Whatever your views may be on singing competitions, they are a scary but helpful rung on the ladder to the next level of understanding how to train your voice. And whether you’re participating in a local festival, trying your luck on a television show, or participating in a major international competition, the rules for preparation and how you conduct yourself are pretty much the same.
Types of Competition
Local festivals – These can be an excellent first stage for aspiring singers and their teachers to check not only on their personal progress, but on their progress in relation to others at a similar level. When considering how to train your voice for local festivals, make careful note of any set pieces that you may have to learn, and talk to others who have participated in past years.
Television shows – With the rise of shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent, it can be very tempting to throw your hat into the ring and try your skills in front of a celebrity panel. However, be warned: television talent shows are as much about what makes good television as they are about talented participants. If you have a thick skin and can manage your nerves, go ahead. Otherwise, perhaps investigate smaller, local competitions instead.
Auditions – Although not strictly competitions, auditions can become a more rewarding experience if you view them as such. You may find that how to train your voice for auditions is different compared to how to train your voice for competitions. You may, for example, have more freedom with repertoire, or be auditioning for a specific part. Successful auditions aren’t necessarily always ones where you get the job, either — “winning” an audition is best viewed as one where everything with regard to your preparation went right, and you sang as well as you could for your current stage of development.
College and other competitions – If you’re following a classical training path, you will almost certainly have to take part in competitions while at college, both internally and externally. You may have to prepare specific arias, and panels will be paying close attention to your stage presence and use of language as well as your singing.
How to Prepare
You may have heard the “Five Ps Rule” in relation to studying for exams, but it also rings true when preparing for competitions: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Here are some pointers that will help with proper preparation:
Never enter a competition without asking your teacher – You’ve put your trust in a professional to know best how to train your voice, so making decisions about your level of vocal development and how to measure it should be run by them first.
Consult your teacher and vocal coaches about what repertoire to sing – Popular repertoire for competitions is popular for a reason, but does it show you off well? The right aria for you is the best thing to sing, not the crowd-pleaser that you can’t quite manage, and certainly not under pressure.
Don’t be too clever – Having said that, be wary of choosing anything too obscure. If any part of the final judging is audience-led, you may find that something completely unfamiliar loses their interest, and therefore their vote for you.
Tackle your nerves (if you have them) – Performance nerves aren’t necessarily a bad thing, so don’t view them as the enemy. Learn to work with them; analyze how your nerves affect you, and work through every step of your physical fight-or-flight response with practical solutions. For example, if you feel slightly sick, carbonated water may help.
Work closely with an instructor you trust and who will give you the confidence you need to succeed, and you’ll feel much more comfortable heading to that competition. Good luck!
Photo by U.S. Army