Singing is a main part in musical theatre. There are so many different tips and advice for singers all over the place. Here are some very practical and insightful tips from the most recent set of Broadway performers.
What a wonderful selection to tips, although that is not it, I’d like to pick on a few points these actors has made…
Erivo: “Listen to all types of music.“
I cannot agree with this statement anymore. Partly because this is what I’ve been taught in conservatoire, but also because this is the quickest way to broaden your horizon and awareness. At this day and age, any style of music can be classified within the Musical Theatre genre as long as you put a plot to it. For example, Hamilton; who ever thought rapping could be classified as a style of singing in musical theatre? Although this is probably a more extreme example, but if we look at the musical theatre repertoire, there are all sorts of styles: Classical e.g. Closer Than Ever or Westside Story ; Jazz e.g. City Of Angels or Guys And Dolls ; Pop/Rock and Rock ‘n’ Roll e.g. Hairspray, Rent or any jukebox musicals; Operetta e.g. Porgy and Bess or any Gilbert and Sullivan; Gospel e.g. Sister Act or The Color Purple to name just a few. How can we accurately sing the style if we don’t know how it should sound? Answer is – LISTEN TO ALL TYPES OF MUSIC!
Jackson: “You’ve got to keep studying… because I’m always trying to renew my understanding of my instrument.”
Some of you may have heard me say… your true learning does not begin until you leave college/drama school when you are working in the real world. Drama schools only give you the tools and guidance to prepare you for what you may get in the real world. They will also develop you to the best you can whilst you are there. Don’t forget, just because you’ve left drama school, it doesn’t mean you can’t get better nor does it mean you can have any more lessons. There are plenty of professionals who are still having occasional lessons because as you mature, your instrument i.e. your voice also matures, and when it does, you will need someone to help you to control that. Or sometimes, because you are switching shows, so you needed to renew your knowledge about certain vocal technique legit/opera, speech, belt etc.
Benanti: “Make sure you concentrate on the breath because the tone rides on the breath.“
I’d like you all to challenge any singing teacher who doesn’t talk about breathing, because breathing, in my opinion, is the most essential part of singing! Let’s think about it, what do you do before you open your mouth and singing a note? You Breathe!! When your posture is obscured, they corrected, if your vowel is not in the right shape, they correct it, if you have a lot of tongue root tension, they correct it, so why not breathing? How are you suppose to support/anchor or to project or to control dynamics or hold on to a long note when you are not releasing your breath in the most natural and comfortable way?
Benanti: “Get enough sleep… and try not to talk too much, and certainly not yelling“
Resting plays a big part in singing. If you are tired, you are guaranteed a bad vocal projection or that you will vocally injure yourself much quicker because your muscles are tired and it won’t be working as efficiently as you would when you are well rested. So please get some decent rest when you need.
In addition, don’t forget that when you talk and yell, you are using your ‘singing muscles’ to do that, i.e. your vocal folds. Just because you are singing, it doesn’t mean you are not using the same set of vocal folds. Therefore, if you are on vocal rest, it doesn’t just mean no singing, but no vocal projection entirely, that means no talking.
Groff: “To have forgiveness and acceptance for what you can do and what you can’t do.”
As much as I’d like to, I can’t do everything, or sometimes it won’t be the best, and THATS OK! All of us will have bad days and bad moments, and that is ok. With digital media and technology, it is instilled in us that everything needs to be perfect for it to be acceptable. It took me a long while to learn that it does not need to be accurate to be ‘perfect’, because what is ‘perfect’ anyway? It is better to know your limitations, but strive to do the best within your personal boundary and to gradually push that boundary further and further away with experience and help from teachers/coaches. Forgive yourself quickly, but slow to frustration and disappointment. Remember the saying that it takes 6 seconds for your brain to understand the instructions, but it takes 6 weeks for your body to catch up to your brain. It’s OK to crack the first time you learn how to sing in legit or to belt, or when you attempt tap or street dance for the first time. Forgive yourself and try again, if it works, know why it works, retain it and reproduce it. That way, you will have a much happier performing life.