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This Lesson is for VOCAL ATHLETES (or aspiring athletes!)
Like an athlete, a top-class singer is trying to get the best out of their body. This requires discipline, focus and training. If you want to take your voice to its highest level of performance, this lesson is for you.
Athletes abide by a sleeping pattern, healthy eating schedules, and intense training. More so than ever, singers, musicians, song-writers and lyricists, need this type of discipline if they want to distinguish themselves from the masses of people who aspire but will never be able to carve out a professional career in music.
In this lesson, we cover the most important requirements when on tour and for live performance gigs. These are exercises and tips that will help anyone trying to develop their vocal performance.
Vocal Warm up exercises
Vocal Performance for live gigs
Case study featuring pop band “HERE AT LAST”
HERE AT LAST are a fabulously talented up and coming boy band on the cusp of lighting up the UK’s music scene. They already have a great following and are very accomplished singers, with a terrific natural tone and excellent control. With many live gigs coming up, their voices will come under considerable strain, and they are naturally concerned to ensure that they are able to maintain the strength and quality of their performance day after day and night after night. My session with them will be interesting for those who want to understand the vocal exercises that professional singers need to undertake in order to protect and hone their voices. These exercises are also of broader application and will be useful for anyone who wants to train and protect their voice, whatever the genre of music.
My Vocal Assessment of the boy band “Here At Last” is that they are very close and like learning together as a group. This means that I will need to use vocal exercises that work for all of them, help bring them together as a team and help all of them to see improvements at once.
I showed them a vocal exercise from a technique called “Speech Level Singing” devised by an experienced coach called Seth Riggs. The aim of these exercises is to highlight consonants on silly simple words such as Goo, Gee, Nah, which can be learnt below in Hack 1.
The band sings the words in a scale so that they have to sing through a full range, which forces them to see the part of their range where they are weaker (due to the break in their voice). Usually, they might try to avoid the tricky part of their range when singing songs but this forces them to do it without even realising.
They then sing the harmony of the songs using the silly words (Goo or Gee) rather than the actual lyrics. This allows them to feel and hear the notes of the song which they may previously have been struggling with in a more relaxed way.
WHY did I choose this exercise for them?
As I said, this fitted for them as a group.
There are many different types of vocal warm up exercises and techniques that are also good, for example Estill Vocal Training, Complete Vocal Technique as well as Alexander Technique ,which are all techniques that I have studied.
Many people only learn one or two techniques and ignore other methods. However, my philosophy through years of being in the Music, TV and Film business with different genres and different personalities, is that I must do a VOCAL assessment. I can then work out what techniques to use.
Songwriters, lyricists and musicians have often told me that they feel doing these exercises is akin to meditation. The exercises take them to a familiar place where they can focus without worry on the simple basics of their voice, allowing them to prepare for performance without getting overly nervous. They can go back to the same processes that work for them time after time.
My Advice for Vocal Athletes
The journey and development of a pop singer is something which is not discussed or explored enough. It is usually something that the singer is left to learn by themselves through trial and error.
If more time was taken to explore the fundamentals of the development of a pop singer, perhaps we as artists and we as an industry would have more longevity, trust and staying power.
There are basic principles involved in the successful professional development of an artist in the world of music and entertainment:
1. The mindset of an artist
2. The fame game vs the hard work
3. Artist identity and brand
1. The mindset of an artist
The mindset of an artist is of extreme importance. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it really is crucial to your development and success. Nothing and no one really prepares a performing artist for the mental and emotional turmoil they will actually undergo. You need to be mentally strong and resilient.
How often have you heard an artist talk about the fear of failure, the fear of rejection or even the fear of success. My guess is never or hardly ever. This is because most people like myself go through the process all alone and worry that if they talk about some of these things, then it somehow diminishes them as people. But the truth remains, you are not alone as we have all been through this at some point.
Every artist no matter what we say, at some point has faced a common emotion: FEAR and the need for APPROVAL.
The need and desire for approval is something that exists in all of us. We need to continually remind ourselves that our sense of worth and security CANNOT lie in the approval of others.
We do what we do because we are passionate about blessing others with the gift we have been blessed with.
Rejection along the way is inevitable and the sooner we realise that this is part of the journey, the easier it is to cope and move on. This way, when we receive applause we can celebrate it. And when we receive silence, we remain passionate about and committed to our calling.
2. The fame game vs the hard work
90 percent of the life of an artist is sheer hard work. Be prepared for long hours of rehearsing, early morning calls for interviews and being away from home and your loved ones.
Only 10 percent of this life is glamorous.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that lasting success comes overnight. Every successful artist who has attained and sustained worldwide success has had to work very hard to get there and to stay there!
And it is an ongoing process of development. You need to see yourself as a vocal athlete. That requires practise, training, dedication, stamina and more practise…
A world class tennis player does not stop using their coach when they are at the height of their career. They increase their training, they keep studying their game and they continue to develop their skill. It is the same with professional singing; the people who remain committed and keep working in spite of the distractions around them are the ones who succeed.
3. Artist identity and brand
Who are you as an artist? What is your brand?
There are many people with great voices but why is it that only a handful of people achieve the success of being able to work full time in the industry as soloists, part of a group, or as well-known backing singers.A big part of this is creating a distinctive identity or brand.
Knowing what your brand is and who you are is so important.
It is not enough to sing songs because you like them. Are they songs that really showcase the uniqueness and the beauty of your voice?
It is important to explore different genres in your development so that you can work out which genres suit you best.
Then it is important to build a vocal identity that separates you from everyone else.
When you’ve done this, it is important to marry the vocal and visual performance together.
This way you create a brand for yourself and artist identity is born !
Hack 1: Vocal Technique Exercises (listen to audio)
Hack 2: Face your fears
Hack 3: Learn from your mistakes
Hack 4: Don’t walk around the stage aimlessly. Always have a reason for what you’re doing. A still performance is just as powerful as a high energetic display
Hack 5: Think of yourself as a storyteller
Hack 6: See yourself as a brand and learn how to explain your brand to investor
Remember, in Hack 1, I provide 5 audio vocal warm up exercises for this masterclass that you can use any time. Click here and join in as you hear my voice and the piano scales.
“She knows how to make the most of someone’s talent” – BBC
Actor and director Idris Elba worked with CeCe Sammy Lightfoot and called her a “music impresario” and acclaimed her as a “singing and movement advisor”.
“The voice & performance coach to the stars”
“A new breed of vocal coach”
“CeCe’s exercises are wonderful for me because they capture what’s best in my voice and allow me to reach new vocal areas I was always afraid to play with.”