After reading this article you'll see how performance exercises can have such an immediate impact on your performance. You'll be more expressive, you'll sing with more charisma. A bonus: they are good for your vocal technique. (even though it's important that while preparing for a show you don't worry about vocal technique)
If you want to even come close to looking and sounding like a pro when you sing - you need performance exercises.
If you want to get to a feeling of control of your vocal technique - you need performance exercises.
If you want to not go absolutely ballistic trying and trying to become the singer you want to become - you NEED performance exercises.
What is a performance exercise?
It's when you sing a song from start to finish with a certain scenario or image in mind.
That scenario should be empowering, fun, even funny if possible, something which will knock you out of the normalcy and your comfort zone, but not in an intimidating way.
Singing your song in this way will then result in a much better performance, a more gathered up, coherent performance but most importantly - a more expressive and more impressive one.
The case of Lizzy
I want to tell you about a student of mine, and how performance exercises transformed her in almost no time at all.
Let's call her Lizzy. She claimed she has a psychological problem singing. Lizzy couldn’t handle her own singing sound, she thought it was just horrible. So she almost never dared to sing, and when she did she would immediately stop and shake her head: oh that’s was really bad.
Whenever she would sing - her face was sour, as if she was in the last place on earth she wanted to be, doing the last thing on earth she wanted to do.
I told her, honey, that face - that’s what’s gonna bring you down. The voice is fine. We can always make it better, but if you have that face on - no one will get anything good out of your singing.
So I asked her: when is a time when you felt up in the clouds, ecstatic, thrilled all the time? She said: on my honeymoon, in Disneyland. I said: good, you look in the mirror now and remember what that was like. Pretend as if you are there. And the face you get on, do not take it off no matter what happens.
That was the first time she sang a whole verse. Finally, we can work with that, because now you are singing more than 4 seconds! You are giving it a chance.
I gave her one thing to focus on, a thing that overrode every bad thing she could think about her singing. So what was left was to simply sing now. And we could take it from there and work on it.
Why do performance exercises work?
- The exercise puts you in a different mindset where you already KNOW how to sing.
- And then the chances of you lingering on anything that might hold you back while performing - judgment, self deprecating thoughts etc - will skydive towards zero.
- You CANNOT afford spending time thinking of technique when you are performing. You cannot spend time questioning whether you are doing ok or not, while you are up there performing. You have to actually do the stuff you already know how, give it your best, no hesitations. Once there are hesitations - no longer your best 😉
So it's the mindset. And that is also relevant to your practice at home. At a certain point, if you want an upgrade in your vocal abilities - you need that mindset which tells you: that thing you have been TRYING so hard to master for this long - you got it. Let’s just do it.
But it’s not easy or natural for us when we practice. In a practice we always have to evaluate and judge our singing to make sure it was indeed right, or the best it could be. We are not wired to thinking “we’ve got it”.
The case of Natalie
Another story is of one of my first students here in Amsterdam, let’s call her Natalie.
Natalie was a total beginner, with some fundamental and serious technical and musical awareness issues.
We spent 2 years of almost constant weekly lessons, working on all those issues.
She learned a bunch of technical exercises. She learned to develop her musical ear, then she had to learn how to notice what she is doing at home and when it’s right or wrong, all that took a while.
After one year she would sing so much better. Sometimes. On a certain day, or a certain song, and every now and then she needed me to guide her again. So the technique was not completely in her control.
At one point I realized that whenever I would ask her: ok, what just happened? To get her to be in control of the process. She would say: well, I was trying to do this and this, and I think it was mostly ok.
The words try and think, ok, not so bad, I’m not sure. All those were telling her she doesn’t really know how to do those things. I had enough of that. Enough trying, I said. Time to do it. Yoda in Star Wars was right.
So I gave her a performance exercise: imagine you are a professional singer with 40 years of experience on stage (she’s 30 years old, but who’s counting).
Now you go on stage and you sing with the audience, they sing with you, and that thing you were “trying to do”, you know how to do this. That’s your specialty. You have been doing it on stage for 40 years.
Need I say it worked like a charm? She immediately got a 50% increase in succeeding doing that thing she was trying so hard to do before. And that was only the first “try”.
Her homework was to focus on the performance exercise in her practice. When she came back for the next lesson, this time after two weeks - she was FINALLY singing at a new level. It was consistent, and there was no turning back. After 2 years, that is what it took to really get ahead.
Doing this kind of exercise with hundreds of students I got a quick and very satisfying result 100% of the time.
It's because with performance exercises you are prioritizing what actually makes a good performance. And vocal technique, believe it or not, is not the first thing that makes a good performance.
You need authenticity, expression, charisma. Performance exercises give you that. They give you the delivery of a piece, a song. They can make you think of the meaning of a song. They are a shortcut to channel what you want to convey to your audience.
In my performance course SingWell on Stage I give you a bunch of performance exercises, for all different types of scenarios and vocal and musical goals.
About the author
I'm an opera singer and (online) voice teacher, based in Amsterdam. It took me more than a decade to overcome my share of mental and physical issues and reach a professional level as a singer. Because of this background, and my 10+ years of teaching experience, I believe I can speed up your learning curve as a singer.
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Eye-openers, tips and stories. Also content that I don't publish on my website.