How to perform, at your best during a singing competition or band audition

As an experienced vocal conditioning coach and artist development coach, I  often work with singers of all ages and music styles to help these students to develop there performing voice so that they can successfully compete in singing competitions. 

In fact over the years I’ve worked with and coached singers from NZ Idol and XFactor New Zealand. 

Now this article is not intended to go into great detail on every nuance of how to train and prepare to deliver a winning vocal performance for a singing competition. That would take too long. For those that are interested I provide a full artist coaching and development service, called “Audition King”. More details here https://www.rapidvocalresults.com/#!singing-audition-tuition/ctul

Essentially the Audition King service is a highly comprehensive Artist development programme that includes helping you to select audition songs that complement your natural vocal style and your vocal strengths. The singer receives expert performance coaching tips and guidance as we work line by line through the audition songs to ensure the best possible vocal delivery. The Audition King programme, also focuses on providing you with the tools required to become a professional level entertainer, including microphone handling techniques and how to set up eq mix on a vocal channel, how to act on stage, how to be yourself during the audition, how to exude the right kind of confidence to catch the judges eye etc.

Regardless of whether your looking to compete in a karaoke singing competition (down at your local bar), or whether your auditioning for a local band or whether you dream of competing with the nations best talent, to win a lucrative recording contract, like the prizes offered on a nationally televised talent show. There are ten main areas that you should focus on to help you deliver the very best performance you are capable of here’s a quick overview.

1. Song choice 

Before you do anything else making the right song choice for your voice is critical!

Select a song that fits the natural style of your voice. IE. If your voice is naturally low, then choose a song that show cases the strength you have in your low register.  If your voice is naturally high then the same strategy applies.

Try to follow the 80/20 rule.

Select a song that sits in the strongest part of your vocal register 80% of the time. It dose not make sense to choose a song that is too big for your current level of singing skill.

Tip don’t choose a ballad just because you think a slow song is easier to sing, often its the slower songs that require the most breath support and vocal consistency to deliver a show stopping performance.

2. Sing only what you know well.

Too often singers will listen to a song on the radio and think because they can hum a long to the song (or because they can sing it softly under there breath) that they can sing it just as easily in full voice during a real performance.

This is not always the case the only way to ensure you can deliver a great performance is to put the time in and practice the song at proper performance volume (ie in full voice) until the process of singing that song has become ingrained into your muscle memory. (This is why its much easier to sing your old favourite songs, because they almost sing themselves (muscle memory is developed) compared to the difficulty singers experience when they try to sing a new song for the first time in front of an audience.

3. Good singers even the professionals will only perform songs that they know they are capable of singing. Remember you can not fake vocal strength you either have it or you don’t. I’ve seen singers make inappropriate song choices (because its there favourite artist) and choose a song that’s obviously way to big for there voice! The result is that the singer delivers a bad performance and can even be traumatised by the experience! This kind of negative experience  can really knock your singing confidence and may take a long time to recover from!

4. Don’t forget to breathe through out your performance (it sounds obvious) but at all costs avoid holding your breath during guitar solos and music interludes, holding your breath while you wait for the vocal line to come back in is a sure fire recipe for a vocal melt down, this could take the form of poor timing missed lines, a break or crack in register or both. Learning how to breathe from the diaphragm is the only way to ensure that you correctly produce the right kind of air compression required to support your singing voice through out a performance.

5. Staying on pitch

Most beginner and intermediate level singers I’ve worked with initially require some work to develop a good sense of relative pitch. If your not sure whether you have any pitch problems then chances are you are not listening and paying close enough attention to your vocal production. 

If your not familiar with the term “relative pitch” refer to the link near the top of the page and read my blog article dedicated to that particular subject.

Training tip to improve your relative pitch: 

I recommend that you record yourself singing along to a backing track, using a smart phone app or a digital recording app like garage band etc  You can find  free backing tracks of your favourite popular songs on you tube etc. On playback pay close attention to your vocal recording and its ability to stay in tune with the main chords of the song. Ie dose your voice clearly follow the melody line of the song? Improving your awareness of “Relative Pitch” starts here.

6. How’s your acting skills?

Its not enough to just be a great singer these days, if you want to win over the crowd and the judges you need to become a confident performer. This is where body language comes into play. I’ve performed in front of large audiences, and on television and to be honest I still get the odd case of butterfly’s before show time!

But the trick is to use that nervous energy to your advantage. What dose your performing body language say about you? Are you happy to be there on the big stage and putting the audience at ease with your sense of confidence and control. Or are you unintentionally sending signs of discomfort and distress like you’d rather be any where but here?

Performing tip:

Like the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, develop a habit of practising your singing and performance moves in front of the mirror. Or even better set up a video camera and record your rehearsals. 

Pay particular attention to your body language and if you look stiff and uncomfortable while your singing chances are your voice will sound stiff and uncomfortable too!

7. Memorising lyrics

You can have the greatest voice but if you flub your lines then your going to score low points in any audition. A few years ago I was called up to sing for New Zealand’s only Van Halen tribute band called “5150” I had to learn and memorise 18 songs in six weeks! It was a major under taking and on the night it all came together bar one!. (Having breathed a big sigh of relief having nailed all of the challenging songs and never putting a foot wrong). We launched into Ice cream man and I realised as my vocal cue came up I had forgotten the first line in the opening verse and had to get my guitarist to provide me with a verbal reminder) Oh well no bodies perfect!

A. Write out your lyrics

B. Recite them as a poem or a story

C. Try and create pictures of the most exciting part of each lyric line in your head. These pictures will help you recall each passage.

D. Repetition listen to the song over and over again and speak the lyrics or sing them softly until you’ve created a muscle memory of how the song goes.

There’s nothing worse than been half way through a song and forgetting the lyrics!

8. Pre gig nerves (butterfly’s) 

Everybody has had them it can range from a slight flutter in the stomach right up to full on stomach cramps (at the extreme end of things).

A case of the Butterflys before stepping out on stage is natural. But its important to deal with them the right way to minimise the impact they have on your ability to deliver a strong vocal performance.

Performance tip: Breathe deeply and gently release all the pent up air from your lungs using a continuous sssssss sound.

Stretching can help most yoga stretches are very beneficial for singers.

I teach my students a modified form of these stretches called “singers yoga” The purpose of singers yoga is to help maintain a stress free environment in the areas of the body that are especially important for proper vocal production!

9. Rhythm  

Developing a strong sense of rhythm is super important for a singer because like every other player in a band we need to be able to count bars and measures to ensure we start our vocal lines on time and finish on time. No audience or judge wants to hear a great voice that’s out of time with the rest of the band.

Once again most beginner and intermediate singers require some work to improve there ability to count time. Its much easier to sing along with a karaoke backing track relying on the highlighted cues to keep you in time with the song, it becomes much harder and more challenging compared to counting time and memorising instrument cues when you perform with a live band (to ensure your singing in time with a band)!

10. Developing a confident performance mindset 

Henry Ford said it best “whether you think you can or whether you think you cant, your right”!

Visualise the positives of delivering a great confident performance. Obsessing over a difficult part of the song for too long actually increases your anxiety levels and increases the probability that something will go wrong!

Performance tip:

Develop a simple mantra for your self that you can repeat over and over again, at times of stress to help increase your confidence and reduce pre gig nerves here’s some examples:

I feel good and I sound good and if I give my best performance tonight I will be happy!

This is my time to shine I’ve done the hard work now lets go out there and have fun!

If you have a big audition coming up or your entering a singing talent competition follow the above tips and remember there are two things you absolutely cant fake on the night!

1. Muscle memory know your songs inside and out. 

2. Vocal Strength (put in the time to strengthen and condition your voice)

If you would like to learn more about any of the topics we’ve discussed today or have a private discussion inregards to the challenges you experience with developing your performing voice then, send me an email or give me a call.

Better singing everyone.


2 thoughts on “How to perform, at your best during a singing competition or band audition”

  1. I agree with what you said about how body language is important when it comes to singing since looking stiff can end up affecting the way our voices sound as well. I’m thinking of hosting a music competition in my resto-bar this upcoming holiday season, so I need to find a musician to hire as a judge for the event. I hope I’ll be able to find one who has enough experience and talent as a musician to act as the judge of the contest.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Elina. Purely as an observation, I’ve found in my own experience that the majority of singing competitions will use a singer, or people that like singing to judge the competition. Often singers themselves will miss the technical aspects of what constitutes good singing, which makes it hard to accurately score someone.

      My suggestion would be to enlist the aid of a credible, local singing teacher or vocal coach. This way the singer can be judged correctly on their singing methods, rather than just their appearance, popularity of the songs they’re performing, or how well their style matches that of the judge.

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