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. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Performance Power Is In The Draw- Not The Push

We all want our performances to be powerful. But just what does that mean? It better mean that you powerfully connect with -- and emotionally impact -- the heart of your audience.

Top mistakes which sabotage your performance power:
  • Singing too loud 
Oh my, this is a big one. I've actually seen most of the audience get up and leave because someone is blasting them with volume... and the performer actually then sang louder under the mistaken impression that this would help him gain the audience back!

Even screaming rockers should never push 100% of air pressure when singing. Pull a scream instead... it will be more powerful! In fact, you actually sound bigger with more resonance from breath control that sends vocal sound through an open throat, not 100% air pressure pushing through your vocal cords.

Your vocal volume should draw audiences into your performance, not push them away.  Read the room... are people's ears bleeding? (and maybe your throat, too?) Back off the pressure (and add passion)!
  • Singing too long
Forget fairness. If you have to cut your show short because the evening is going too long (which happens at many multi-performer events), do so! Make a great impression not only on your tired audience, but also the sound crew and the host that invited you. Not fair that you have to cut your time? Suck it up. Draw attention to yourself by leaving them wanting more... not less!

Caution: While you are on stage, don't apologize. Confidently occupy the stage for the time you're there... and then get off leaving them wandering what just wonderfully hit them.
  • Talking too much
OK, people in the audience don't care about what you have to say unless it  entertains them. Accept that fact and you'll be a much better judge of what to say and how long to go on with your story. Yes, if time allows it is often good to give people a personal glimpse into you and your music by talking to them between songs. But if you bore... they may head for the door.

Again... read the room and the reaction to what you're saying. Tell them only what would draw them in-- not just what you want them to know.  

Caution: Do not talk too fast, do give pauses so the audience can absorb what you're saying... but spend your words like big money and keep it short!
  • Using the wrong body language
If you are in a small venue, don't use pushy, showy body language. If you're in a large venue, occupy the space and open your body language up. It's like the difference between film and theater... gesture size needs to depend on venue size and characteristics.

And don't point at people! Talk about pushing... how do you like a finger in your face? Draw your audience in skillfully with body language and gestures appropriate to the venue, the occasion, and your genre of music.
  • Being negative 
In general... consider the stage a no-whine zone! Reality check... Your audience doesn't care that your significant other dumped you last month or that the record industry dissed you or that you're having a hard life. Your job is to take care of THEM, not ask them to take care of YOU.

Yes, it can connect you to them by revealing a hard fact about your life, but always spin it positively. People are drawn towards the light, and music is at it's most powerful when it makes the world a better place.

Even if you speak to the ills of the world (some of the post powerful kinds of music teaches and warns) - make your performance cause the audience to think about what they can do about the problem instead of plunging them into hopelessness.
  • Underarticulating
This is one of my personal pet peeves. It's like stealing a song from me when I can almost make out a few lyrics to an otherwise compelling musical performance. You can't draw a listener in nearly as well with nonsense syllables as you can with clarity of diction.

Genre needs to dictate diction, yes, but even the slurriest genres need to be understood. Don't over do it... just make your communication clear. If you're lyrics aren't strong enough to draw people in, choose another song:)
  • Forgetting to be generous
When we perform, it should be an act of grace. If your audience perceives a spirit of generosity in the person to whom they are listening, they will be drawn in. If on the other hand there is a stinginess perceived it will push people away faster than anything I know.

Share the glory with others. Where time allows, thank people... side musicians, co-artists, hosts, support people and servers at your venue. When time does not allow, do something to communicate gratitude to your audience. Take a pause to acknowledge applause. Don't 'diss' their gift back to you by immediately turning your back to them after each song.

OK did I miss something? In your own role as audience, what did you experience that drew you in or pushed you away from a performance? Got links to performances that you consider particularly powerful? Your comments welcome!

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  • At June 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM , Anonymous Pete Mickelson said...

    Judy, you're 'singing to the choir' here! Thank You! Ray Miller just finished sketching out a research program for choral groups (bbshop, church, acappella . . . ) to try, and each of his eight experiments entails just what you're saying. Last week, we had the experience of a master class in which one of the singers came on so strong that her voice was shredding the air (my words) in front of her mouth, just like the shredding, ripping sound one hears as a Boeing 747 takes off. A little less force > a little less non-linearity > a lot more passion and beauty. As in politics, Power corrupts, but Absolute Power destroys. That's part of why HearFones have been so helpful, in toning down the noise and building the beauty of the voice.


  • At June 11, 2011 at 2:31 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Haha... yes, you would know about this, Pete! And folks, I heartily recommend the gadget 'HearFones". I sell them in my office and they are so effective they go like hotcakes. You can get them (at the same price) at their website http://www.hearfones.com

  • At September 13, 2011 at 5:40 PM , Anonymous Ray Miller said...

    I have been to many performances where people walked out (even from 'high-ranking' singers) because they didn't 'hold' the audience, didn't know how, or didn't care.
    Another relevant comment from experience in singing in lounges and other good venues, with pianist Danny Patt (74 years playing piano) ---
    many times when my audience, lounge-goers, were busy talking and I felt I wasn't getting to them, I kept mind of the fact they come to drink and chat with friends, rather than to hear me---well, some of them came to hear me and Danny --- I would take on step closer to them, sing it more softly with more feeling, smile at them and enjoy their quieter attention. I never challenged them! that worked!


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