On Finding New Music…

So you’re unhappy with your book? You want a new pop rock song but don’t know where to start? You’re sick of singing the same old Golden Age tune. It happens. Here’s what you can do: put in the work.

Go online and spiral into a youtube.com rabbit hole and find the songs you’ve been searching for. Go on Spotify (you should have Spotify, it’s almost 2018).

Find songs that bring you joooooyyyyy. You should probably NOT audition with the song you stared out the window and cried to for hours, that seems like NOT setting yourself up for success.

Start with the artists you love, and artists that are similar. Listen to their music. Start small, set yourself a time frame, 30 mins a day searching for music. If that seems like a lot to you then think about it this way: you’re investing 30 minutes of time into the business of you, and into finding the perfect fitting new audition song for your career.

Don’t stress too hard about finding a rare hidden song that’s unknown, or worrying that the song you connect with MOST is overdone. As I’ve said before, most songs are overdone to a casting director, they’ve heard them all a million times. The person who’s going to book the job is the person who acts the song the best. Unless it’s a singing job… then obviously be the best singer.

I play enough classes where I hear: “I’m just like soooyyy bad at finding music… like … I don’t know how to do it… or like… what’s good.”

-_______-

You KNOW how to get online and listen to music,  don’t play…    You are just being lazy and not putting in the work.

What’s your favorite musical? Who wrote it? Go online and see what else they have done and the songs of theirs people are singing. Who’s your favorite pop rock artist? Spotify who is similar. Don’t listen to pop? Ask a friend, go to Billboard and see what’s big and what people are listening to. Sometimes it takes trial and error, trying things out and them not working. Ask a friend or a coach to go thru the song with you and see if it works, if it shows you off enough, if there’s a cut in the song for auditions, IF IT WORKS ON A PIANO, ya know, just a few things.

Put in the work. Don’t be lazy.

On Musicality and Ear Training…

Hey Everyone!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the things I have to say thus far on this blog adventure. Today’s post has less to do with direct things you should do in the room and more to do with your success as a musician.

Singers so often get grouped into a group separate from musicians. You’ve heard it, “I’m a musician and a singer…” “Yeah they’re a singer, but not a musician.” And you’ve all heard the singer jokes. They get tired, especially when it comes for the intelligence of a human being. That being said, the voice is the easiest instrument to pick up by ear, and when we’re young and start singing, the first way we do that is by listening and mimicking. This is all great, and the same can be said for many pianists and other instrumentalists. The difference that we come across, is that in order to have a blossoming career as a trumpet player, for example, (especially in theater or commercially) you need to be able to read music and study music. There are of course exceptions to everything, sitting there arguing semantics will get you nowhere and in fact is time you could be learning something…*eye roll* (I like eye rolls)

I believe that every singer or vocalist, or whatever you identify as, should start TODAY learning and practicing the theory of music. I don’t care if you think it’s boring, you’ll be a woke musician and music directors and others will find you more appealing. I can’t tell you how many times in a room that someone has been hired over another because “they’re a phenomenal musician.” I say it often myself in rooms. That reference given to a team in the audition room, especially in a musically difficult show, or any show that involves a lot of ensemble singing, is GOLDEN. And those little references can come from anyone and anywhere; the reader, the accompanist, the choreographer, the assistant director, the friend of the casting director that’s just sitting in…you never know.

Ok great, practice and get better at music. But how you say? Easy, pick up a theory book. You can order one online, you can buy one at Sam Ash or Guitar Center or the Julliard Book Store. There are many options. Buy a beginner (or intermediate or advanced) theory book and really learn about music.

SECONDLY AND MORE IMPORTANTLY FOR SINGERS:

Ear Training. It may sound boring to some. When I went to Berklee College of Music part of the REQUIRED curriculum was ear training. We were required to take four semesters of it unless you tested into a more advanced class from the get go. I ended up taking an ear training class every semester I was at school. Ear Training 3 and 4, Advanced Ear Training, Advanced ear Training 2, Advanced Modal Ear Training, Atonal Ear Training, Microtonal Ear Training…I’m a music geek sure, but also it gave me invaluable tools in pursuing my career as a musician.

I like to think of my music schooling as Hogwarts curriculum… Ear Training is definitely the Transfiguration of Berklee. It’s maybe boring and banal to some, but it’s MASSIVELY helpful in the future of your music career.

Pick up some ear training books. Listen to music and pick out the melody on a key board. Practice with a friend. Sight read some music. Do all the things or some of the things. If you want some specifics on ear training, please comment or reach out, there’s so much good material.

SINGERS NEED TO KNOW MUSIC. It makes you inordinately valuable to a production when you can learn hard harmonies quickly.

That’s All. Keep singing and learning!

On Song Baggage…

Let me start this by letting you in on a secret:

To a casting director, every song is overdone.

Let that sink in.

They hear music constantly, and they hear probably the same 400 songs over and over and over. You’re not reinventing the wheel by bringing in the theme song from “Pokémon” or singing that cut song from The Rink or the Opening of Act 2 of Merrily... They’ve heard it. And if they haven’t heard it then they’re probably more focused on the song then your audition. That being said there’s a major topic that isn’t spoken about enough: Song Baggage.

You know what it means, you know the RENT lyric. You can’t go into a room singing “Meadowlark” without a considerable amount of baggage. There are dozens of songs that this goes for. Basically any song that was made famous by a diva or a dangerously brilliant performance.

Everyone has their favorite version of “I Dreamed A Dream.” And when you bring it into the room every person behind the table is going to be comparing your performance to Patti’s or Laurie Beechman’s or Carmen’s or Lea’s or heaven forbid Ms. Hathaway’s

If you’re smart, or alive, then you know what those songs are. “Memory,” “Bring Him Home,” anything from Wicked, “She Used To Be Mine,” anything from Les Miserables, anything from Phantom, “Out There” from Hunchback (honestly I think this song doesn’t work for ANYTHING, it’s a specific song to that specific moment, and it just rarely works in the room and I just think she’s gotta rest for a bit), “Pretty Funny” from Dogfight, “Waving Through A Window” from Dear Evan Hansen (actually anything from this show),most of the older lady beautiful ballads by Sondheim, all of Chicago, the LIST GOES ON and ON.

This isn’t to say that you should never sing these songs, (WHEN THEY’RE APPROPRIATE) but it does mean that you should be cognizant of the baggage that comes with them, and that sometimes people want their coffee how they want it.

On Preparing 8, 16, and 32 Bar Cuts…

I know. It’s the worst. You walk into this call and you wait for hours and then when your time is approaching you hear that they want 16 bars… And then by the time you are lined up they tell you they want 8 bars.

This industry is flooded with talent, there are so many performers and you’re all specific and talented and beautiful flowers. That being said, I can HONESTLY say that pretty much anyone sitting behind the table can get everything they need in 4 bars of music. I’m serious. They hear your voice, they see you act, they see if you disappear or if you pull them in in literally 4 bars. The rest is a gift, and I know it doesn’t seem that way.

So when you are asked for 8 bars, yes it sucks, yes it seems pointless, but if you go in and give your best damn 8 bars then they see what they want and call you back.

You should have 32 bars, 16 bars, and 8 bars prepared for your songs, you don’t have to have them marked (I think you should) but you should know them.

Don’t get caught off guard by a stressed-out monitor telling you for a strict 8 bars and you go into a tizzy, that helps no one.

Here’s where things can get a little vague or grey or whatever term you want to use. I think 16 bar cuts are 30 seconds to 45 seconds. I think 32 bars are a 1 minute to 1 minute 20 seconds. There are differing opinions out there as to what constitutes a cut length, but I think the length of time method is becoming more and more popular.

I could go on about EPAs and appointments for days. There is literally NO POINT in coming in and SINGING A FULL SONG; In fact, it looks bad on you. These people have been sitting all day listening to people audition, and it’s not to say that you don’t do “Bring Him Home” the best in the city, but we don’t need to hear all 4 minutes of it. It looks like you haven’t had the chance to perform in a decade and auditioning is your only opportunity, or that you literally don’t know what a cut is.

LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE, NOT WANTING YOU TO LEAVE.

This post is fueled by Beaujolais but essentially what I’m saying to you all is that you should have SOLID CUTS prepared at all times and marked clearly.

On Page Protectors… or Not…

It’s a constant conversation that singers, pianists, teachers, coaches, and casting directors all have. Should your music be in a page protector or not?!? ERRMEGRDDD WHO KNOWS?!?!?!?

It ain’t that deep. It really is YOUR preference. If your music is neat and organized and the holes are intact and the pages are easy to turn then you don’t need a page protector for them. If your music is a little crinkled and the holes are torn, or if it’s freshly printed and the pages are static and sticking together, then throw them in a sheet protector.

That should be obvious, but you’d be surprised. It goes along with my previous post about the condition of your music

When it comes to page protectors, I’d really recommend getting decent ones that are non-glare. (Although to be honest, the glare will always happen if the piano is at the wrong angle…lights reflect off plastic, it’s science) You can get nice ones that will hold up at Staples or you can go to your nearest office supply store and find sturdy ones there.

It’s really just using common sense. If you hate them because they’re bulky, then don’t use them. But you better have some solution for when your music rips or the holes tear. Either have a page of hole reinforcements or a few spare page protectors in the back.

If your music is in good shape and you want to leave it unprotected, then make sure it’s DOUBLE SIDED FRONT AND BACK. Single sided pages make for more page turns and that’s annoying. Staple or tape the music so it’s front and back or make sure it’s a double sided print job.

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

On The Condition of Your Music…

This one baffles me.

People walk into the audition room with pieces of paper that look like they were washed, tumble-dried, and carried in the bottom of their bag with their Laducas .

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million more times…  set yourself up for success.

Y’all, broken music is the opposite of that.. Would you go to the gym without stretching? Would you play golf(sportsball) with broken clubs? Would you do yoga with no mat? Would you eat Indian food with no bathroom near? Would you use a headshot from when you were 13?… well, some of you might, but still… set yourself up for a win.

A hole punch should be circular. Not a broken circle, not a half circle because you missed.

You can purchase hole reinforcers at Staples.com or at your nearest office supply store. Buy them. When the hole rips – which it will – reinforce it.

If your music looks like it was used to write the Declaration of Independence, then it’s probably time to reprint your music. Spend the money, it’s worth it.

If your music is covered in pencil/pen to try and explain what your cut is… and the chords you want the cut played in… then it’s probably time to hire someone (me) to type it out for you in a new pretty cut that is easy for a pianist to read. Spend the money on your own pretty sheet music that is for your pretty cut and pretty face.

The list goes on. But it’s important. Nice music makes for a nice audition.

Now go make it all pretty 🙂

On Marking Cuts…

There is no “right way” to mark a cut, but there are wrong ones. If the cut is marked and the pianist understands it, then it’s probably ok. I’ll tell you what is a problem though, not marking anything and just telling the pianist that after they play that 3 pages of Guettel that they have to turn four pages and play the last half of the 8th page and then then cut to the last 12 bars… and not marking it. I assure you, they will forget and it will be a train wreck.

Set yourself up for success.

Mark your cuts with bold pencil marks, or cut and paste and make an arts and crafts project out of it.

Here’s a picture of a well-marked cut spot: (GASP How could you cut DEH?!? easy…)

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Block out the section you are not singing:

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Mark where the pianist should cut to:

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It’s not brain surgery. It really isn’t, but you have to do the work. If you’re worried about cutting a section that you love and will want to sing again someday then print a second copy. Trust me, prepping the music is worth the effort and cost of a second print. If you’re using an iPad, most software (at least the apps you should be using [hold for future post about iPads]) have features to write on the music or white out sections you aren’t using.

Again, you can copy cut and paste the music physically to make it a one page moment instead of having two half pages (I saw this in a girl’s book and I think it’s an example that any pianist could read) :

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Just make sure it’s neat and makes sense musically. Have a pianist or musician look at the cut and see that it makes musical sense and would be an easy transition.

Make sure there are no key changes that happened in the cut material. If you want the cut to work so badly but there is a key change in the middle, then buy the music in a lower/higher key (depending on the key change…is it up or down?) so that the section you’re cutting to is in the same key as the section you’re cutting from. Again, ask a musician friend to help you with this if you need to! No shame in properly cut music!

JUST MARK IT!