you sing in front of people, the more comfortable you will become to express yourself and really let your voice soar! Also, the more you perform, the more opportunities will come your way for future performances. The old saying "work begets work" truly applies to singers. My students who are out there performing are constantly being offered more gigs through referrals, or just someone who heard them at a performance. #4. Net work, network, network! It is vitally important for singers to find a community of like-minded artists who support each other. This could be a theater company, a choir (once again), an acting for musical theater class, a group singing class, or a social media group for different singing genres. When I first moved to New York I took an acting for Musical Theater class from Barry Moss, who at the time was a prominent casting director in the city for Hughs/Moss casting. This was a great place to network, and I met so many wonderful fellow artists in the class who pointed me in the right direction to headshot photographers, vocal coaches, dance classes and cheap theater tickets for actors! It was a fabulous introduction to the theater and music community in the big city. I also heard who to avoid since I was green as grass and vulnerable to "sharks" and exploiters of young talent. Obviously not everyone lives in New York or L.A., but almost every town or community has a local theater group or place where bands perform or rehearse. You may want to check out your local music store to find out if there are bands looking for singers, or where and when auditions are happening.
#5. Use social media to promote yourself I've said it before and I'll say it again.."Man I wish YouTube was around when I was a teenager!" I can't think of another medium that is more exciting than YouTube. Where else can a young or "mature" artist go to get the kind of instant exposure that YouTube provides? This incredible platform ABSOLUTELY is the future of entertainment. I cannot see into the future, but I do not see YouTube going away anytime soon. Most of my younger students listen to music exclusively on YouTube and almost never purchase music from other services like itunes. Now, I don't necessarily condone this type of behavior as it does not support the artist in a way that makes music financial sense. But in terms of getting an unknown artist's music out there to be discovered and heard, YouTube is the best way to build a fanbase and find a captive audience. When up and coming artists combine YouTube with other social mediums such as FaceBook, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat, they increase the reach potential many times over.
So get out there, spread your wings and let your voice and talent soar in 2016! Happy New Year everyone. Jeff