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How To Nail Your X-Factor Audition - Part 1
02/25/2012
Having been through two seasons of X-Factor, not as an contestant but a judge and a mentor, I have amassed a vast amount of advice in my head that I wish I had the opportunity to share with the people who auditioned. Particularly before they auditioned. Because there are a lot of tricks to this trade that can easily be picked up. So I thought I’d write them down in a series of blogs to help whoever might go and audition in the future.

1. The Microphone Challenge
A singer must build an intimate relationship with the microphone - want it or not. The microphone is like the lightsaber for the Jedi Knight: it buzzes and hums, only it doesn’t glow in the dark. (If it glows then proceed with caution.)
-First, let’s establish what everybody knows about the microphone. The purpose of this machinery is to pick up the sound of a singer so that a large amount of people can hear it. This can only happen if the contestant sings into the mic with ample power, instead of pointlessly trying to connect it with their ears or other body parts. Making such connection is dangerous because 1. their hair will stand up from the electricity 2. nobody will hear their voice and therefore the production will come off weak and the singer will be sent home. (In case of the first point there will be some applause though.)
-I’ve observed that many contestants release the boiling energy in them by playing with the microphone or moving their pinky finger as fast as a hummingbird flaps its wings. This is very annoying to watch and distracts the audience. The pent-up energy, including the nervous energy needs to be channeled into the performance and the voice.
-Often times singers tend to suddenly pull the microphone away when a high note comes around. As if they wanted to protect the audience from the elemental power that can potentially escape from their mouth. But somehow, I never get to witness this lion’s roar or blood-curdling scream, only quiet pantomime. These moments immediately quesion the singer’s ability to sing that particular high note in the audience. My advice is to keep the microphone at a constant distance and let the soundman worry about the levels.
-The rest between the lines is just as important as the lines themselves. If I lower the microphone after each line like a fly swatter, what I signal to my audience is that I ran out of things to say (due to the lack of flies). This way the lines of the song will be chopped up and the performance becomes boring. My advice is to keep the mic up for a whole section (like a verse or chorus) at a time.

2. Song Selection
Choosing the right song to sing can be crucial in a competition. Of course we are all different with different strengths and weaknesses, but there are a few basic issues regarding song selection that have come up too many times during the auditions. Girls - for example love singing male songs, in the original male key. That unfortunately ends up sounding like a bear trying to sing, because it’s too low for their voice. I’ve seen too many talented folks fail because of this. The female vocal range sits much higher than the male, therefore the song must be transposed up (roughly 6 semitones) or you have to choose a female song. To visualize this problem, imagine a fashion show where all the models are wearing firemen clothes, just because they thought it would fit them perfectly...
So which one’s a good choice and which is a bad one? Well that is the age-old question, but I have a few no-brainers to share with you. If you have a small voice don’t choose a Céline Dion song, go for something simple and sexy. On the other hand, if you have a big voice choose a song in which you can actually show it off. But not only in the last 10 seconds of the song because they might not let you sing that much. If you can’t do riffs and runs forget Mariah Carey, no matter how much you love her. People connect with singers because of the emotions they make them feel - the vocal acrobatics are just icing on the cake. And if you can’t sing *sigh* I recommend taking some voice lessons :)



 

 

 

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