Musical Theatre Audition Tip: Sing in your own voice, don’t copy the recording

Musical Theatre Audition Tip Sing in your own voice don't copy the recording_550
Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrust via cc

Why you need to sing a song as YOU and not someone who has sung it before

Please watch the video at the end of this article to see some Broadway singers ‘unplugged’
The habit at the moment is for young singers to come to audition attempting to sound like a recording of the song which they have practised and try to emulate. This is a common reason for them to not get through the audition stage but also for them to do damage to their voices.
Young, inexperienced and untrained singers need to realise that studio recordings are processed, and very often ‘live’ performances are amplified and processed too.

Listening to a recording is never the same as hearing it sung acoustically

Popular culture is a place where pity is called compassion, flattery is called love, propaganda is called knowledge, tension is called peace, gossip is called news, and auto-tune is called singing
Criss Jami
A skilled sound engineer uses compression, reverb, delay, equalisation, levelling and occasionally auto-tune. This is a necessary evil nowadays. We, the listener, very rarely hear the ‘true’ voice of a performer, unless you are lucky enough to hear an intimate acoustic session.
Modern microphones and the lucidity of digital technology cause every minuscule imperfection of a NATURAL voice jump right out at you, the listener. So to help smooth things out, sound engineers use the tools that modern technology have given us. Therefore what you listen to on a recording isn’t what the singers really sound like. Nearly all of the time, they will actually be singing a great deal quieter than the volume level which we listen at when listening to a song through a stereo system and especially when we listen to that recording through earphones.

Listening to the original cast recording is not good audition practise

iPods and MP3 players can easily achieve 110 decibels. Most studies show that 90-100 dB is the ordinary volume level of singers in the middle part of their range. Every 3 decibels equals doubling the sound, when you listen at 110db you’re hearing these vocalists at about 3-7 times the intensity they are in reality performing at. In real-life we do not naturally perform with reverb, compression, equalization, and delay coming directly out of our mouths. Without equipment there is no way you can duplicate the recorded sound at an audition.
This does not mean that the singers on the recordings are not talented. Quite the opposite. Each of these artists are unbelievably talented. When they sing these singers tell a story. Their singing comes from the heart. They allow themselves to be raw, real, and truthful – and because of that, they get hired!

Singing loudly isn’t singing better

There is only one you for all time. Fearlessly be yourself.
Anthony Rapp
There is a ‘plague’ spreading like wild fire amongst students and recent graduates – the epidemic of “being a belter is better!” In the words of public enemy – Don’t believe the hype!
A whole generation seems to consider being louder as being more expert because that’s what they are listening to through their earphones. When they sing, if they do not hear themselves in their own heads in the same way that they are hearing via the recordings, they become defeated. When I speak to vocal coaches I am told that one of the main lessons they are constantly teaching is to convince young singers to not push. These teachers also tell me that when the student goes home after the lesson to practice they will often sing loud again. A whole generation has been conditioned by the modern technology used in recordings and playback to perform in an amplified way without amplification.
Do the audition panel a favour and stop the unnecessary ‘screaming’.
You are who you are. You should just be yourself at all times. The only way you’re going to get through life, happily, is being yourself.
Nikki Blonsky
Do what you are capable of doing and most of all focus on being who you are. Do not try and emulate the recording, a panel want you to sing from their own special place, in your own unique voice, just as actors do when approaching a monologue.
There is nothing more moving than seeing an actual human being standing on a stage or in a casting room and allowing their soul to speak through their acoustic voice. Casting directors and musical directors LOVE that sort of singing.

Sing in YOUR true voice and you will never let YOU down

If you naturally have a loud belt voice, then that’s wonderful, that’s your voice, your unique tone so use it. If you don’t have a natural loud belting voice then you can still work professionally, sound engineers and technicians will be able to amplify and help you, as long as you just do what you do naturally.
Don’t push, just be you.

Broadway Singers acoustic vs engineered

Watch the following video, infact watch it a few times. It shows you the difference that sound engineers can do to a vocal performance in a studio.
Remember that casting directors are not expecting to hear a fully polished finished recording quality version, they are after you acting and singing with heart and uniqueness and you can only do this by being true to both yourself and your voice.
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