Tag Archives: friday’s focus vocal

American Idol-ization

It’s American Idol Season on Fox, and final cuts are currently being made for the live competition shows. This brings to mind the formal vocal audition process – it was sometimes albeit painfully obvious as you watched the city-to-city auditions, that some of the singers were quite well prepared, while others simply fell apart in the heat of the moment, when it really counted the most.

If you’re a choral or voice student in an organized music program, perhaps you’re thinking about auditioning soon to get into a particular workshop event; to perform over the summer in a community theatre production; or perhaps even to get accepted into a degree program at a college or university that has a great school of fine arts.

Don’t become the American Idol statistic of unpreparedness and nervousness, or the next YouTube viral video for the wrong reasons. Find out what you can about the audition process for the specific event, production, or degree program that you’re interested in. Ask the organizer(s) lots of questions if you can, and try to find some people that have previously gone through the same type of audition, in order to get some feedback from them, too.  Make sure that you adhere to their criteria and rules, whatever it may be – song choice, length of audition, dress code, etc. It’s all important, and falling below acceptable levels in any one area could make or break your success in getting what you want.

Nowadays, in many vocal audition situations, particularly in Broadway and contemporary music, you’re not expected or even required to sing a song in its entirety.  You may actually be asked to sing only 8, 16, or 32 measures of it. What’s important to know here, is that you really need to select the right 8, 16, or 32 measures of the song – that magical part of it that shows off your range, musicality, versatility, etc.  And that can be hard to do, especially if you don’t have much experience in it to begin with.

Luckily, there’s now a wide range of music books (many with CDs available) that can help.  You can be ultra-prepared in so many ways – maybe you’ve asked many questions, practiced a lot, plan to be dressed appropriately and more – but if you’ve chosen the wrong song, you’re probably sunk, before you’ve even really begun. Don’t American Idol-ize yourself, and let that happen to you. Ask Questions. Get Prepared. And choose the right song, because success for you might be just around the corner!

 

Audition Songs for Male Singers:

Broadway Favorites
Classic Soul
Classical Greats
Elvis Presley
Film Hits
Rock Favorites
Standard Favorites

Audition Songs for Female Singers

Broadway Favorites
Broadway Standards
Classical Greats
Favorite Pop Songs
Favorite Standards

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Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthology – 16-Bar Audition

Soprano
Mezzo-Soprano
Tenor
Baritone/Bass

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16-Bar Theatre Audition

Soprano
Mezzo-Soprano
Tenor
Baritone/Bass

 

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16-Bar Pop/Rock Audition

Men
Women

Kids

Audition Songs
Musical Theatre Audition – Boys
Musical Theatre Audition – Girls

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Friday’s Focus for Vocal, the series, posts to www.pendersbuzz.com about once a month, with information from our staff, our publisher partners, guest bloggers and more. Come back to this site, or access it from our main Home Page, to find out the latest buzz!

Are you a Gleek?

Glee, the Fox TV show has given new life to [show] choirs, musical theater, all manner of the arts, and school music programs in general all around the country. Who knew that all those 70’s and 80’s classic rock power ballads of years gone by would enjoy such a renewed popularity? That it’s now cool [again] to sing, dance, perform in groups, and be proud of it?

Yet, while it might seem like some crazy phenomenon to some, to us — the educators, the students who have been in music and arts programs for years, and to the professionals who provide all the print music, books, instruments, and much more — we experience our own phenomenon every day. We know the value in what we do, and why it is so important to us. It’s simple. It just matters.

For educators and professionals, it has mattered at nearly every level of our lives. Most of us were students first, of course, so we’ve been involved with music for years, and cannot imagine a life without it. Educators enjoy the euphoric rush of seeing their fledgling individual or group do well in that all-important performance. Professionals in the industry at large know that without the quality goods and services supplied to those groups, that doing well can be more difficult. Therefore, there’s great satisfaction in putting that much sought-after piece of music in the eager hands of the educator, or that shiny new horn in the arms of a novice musician. It matters.

For all those students, in music programs great and small, it matters, too. Music makes you smarter; music may be your oasis; music [groups] can be your socialization; music might be your ultimate relaxation. And that’s the beauty of it, of course. Music is a like a shape-shifter — it can be whatever you want it to be — it doesn’t judge you, and it doesn’t mock you. Music makes you better. It matters.

So, are you on the Glee bandwagon yet? Come on, we know you want to…..Dream On [Queen]; Imagine [John Lennon]; Show your True Colors [Cindy Lauper], Faithfully [Journey]….

Friday’s Focus on Vocal, the series, will post to www.pendersbuzz.com about once a month, with information from our staff, our publisher partners, guest bloggers and more. Come back to this site, or access it from our main Home Page, to find out the latest buzz!

Vocal Jazz Ensemble, anyone?

It’s Choral Cache Thursday @ Pender’s Music Co.! As we begin 2011, we also begin a new initiative — The Pender’s Buzz — an added way in bringing content, resources, teaching tidbits & strategies, social media and more to our loyal customers. And since our home base is in Texas, early 2011 is filled with preparations in getting ready for TMEA. So it’s quite fitting that one of our inaugural posts begins with just that! So, here we go…

Don’t miss all of the Alfred choral sessions at TMEA February 9-11! School choral reading sessions will feature incredibly popular clinician Sally K. Albrecht presenting new choral arrangements of pop titles that can be performed by both large and small choral ensembles! When you get a chance, check out Alfred’s clinic schedule!

The annual Jazz Education Network Conference was just last week, so while the genre is fresh on our minds, it’s a great time to evaluate the ins and outs of adding a vocal jazz ensemble to the choral curriculum. Small vocal groups are really popular right now, so take a look at this article, entitled How Do I Start a Vocal Jazz Ensemble by Darmon Meader, Arranger, Saxophonist, Conductor, Singer, and founder of New York Voices:

“The vocal jazz ensemble world has continued to grow and develop over the past few decades. Over the past 50 years, groups such as Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Singers Unlimited, The Manhattan Transfer, and New York Voices have given this idiom significant exposure. Like instrumental jazz before it, vocal jazz has become more and more respected in the public school education system.

However, the vocal jazz ensemble is a bit of a “mutt” or hybrid, which can often confuse and frustrate choral enthusiasts and educators. Though an SATB style of music, the roots of the style are deeply ingrained in instrumental jazz. SATB vocal jazz voicings are often more related to jazz piano voicings or big band saxophone section writing than to traditional choral sensibilities.

Over the years, I have had many choral directors approach me, asking how to start a vocal jazz ensemble. Many of these directors had vast choral experience, but were new to the jazz idiom and found the whole thing a bit daunting. So, what does this mean for the choral instructor who is venturing into this for the first time? First of all, it is important to have a solid understanding of basic jazz harmony. Understanding and being able to recognize (both visually and aurally) common jazz chord progressions, song forms, chord symbols, and upper-structures such as 9, #11, & 13 are important steps to being able to develop a solid vocal jazz choir.


Most SATB vocal jazz writing uses a concept called “four-way close” writing. This means that the harmony is conceived from the melody note down, with all chord notes (including upper-structure notes) in play. What this means is that the vocalists will often be singing much more dense and challenging harmonies than found in their traditional choral repertoire. The Sopranos almost always sing the melody, which is usually the easiest part. The Altos may have some challenging harmony notes, but more often then not they are still singing in a comfortable relationship with the Soprano part. The Tenors and Basses usually have the most challenging parts, so it is safe to say that your vocal jazz ensemble will only be as solid as the men that sing in the ensemble. Your male vocalists will need extra attention to develop their ears for this type of challenging harmony. In addition to traditional warm-ups, give your men some warm-ups that develop their jazz harmony senses: hearing and singing tri-tone 7ths and 3rds between the two parts, singing major and minor 2nds between parts, and singing major and minor 7ths between parts. These are just a few ideas that reflect the types of harmonic relationships found in vocal jazz writing.

Even though the Alto, Tenor, and Bass parts are often less melodic, they are just as important as the Soprano part. So, encourage the lower voices to think of their parts not only as harmonic support, but as melodic entities unto themselves. In New York Voices, we often talk about thinking in two planes at once: the vertical plane involves tuning, matching vowels and tone, and dynamics, while the horizontal plane involves the melodic direction of all four parts.

Vibrato or no vibrato? As I mentioned earlier, vocal jazz is a direct off-shoot of instrumental jazz. Since the Bebop era and beyond, instrumental jazz has used vibrato sparingly, more as a color or device than as a natural part of the sound. This developed both for stylistic and harmonic reasons. By the nature of jazz writing, straight tone often is required to allow the harmonies to resonate properly, whether being played by a big band, or sung by a choir. With that said, there is room for some vibrato at times. Some songs may incorporate a looser style or gospel influences where vibrato is more appropriate. You also may find that longer chords may allow for vibrato to be added once the harmony has been established. Also, the larger your ensemble, the less room there is for vibrato.

A couple of closing thoughts:

• Listen, listen, and then listen some more. The more jazz your students listen to, the more comfortable they will become with the idiom.
• When picking repertoire, be realistic about the reach and abilities of your ensemble. We would all love to sing Gene Puerling arrangements, Take Six repertoire, or the entire New York Voices songbook, but most groups are not ready for that level of harmonic and rhythmic complexity. Explore easier and medium level repertoire to find music that will challenge you and your ensemble, without overwhelming them.
• Lastly, if you have an instrumental jazz program in your school, try to connect with the instrumental jazz faculty and students. Your instrumental jazz instructor might be able to add valuable input, and you also might find a few instrumental students that would like to sing in your ensemble. Who knows, you might have a budding young singer sitting in the sax section of your school’s big band. Come to think of it, that’s how I got my start in all of this vocal jazz craziness!”

Choral Cache Thursdays, the series, will post to www.pendersbuzz.com a couple of times a month, with information from our staff, our publisher partners, guest bloggers and more. Come back to this site, or access it from our main Home Page, to find out the latest buzz!

(Article provided by Alfred Publishing, Co.)