Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vocal contests... how to "win"

I did a favor for Wynne Adams, a friend and business associate of mine, this week that I don't normally like to do: I judged her talent contest: "Galaxy of Stars Premier Talent Search" Yep. I know, I tell you how much I hate em. But I agreed because, unlike too many talent shows these days, this one:
  1. Wasn't rigged.
  2. Judges weren't pre-scripted to say mean things to make people cry for ratings.
  3. It wasn't "live"... no drama! We judges watched video submissions and only judged talent, not video quality.
  4. We were specifically asked to couch criticism in ways that would be constructive, not destructive, and -
  5. We were asked to make comments that would give them accurate, objective assessments and help them with their weak points.
So... I gave away a lot of free voice lessons :) And the other judges gave lessons based on their expertise (judges included a video company staff member, a veteran session singer & songwriter, a D.J., manager of a famous Nashville nightclub, and me). It was really quite cool; we felt at the end of the (loooong) day that we had given them valuable advice they could act on pretty easily.

Afterwards, I thought about what helps people win contests.
As a judge, I was favorably impressed if the contestant demonstrated:


1. communicative skills and stage presence, active eyes and natural body language
2. no or minimal vocal strain
3. good pitch, sense of rhythm
4. a good song choice that fit the age, vocal range and tone color
5. a stage outfit that made the artist stand out but was not selling sex.

I was less than favorably impressed if the contestant demonstrated:

1. numbness in performance, disconnected from the audience and/or song
2. vocal strain - (HATE THAT!)
3. pitchiness, getting out of the groove or losing their place rhythmically
4. song choice with inappropriate lyrics or too much range for vocal ability
5. stage wear that either looked like everyday nothing special going on or selling sex.

We were all very impressed with Wynne's focus on the well-being of her contestants. She cares. She knows that the most important thing she can do is to help her people get better. She's passionate about helping would-be-artists from Nebraska be prepared for what it really takes to make a successful commercial career; not just be a "Jerry Springer" reality-TV moment victor or victim. I think she'll get one- a big one- and soon.

So, how to win a contest?

1. Know going in what spirit is behind the contest. If you smell rigged, just take the judging with not even a grain of salt, be OK with having fun no matter what the outcome... or don't audition!
If you avoid getting jealous or resentful of unfairness, YOU WIN!

2. Most of the time, the only good you get in a contest is experience singing. If you audition for this reason, YOU WIN- because the more you sing, the more comfortable you get with performance.

3. Be truly kind to your fellow contestants. It's really too bad we compare talent to each other, the only one you should be competitive with is yourself. A talent show is a great place to show friendship and support to strangers. Anytime you make yourself helpful to others, YOU WIN!

4. If you are using talent contests correctly, you're going to try out again and again..just for the sake of learning and getting better. If "losing" the judgement it's a serious blow to your self-esteem, ask yourself why. Take the challenge and dig into stinking thinking that might stand in the way of the freedom of your spirit and of your true creativity. Get better at your craft... YOU WIN!

5. If you thought you were going to win but didn't, and it helps you obtain a bit of humility to know you might need a little help, YOU WIN!

5. If you happen to win the judging, IT'S ICING ON THE CAKE! and congratulations! (But don't get the big head :)

Anybody have thoughts on talent contests?

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