What Singers Can Learn From The X Factor Auditions

Somebody at Pepsi thinks I have Klout because  last Friday Viola and I attended the final X Factor auditions here in Chicago.  So thanks to the folks at Pepsi for giving us tickets to attend the X Factor auditions.  I guess it pays to be active on Twitter…

The X Factor is a new singing competition scheduled to premiere this fall. While I really know very little about this show, it’s supposed to be a mentoring show, according to Simon Cowell, the former American Idol judge.  In addition to Cowell, Paula Abdul, Cheryl Cole and Antonio “L.A.” Reid are the judges on The X Factor. The winner of the competition receives $5 million and a recording contract.

Unlike American Idol, the competition includes competitors of all ages along with soloists and ensembles.  Instead of having to audition with music sung a cappella, performers can choose to perform with or without musical accompaniment.

Choose the Right Music for an Audition

Here is the thing, and it’s an important lesson. Choosing the right music is the most crucial element of a vocal audition.  Over and over again, the judges criticized singers for selecting the wrong song.  And I really couldn’t disagree with the judges.  There was only one singer that didn’t make it through that Viola and I couldn’t fully understand why.  Some of the singers that didn’t make through might have had chance had the song been more appropriate for their voice type.

Just because you like a song, doesn’t mean it is right for your voice.  It could be a really great song, but your voice just doesn’t give it justice.  And that is OK. You can sing it, but not when trying to impress a group of judges with $5 million at stake.  Get a teacher.  If you win, you won’t regret it. Get some real professional advice before you attend the audition.

And for the love of God, choose a song that represents your age. If you were born after 1990, why would you sing something from the 1950s or older? Seriously.  There is a lot of great music. Just because the judges are older doesn’t mean you need to sing the songs they grew up with. The judges are looking for artists of tomorrow, so show them.

Some Practical Audition Tips

Sing in front of a crowd. Find a small crowd, sing to them and ask for some honest advice.  Don’t do it in front of friends though. Friends won’t be brutally honest and you need a group of people to provide you with constructive criticism. There is ALWAYS something to work and improve upon.  You need to practice performing in front of people you don’t know.  I promise, you won’t know the vast majority of people in the audience.

Practice in front of a mirror. Too few of the performers I saw didn’t entertain. It is hard watching yourself perform.  If you are anything like me, then you’ll rip yourself apart. And that’s a good thing. If you don’t like what you see, there is a good chance no else will either.

Post a video on YouTube. Recording yourself is always a good idea and will reveal all kinds of things. A video recording adds another dimension.  There is no barrier and won’t just reveal the quality of your singing, but will show you how your performing. Don’t review and go “gross.” Look at video with open eyes and fix the things you don’t like.

Video is a wonderful thing and thankfully there is a whole host of communities out there. Ask the public what they think. Be prepared for the brutal. Take the good advice and leave the stupid alone.  I’m sure you are smart you’ll know the difference.

Be Yourself. A good performer is inspired by others but doesn’t strive to sound like anyone else. It is damn hard to find your voice, but this is exactly what every vocalist must do.  Jot down on a piece of paper what defines you.  I love Steve Vai, but I don’t want to sound like him. You shouldn’t sound like the singer who is best known for singing the songs. Judges are looking for something original.

Sound Youthful. There is nothing wrong with singing older songs, but if your born in the 1990’s don’t sound like you’re from the 1950s. Why would you do that?  Music executives are looking for musicians of tomorrow, so sound like you are from the present.  Sound young, even if you’re not. 

Get coached. Yes, I said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Professional advice never hurts. Find a singer that produces quality students and setup a time for the teacher to hear you. You don’t need to commit to weekly lessons, but that won’t hurt either. Go to the lesson prepared. Understand what you’re struggling with. If you aren’t sure what you need to work on, then this is a sign you need a pro to give you some direction.


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