Acting 101 – A basic motivation exercise.
Put an apple on the middle of a table. Now pick up the apple to begin the exercise. Practice several motivations or reasons why you would pick up the apple. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Because you are hungry and it looks good. Your actions, body language and expression can convey a lot – from the apple is a most favorite food, to eating the apple because it is a healthy choice, to hating apples but nothing else is available.
2. Because it was in the way. If this is the case, you might also consider why it is in the way? Were you about to bring in groceries or were you about to bake the annual holiday cookies with your beloved grandchildren?
3. Because you were putting it in your child’s lunchbox for school?
Transfer this same idea to a dialogue scene and remember to determine why your character would say the words in the script. Watch people to learn all you can about reaction, behavior and motivation. Become the person who really believes in the words and feels the emotions related to the actions.
Singing: Acting through Song
A singer is an actor that uses the singing voice as a tool. Every musical phrase tells a story, which is also affected or shared through body language, facial expression, diction and vocal dynamics.
With this idea, performance preparation should include analyzing song material to determine the song’s heart. What does the song really say on paper, and how are those emotions best expressed in general? Loud or soft? Crisp or warm consonants? Vibrato or not?
This part of vocal study is just as important as learning the vocal line, the rhythm, and the lyrics. It gives you the foundation for a sincere performance. Once this study is underway begin working with the mechanics needed for you to sing the song. Once you have conquered the basic mechanics and are beginning to sing the song in performance mode, the artistry really begins.
Consider again the motivation for each melody line. As you adjust your voice accordingly, also adjust the rest of your character: body language, facial expression, diction and dynamics to match the sincere message. Following this type of training concept will help you provide a more sincere performance.
Remember, once you hit the performance stage, very little of your energy should be focused on the mechanics of singing. If you practice regularly, most of your basic mechanic actions should be second nature. If a track runner had to consistently think of right-left-right-left in order to run the race, he probably would not come in first. You should be “practiced” enough that you are able to focus your concentration on enjoying your voice and conveying the message.
To make sure the point about how important sincerity is to singing and live performance is clear, consider this: many singers that might be considered “average” if rated on a “technical scale” receive standing ovations and encore calls; while the singer that performed almost perfect “mechanically” received polite respectful applause. Engage your audience and sing sincerely.
Battling Stage Fright
You hear your name being called and your knees begin to tremble, you begin to breathe more heavily and your mouth goes dry – a singer’s nightmare. Here are some tips:
1. First, remember that you are an actor performing through song. If you are shy and have difficulty getting on stage, remember that we all have different sides of personalities. Obviously there is a side of you that enjoys music or you wouldn’t be in this position in the first place. So, let go. Give this “character” the right to take over when it is time to perform. Just like in the acting exercises above, build the character you want your audience to see.
Bottom line, perception is everything. Your performance, and all aspects of it, will help people build their perception on whether they are enjoying themselves or not. Who is in control of that perception? You.
2. You have to get your breath under control, bottom line. If you lose your breath control due to nervousness, you have undermined your voice’s foundation and it is going to be a long song. Keep this in mind on days of performance and be sure to engage in cardiovascular exercise. If possible, stop and do jumping jacks several times throughout the day. It is also recommended that in addition to your regular vocal warm-up that you do jumping jacks or other low impact cardio-vascular activity around thirty to forty-five minutes prior to performance. Stay hydrated.
Also practice getting your breath under control when the nervousness begins. As soon as you begin to feel that panicky feeling and your heart rate increase, take deep, long and low breaths.
This type of breathing will send your brain the message that everything is under control. Short and fast breathing alarms the brain and puts the body (your instrument) into “alarm” mode. Obviously not conducive to giving the performance of your life. Take control of your body and your breathing.
3. To combat the dry mouth try to find something that will create saliva when you are nervous and use this knowledge during these times of crises. It may be putting your finger in your mouth; it may be sucking on your tongue or swallowing several times. You may even consider a product solution like “Entertainer’s Secret Throat Relief” to help in those times of desperate dehydration. We do recommend this product, but always suggest you learn natural solutions as a safeguard.
4. Learning to sing, the vocal journey, is usually a very a personal one. Learn to love and enjoy your voice. If you don’t like the way you sound you are sure to express this emotion during performance… so why should others enjoy listening to it? Believe in yourself and learn to use your voice, along with its unique characteristics, to your best advantage.
5. Finally, focus on what is important throughout the entire performance. Distraction is usually a full body experience.
I’ve heard a statement made about athletes in the middle of a really good athletic performance, “They got game!” If just for a moment you wonder if Mom made it in time to get a good seat, if your friend heard you hit that note with such power or if you remembered to lock the car door, you no longer “got game.” You are the control central of your performance… so stay focused and tell everyone else in your mind to get lost for the next three minutes or so. You deserve the time and so does your audience.
Other Articles by Yvonne DeBandi
Become a Master of Resonance
Breathing 101 for Singers & Vocalists
Getting Past the First 30 Seconds
Learning the Art of Productive Vocal Practice
Should I Sing This in My Head Voice or My Chest Voice
The Importance of Vocal Health