How To Excel In Singing and Life

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Today I’d like to address a very important difference between people who excel at something and those who don’t.

In fact, if we want to excel as singer/performers (or in any field), I think it is crucial that we understand and embrace this.

It was an email I received that inspired me to write this article. So let me first address the issue in the email and then how it can help you.

The email was from a woman who had watched one of the interview videos that are posted at www.TheSingingZone.com/reviews

She wrote that she was disappointed because the beginner singer that I interviewed only talked about his experience – he never sang.

She felt cheated. “The proof is in the pudding “ she said and continued with: “let me hear him sing so I can judge whether or not the program is any good.”

I’ve actually received a couple of similar emails in the past so it deserves a response, and it serves as a great example of today’s subject.

Now, as you also know, numerous professional singers have trained with my program and I also interview some pros at www.TheSIngingZone.com/reviews

So here’s an important question: Why don’t I ask a professional singer to sing in the video interview?

Really ponder it....

Why would, and should, a professional singer say no to such a suggestion?

Do you know the answer?

Because a professional singer would never be so foolish to suddenly just sing on the spot, unprepared, without accompaniment, over a web camera that produces horrendous sound quality, which then will be broadcast on the internet on someone else’s website to hundreds of thousands of people.

To a professional it would be a ludicrous suggestion.

A professional singer releases his/her art to the world when it is ready to be released.

Before they perform, they train, they practice, they rehearse and rehearse some more. They record on the best equipment they can get. If they perform live, whether on stage, TV, radio or the Internet, they make sure they are given the opportunity to put their best foot forward. That is how a professional operates.

So why on earth would I be so insensitive to put a beginner on the spot and suggest that he sings under such miserable circumstances – which inevitably would make him sound far worse than he is?

Of course I wouldn't do that, and how we personally like someone's style of singing is of course irrelevant anyway. The point of the interviews is to understand a person's experience.

Now the real reason the email writer demanded the person to sing, is not because she was interested in being entertained. She could go to the professional artist’s websites for that. (Obviously, a beginner doesn’t want to have their singing on a website). No, the email writer simply wanted an opportunity to judge.

(The common tendency to judge and be judgmental is on of the biggest self-defeating tendencies among humans, and is huge subject that we’ll address in greater depth some other time)

However, the point of today’s article is to understand the value of preparation.

People who excel prepare. They practice and rehearse and always strive to improve. They release their art and creations to the public when it is ready.

Let me say it one more time:

People who excel prepare.

There are enormous amounts of people who have had bad experiences singing and therefore believe they can’t sing. They sang in public once and it didn’t go well, so now they don’t want to perform again.

It is beginners who more than others tend to live with the false beliefs of talent versus non-talent.

But the real reason for the bad experience was really lack of preparation. They didn’t have the training to understand that the song was in the wrong key, or know what to do to make the voice sound good.

They had no training and no real preparation.

So…

…to put it in a harshly in a perspective of losers versus winners…

Losers just wing it. Winners train and prepare.

Dare I ask which one you are?

(feel free to post your thoughts below)

  • Maria N. says:

    One can hardly add anything to these comments, Per, which are so spot-on. Nonetheless, I’d like to piggyback some additional thoughts on yours. First, it’s only when you’re very prepared that you can be spontaneous in performance. And secondly, whatever stage of development you’re at, in whatever endeavor, find the best tools, the best workshops, the best teacher you can, and don’t settle for less because you’re not a “professional.” We all have untold potential that needs to be honored, and indeed, preparation is one way of honoring it.

  • Kaci says:

    Well said…

  • Jenny says:

    It has taken me many years to realize that I don’t have to be The Best Singer but I do have to practice/play with it enough so that I can be comfortable performing and satisfied with how I sound. Once I achieve those I can add song interpretation, emotion, facial expression and joy. That’s when I can get audiance response – the true blessing of singing!

  • Joe says:

    Hi Per,
    I don’t thnk you could have said it better. After years and years of trying (winging it) I’m only seeing improvement now that I put sincere effort. I’ve written songs and have a whole album I’m working on. My singing is just not up to par yet. Wish I could afford your program at this time, perhaps soon.

  • Austin says:

    I totally agree on preparation. Without it, all sorts of problems arise that could have easily been dealt with before performing. And like Per said, we should especially never ask a BEGINNER to sing online where there are critics galore.

  • Agnes Stieda says:

    You are so right, Per,you cannot grab your audience without singing freely,and be right on in all aspects of performing. The only time I ever sing unprepared ,is in big parties,preferably outdoor parties,but even then I know my songs very well from years ago.

  • Bob says:

    I think that preparation is necessary at both the conscious, and unconscious levels. Consciously, we mentally review our mental ‘performance notes’ before we sing. Consciously, we plan in proper warm-up, vocal health maintenance, and all the things we learn are necessary part of our pre-performance routines.

    Unconsciously, it’s a highly individualized mix of emotions: controlling stress levels, anxieties — our level of competence with a piece, or just singing itself. And confidence — how do yo prepare to ‘be’ confident? It’s more like you have to prepare to prepare to be confident. (Boy do I sound ridiculous).

    But I think recent ‘brain activity studies’ back me up here. Peoples’ performance levels in almost every task (not just singing) seem to follow a pattern. High performers show patterns of ‘pre-setting’ the brain activity prior to a task. Even without any conscious knowledge of doing so.

    Perhaps that’s the actual physical manifestation of what confidence really is: the skill to automatically prep yourself for the mental challenge ahead.

  • Bill Treichel says:

    I couldn’t agree more Per
    There is an old adage that I live by in business as well as singing – ” Failing to prepare is preparing to fail ”
    Keep up the good work

  • Taylor Johnson says:

    I love the line about false beliefs of talent vs non-talent. Vert well said.

    This applies to so many different arenas.

    Thanks

  • Cool. Coincidentally only two days ago someone said to me,

    “Preparation meets Opportunity”

    How about that?

    Stephen

  • Jon Jacoby says:

    I’m afraid I may have to disagree with you Per.Ii do agree with the need for preparation but when it comes to ‘winging it’ that’s when and artist truly shines. Maybe in the spectrum of learning being skilled at winging it comes with extensive preparation but still winging it is a skill and you have to learn it. It’s the ability to pull something off you haven’t prepared. or improvise on the spot. I practice ‘winging it’ and there has yet to be a show where somewhere along the line lack of preoperative makes me rely on this skill. Sometimes the greatest part of a performance is how the artist gets out of the bind when things go awry.

  • Judi Brown says:

    Hi Per –
    To ask a singer: beginner or maybe even a more advanced singer to sing impromptu could do injustice to judging their true skill, especially, if the singer is dehydrated, had suffered from a very recent, severe, distressing setback, recovering from the flu, or whatever could impede one’s true skill.
    It takes a glass of water, and sing a few songs to warm up – i.e., to prep my voice (clear up any congestion – sinus, etc.) to sing my moderate beginner best.

  • john says:

    Yes, quite agree – if it were a sportsman being interviewed, say a sprint runner – you would not ask him to demonstrate a start and sprint! Doing that without warmup would be as bad as trying to sing “cold”

  • Neville Wuttke says:

    I totally agree! If one doesn’t ‘prepare/reheardse there is no chance of any sort of polished performance. I sing too, but I also recite and I go over, and over, and over my material, adding an inflexion here, a pause there, until it is somewhere near what I want to offer. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to infer that I’m an ‘expert’ but I do usually get a very good response from my audiences …… and I love it !!

  • shiva says:

    before we can ‘wing it’ we must first learn to do one thing…learn how to fly. This comes with practicing to stretch our wings and then flap them up and down inorder to get off the ground. Once we’re in the air we practice going up and down, right and left etc. When we are confident with this most fundamental skill then we are brave enough to start ‘winging it’, safe in the knowledge that we wont crash into a brick wall….and even if we do, how to recover quickly so we dont look like a wally who never learnt how to fly in the first place.

    As a suggestion Per, maybe you can have a beginning student sing a passage before starting your training program and then some time later have them sing it again to see the gains that were made while following your routines. This may satisfy many of your prospective students who are wishing to invest in your product.Just a thought.

  • Ray says:

    I agree completey with you Per. I do some on line kareoke and never do I save the first or second trial. I listen to it, sometimes listen to the original artist, record it again, make it my own if I want to. When I feel good about it , then I save it. Preparation will secure you, thus releiving the stress so the voice come out freely.
    It is the same in life. I remember having to talk in front of classroom or audience. When I was prepared, I mean really prepared and mastered the subject, the experience was fully rewarding.
    Ray

  • Steve says:

    No ifs, ands or buts about it. The approach to NOT sing for examples from people on this website is SPOT ON. I am a worship leader, and performance is a matter of confidence and leading the people. It has nothing to do with ‘self indulgent nonsense’ and everything to do with presenting your very best so as to not be a distraction.

    Singing in public is, in general, no different. Thanks Per.

  • Aryan T says:

    Per, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your insights. I sing as a hobby and am a doctor by profession, and I must say that I have found the insights in your posts as helpful to me in my work as in my hobby. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and God bless, Aryan.

  • DJM says:

    Per, I use to sing, even made records back in the 70’s, but lost my voice due to MVA’s and surgeries (allergy to endotracheal tube). Now that I’m in my 70’s I’ve been told I’m to old to try to learn how again. What is your opinion. DJM

  • Gordon Lewis says:

    I am a semi-pro singer/performer.I do gigs from time to time.What I have learnt over the years is that there is NO substitute for preparation/rehearsal.I have found that most songs I perform gets a new & sweeter twist somewhere,without distorting it, & practice is where it all happens.I am happy to say that I have never been asked to stop singing while performing.Thankfully, my audiences usually ask for more.I will never stop trying to learn more,to improve my singing.By the way I am 66 years old.Hope to raise the cash to take as much lessons from you.

  • Stig Ove Andersen says:

    All my musical life has been a preparation since i started playing guitar more than fifty years ago. Because of this, I am still playing in a rock and roll band – Gangster Sam´s Gang – and are going to play at the festival her on Samsoe i DK this week. I also play music for to flutes and guitar.
    So Per, I do agree with your point of view. I only do music when I am ready and well prepared. In a way this makes me more spontaneus when I am performing, because I don´t have to think what I am doing!
    To me music is a very personal thing that makes my life to poetry, and that is my experince about music.
    In this way I have come to “a higher level”.
    Your home study course – Sing with freedom – has without any doubt, helped me to improve my singing and understand what is going on.
    My experience is crystal-clear: Losers just wing it. Winners train and prepare.

    Stig *Ove Andersen – DK

  • Diane says:

    You did advertise in your program to be able to sing freely, did you not? I do agree to be on your A game, you have to warm up, and all the other stuff you mentioned.

  • Dianne Troutt says:

    I believe that everyone knows that any professonal always rehearses before a concert or whatever they do. It is only common sense!

  • Our director of the Big Chicken Chorus (BHS) of Marietta, GA has it right……..”An amature rehearses until he gets it right and a professional rehearses until he never gets it wrong.”

  • Leslie Hinton says:

    I have to take exception with this one.

    I was recently asked to sing a song that I had only a passing familiarity with. I had about 15 minutes rehearsal with the band, and another 30 minutes to learn the words and practice on my own. Then, I stepped up and sang in front of a room full of people. Now, the musical director had made sure that the key was right , and the musicians were all consummate professionals, while I, on the other hand, have relatively little experience commanding a stage.

    The song came off well, based on the audience response, but what I took away from this is not that I and sounded okay- but that it was a much less torturous experience to just get up there and DO IT. Had I had a week to prepare, I would have spent much of that time in my HEAD, worrying about everything. Talk about sucking the fun out of the thing….I think it is REALLY important for amateurs to risk and to fail. Your worth as a person does not begin and end with the quality of your last performance, ( or your weight, or knowing what to do with your hands when you sing). You need to know that you can FAIL- hit a bum note, or start the song in the wrong key, AND YOU WILL NOT DIE. It may be uncomfortable for a minute, but the critics ( i.e. non-participants who only WISH they had your guts) do not matter. The only thing that matters is that you came, you sang, and you lived to sing again….and maybe, just maybe, something wonderful happened that no one expected. As an audience member, that is what I long for- unscripted, authentic moments of pure risk. You cannot plan for that, you just have to say “F-it” and FLY!

  • Nick France says:

    Do you think an Olympic athlete would go out and try competing without preparation? Not if they actually wanted to win (or even finish).

    I’ve found preparation is one way to cure those nerves, I’ve been at my most nervous when trying to wing it, and boy it shows. If you are super prepared you have the confidence to then maybe go for that big note on the gig that you hadn’t gone for before, but you can only do that when you’re feeling confident.

    Preparation and working at technique can also stop you from ruining your voice, I’ve nearly wrecked my voice a few times singing screaming rock music with bad technique, Luckily I’ve recovered and learnt better technique.

    Unfortunately in this day and age, if you want to sing for a living at the top level you willl only get one shot (if at all) when that shot comes if you are unprepared, you won’t get another one.

    I ain’t the best singer in the world and probably never will be, but I’m enjoying the program and I’m getting better and haven’t wrecked my voice once since starting it. Plus it’s also helping me to overcome some other stuff going on in my life.

    Thanks Per

    Cheers
    Nick

  • Kate says:

    Good singing can be recognisable even without the best equipment. Some professional singers are so attached to their reputation that singing just like that makes them feel very bad in case it’s not 100 procent good. I think that a good singer doesn’t need to be afraid of being judged. A celebrity singer, on the other hand, will not take the risk…
    another subject for discussion, isn’t it?

  • Abba's praise says:

    very interesting takes on the subject and I found it all helpful. I am 62 yr old and sang alone for the first time 2 weeks ago. Just overcoming the nerves and singing into a mic was always terrifiying and it would cause me to choke up. After reading this article I decided to practise and prepare and using video I recorded my sessions…I then felt ready to try and I did it with my guitar group in my church! Thank you Per and all the reviewers for the inspiration to do this!

  • rod spencelove it says:

    I think feeling free to sing is the most important consideration.
    While I sing and play in a couple of amateur bands and feel really apprehensive about not being properly rehearsed, some of my greatest experiences in singing come from jam sessions or when sitting around a campfire, with no preparation whatsoever. Its commonsense really – if you are a pro and you are appearing in a big gig – of course you must be prepared.
    If you want to sing simply for the love of it – go for it without fearing judgement.

  • Merv says:

    Music and voice are an art that needs to be studied and understood. Are we able to just blast out a woderful version of Amaing Grace or any other song. Like any venture we decide to take on we must be prepared to practice and improve if we wish to become someone who will excell in what we are trying to do. I have heard some very great entertainers in pratice sections and as with any one else they can sound great or not so great. Being prepared is needed if you wish to do your best. Practice and prepare . The two p’s to be successful in any undertacking

  • Victoria Hagle says:

    I agree if this is the last of the efforts you are willing to place into proving to newcomers that the program works.

    Personally I think that showing how well a program like this works that i would have no problem inviting one of the students that have improve in their singing to a professional studio such as his singing voice would be a permanent prove in video of the results of the program.

    I just bought the program recently and I am waiting for the CDs on the mail, I was convinced since before I saw that video but once addressing that point i would want to see prove as a prospective customer and the fact that the logistics of having a quality studio showing the best voice they have from their students would be an issue i would think the company, not the student would see to have.

    As for the rest of the conversation on practice making perfect or at least getting better, I believe that is fantastic information to apply on every activity.

    BTW, i am willing to make a singing video of me singing now and then after i do the course, I am sure I will show improvement if both videos are taken with the same equipment.

  • Joe says:

    “People who excel prepare. They practice and rehearse and always strive to improve. They release their art and creations to the public when it is ready.”

    This is true in any human endeavor. If you write, you start with something, then re-write, re-write, remove the useless, polish the good until it shines. Even polishing a floor to excellence requires work, a constant application of effort to improve, and nothing is done until it’s finished. Your comment is true of everything from raising kids to living by faith. NOTHING worth doing is worth doing to a lesser degree than we are able, Our effort speaks, it tells who we really are. A true artist would never speak ill of himself or herself publicly with less than their best.

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