Five Handy Tips and the ABCs for Vocal Performance
As Christmas Performers, we run into all sorts of interesting scenarios. Many times, we have to roll with unpredictable settings at our appointments. Our venues or audience may vary in size, have a variety of sound systems, or have no means to amplify your voice, or have unusual acoustics. It is our job then to be prepared for whatever situation we encounter.
Here are some handy tips for preparation.
One simple way to be ready to go with the flow includes this set of ABCs.
A=AMPLIFY. If this appearance will be in public and include more than 20 people in the audience, it is always a good idea to bring a back-up portable sound system. If you don’t have one, we highly recommend you get one as soon as you can. Your system should include both wireless and hand-held microphones with cable, including a microphone stand. Often, those “small, twenty person” events can blossom into a two-hundred person events. Having your own gear not only covers you for that appearance, it also preserves your voice for your later gigs.
B=BE READY. Be ready to take control. Be your best advocate, and an advocate for your audience. Even when the pre-show setup seems complete, you may need to make some changes for your performing advantage. Have your chair shifted to a less distracting background. Get people to fill in at the front and help folks with access needs. If you can, keep the kids WITH the parents. Ensure that your audience will experience the best of your presentation and reduce the challenges you might face.
C=CHECK. Do a complete sound check. Walk through the space, if at all possible, to test the acoustics. Verify that the microphone is working, has been adjusted so that the last row can hear you and the first row is not blasted. See that your projection does not cause feedback. Look for ways to decrease background noises (closing the door to the kitchen, sealing the sliding room divider completely, closing the window to the traffic). Overhead music can be either turned off or lowered to a non-intrusive volume level. If there is noisy machinery, arrange to have it turned for any key part of your performance. Have a staff member or friend in the back of the hall cup their ear, and give the “thumbs up or thumbs down” whether they can hear you clearly. Use diplomacy and a question to help you get things changed, “Excuse me, can you help me? I was wondering….”
With or without amplification, we still need to be ready and so here are five handy vocal tips!
- Practice regularly. Building vocal power requires practice. Take some vocal lessons and do weekly exercises. Your lungs, vocal chords, throat, mouth, and diaphragm all need work together. Your muscles and stamina must be developed. Imagine that you are training for a marathon. Sing or speak, in the shower and in the car.
- If it hurts, there is something wrong. While you might be tempted to “push past the pain,” you could be harming your vocal chords if you strain. Sound will project more smoothly with body and neck alignment. When you feel pain, there could be stress on the neck, throat, sinuses or even forehead. Tension and pain will cause problems, especially over the long-term. See a professional vocal coach to address any discomfort or pain while speaking or singing.
- Breath control is your friend. Air is the medium we use to create and carry the sound. If you have no air, then you have no sound. You should study how much air you need to get the volume and effect you want. Practice gentle sustained notes, at various volumes and pitches. Examine how to section your performance piece to ensure you get enough breath. Breath control will affect singing, speaking, reading aloud, and even dancing. Many performers improve their breath control by studying Tai Chi or swimming.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Keep a water bottle nearby at all times that has a built-in straw or a clicking flip-lip. (Do not touch the straw or mouthpiece with your gloves, since the gloves are picking up potential viruses, dirt, or bacteria.) Typically, performers in heavy costume sweat approximately half a pint per hour. Vocalists must keep their vocal chords from drying out, because when they are dry, then can get stressed, tighten, and run a greater risk for damage and/or infection. Take small sips of water more frequently. The effects of ingesting water will not be felt in the larynx for typically twenty minutes or more. Room temperature water does the best job. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, cough drops, antihistamines, extreme temperatures (very hot beverages, very cold beverages), dairy, sugar, or carbonation. Consider using a humidifier at home, especially during the season, to aid your voice.
- Finally, vocal warm ups are extremely important. Warm-ups help your body adjust to the increased demand of an appearance. As we age, our bodies benefit even more from a thorough warm up before exertion, including our voices. While practice is beneficial, a simple practice is not equivalent a full warm-up. Work through your high and low notes, soft and loud volume, as well as speaking clearly with carefully enunciation. For long days, commit to a complete warm-up at the beginning of the day. Use gentle warm-ups directly before each performance.
I hope these tips are useful to you. Obviously, you can’t learn to be an amazing vocalist in a weekend workshop. But at Christmas Performer Workshops, our goal is to help you find the resources you need and help you fine tune for our unique art form.
Here’s some cool news and the obligatory plug!
Christmas Performer Workshops (CPW) will be at the 8th Annual Northwest Santa Workshop at Greatwolf Lodge, Grand Mound WA, November 3 and 4, 2017. Santa True will be leading workshops and discussions on how to be better performers and on developing resources for our Christmas Community.
Obligatory plug: There are SO MANY great Christmas/Santa Schools available. Christmas Performer Workshops is a bit different. We focus on taking your Christmas Performing to the next level. Let’s be honest, a $2000 dollar suit is wasted on a bad performer, and a great performer can rock a cheap one.
The goal of CPW is to help our community realize our potential as unique and professional Christmas Performers who can make the magic happen! If your group or event is ready to bring it to the next level, give us a shout and let’s plan a workshop for you!
Contact Santa@SantaTrue.com today.