Blind auditions on The Voice.

I had a voice client last weekend in class, and we were talking about what it takes to get on “The Voice.”  I asked her what she thought the judges were looking for and she said, “low notes, high notes, belting, runs, and chest voice.”  A lot of people may think that, but in reality, it’s a lot more! Technical aspects of singing can be taught and developed, but actually impacting your listener by bearing your soul is an entirely different matter.

I decided to watch an episode of the Blind Auditions and see what kinds of things the judges were turning around for and what they were saying.

As a vocal coach, I work with my clients to be able to deliver that emotional performance every time they sing. You have to be involved in the conversation of the song. You need to be delivering the lyrics as if the other person was standing right in front of you and you were talking to them.  Your song has to have a very personal meaning to you, and you need to let the audience in on feeling what you’re feeling.  People won’t remember everything you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. What you’re really doing is sharing your experience with your audience, and if they feel that from you, they will let you know.

One of the artists who didn’t get any chairs to turn on the episode, JT Rodriguez, but made it to The Voice “Come Back Stage” with Bebe Rexa got the comment from her that she wanted him to get a little more dirty with his sound and she wanted to feel that pain.  All of the judges commented on his unique vocal sound, but that he seemed unsure. He wasn’t letting the emotion of the song drive the performance. He was too much in his head, thinking about everything he thought he should be doing.  If you’re thinking about what you’re doing, you’re losing the emotional connection to the song.  You no longer communication meaning, your communicating insecurity.  Your technique and performance should be so solid that you don’t have to do anything but deliver the intention and meaning of the words. That takes a lot of practice. Nothing beats preparation.

The one artist on this episode, LB Crew, that got all four chairs to turn had the complete package. He had the technical chops, he brought the raw emotion, and he was connected to the story of the song and was actually singing the meaning and the intention of the song as he knew it. In his introduction to the song, LB said “the song is about basically being adrift at sea and to me it’s about leaving a familiar place, you’re leaving your family, your loved ones and you’re like on this uncharted territory, and that can be scary. But on the other hand, I’m actually also headed somewhere, I’ve got somewhere to be, and that’s just kinda the way I look at it, and there is a destination I’m trying to get to.” [Video file] He was in the moment and was feeling that song from the moment he was walking out to the last note.  You could tell these lyrics really meant something to him.  He was having a real conversation about through those lyrics with his audience, and the judges clearly felt it.  It was also really nice to hear him say that he picked Adam because he gave him some constructive advice.  None of us are ever too old, or too good to learn something from someone else if we are open.  He will be a fantastic competitor on this show!

Here are some critical factors for singing well at an audition or show.

  • Be authentic.  Bring your interpretation into the song.  If fans want to listen to the original artist, they will. Why should they listen to your version of their song? What different, what’s unique about the way you deliver the lyrics?
  • Forget trying to be perfect. Perfect is boring, and it’s too inside the box.  People want to hear the emotion and real, genuine connection to the song.
  • Be a great technical singer AND performer.  You have to have the right combination of being able to bring sensitivity and dynamics without losing support or pitch and knowing when and how to appropriately belt and use power. The problem with bringing style only is that judges may not know whether you can actually clean those things up if you need to.  Pitch issues have a lot to do with breathing and airflow and placement.  That can take a while to learn, and on a show like this, time is something you may not have.
  • When you are doing a cover of a song, you have to bring something original to the table.  Many young singers think they need to copy all the runs and phrasing of the original singer exactly.  Please understand that most great vocalists never do the exact same thing at every performance, even on their original songs.  Your mood changes daily, so your interpretation might be different. You may be tired or have allergies and need to sing something a different way.  No one sings anything precisely the same every time.  Let us hear your passion as you’re feeling it in the moment.  If I want to hear the original artist, I’ll go listen to their recording.  If I am listening to you, I want to hear how you reimagine and deliver the song. Unless you’re an impersonator, don’t ever be a copy, you can’t be them as well as they can.
  • And don’t start copying yourself!  People have a tendency to start doing what works.  If what you’re singing is real in every moment people will respond, but if it’s not, you will sound contrived.  Audiences want transparency.  Singing on stage shouldn’t be a one-way communication; you, singing at the audience. It is really a two-way communication, and they can always spot a FAKE.