Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Your #1 Job As A Singer

Your #1 Job As A Singer

I just wanted to briefly talk about what
our most important goal should be as singers, as performers and it is not, by
the way, to impress people. That’s not it, and it’s not for us to feel good
about what we do, and to show people what we can do. That’s not it, okay? It is to
move people. It is to move people emotionally. That’s your job as a singer
and as a performer. Really I would say probably just about all of the
arts… it’s to touch people emotionally, all right? You want to move them. Move
them to dance, to laugh, to cry… whatever the song is about. You’re taking
that song and trying to create a certain emotion in people. In fact, I would
tell my students it’s almost your job to manipulate people emotionally because
that’s what music is about. It’s like liquid emotion, and in fact when we
listen to music ourselves we do the same thing. “Hey, I want to feel good so I’m
gonna listen to some feel-good music!”, right, “I want to be depressed so I’m
gonna listen to some depressing music or sad I want to have this memory that
brings this feeling”. Whatever that is you’re using that to
enhance emotion and that’s your job as a singer, okay? I wrote down a couple of
notes. I bring these with bring these up with students quite regularly. Number one:
your job is not to impress people, okay? There are some amazing singers in the
world and I would say if I were to ask you who are the five most impressive
singers that you’ve ever heard? In other words they’re just mechanically
unstoppable! They can do amazing things with their voices: strength, power, control…
you know all of that. Just amazing vocalists whether you listen to them or
not. Who would you say those are? You
might come up with five people. And then I might ask how many of those
people from whom you’ve bought their music, or have gone to see in concert…
and probably the list gets a lot shorter because we don’t listen to people
because they’re impressive, we listen to them because they move us! Now, there are
some singers, I’m a voice teacher, there are some singers who aren’t very good
singers at all out there, really, from a technical standpoint which is what I
spend so much of my time teaching, but I love to listen to them because
they move me. You can you could probably do the same. You could probably name a
lot of singers who you like to listen to, at least several of them aren’t
necessarily great vocalists. They’re not impressive but they move you, and you
really love to listen to their music. Okay that’s your job! It is not to be
impressive. It is not about you, okay!? It is your job as a singer, when you stand
up there, it is your job to help people feel things otherwise give the mic to
someone else, okay? They don’t want to hear you just just so that they can be
impressed by you, or so that you have an opportunity to perform for other
people. It’s not that, okay, it’s you moving them, helping them feel
something deeply, touching them deeply, okay, that’s your job. That also ties into
a couple of other subjects, by the way. When you choose a song you want to
choose songs that you can do well, that first of (the song is) going
to move people… that it’s a good song! Whether you’re going to move them to dance,
like I said, move them to cry, move them, whatever, it’s got to be something that
you can emotionally touch people with. Now, if they’re involved in your
technique that’s no good. In other words, if you’re having trouble reaching this
high note, well then don’t choose a song with that high note in it, or you
can improvise and use a different note, or stylize your way around that high
note, okay? Hitting that high note isn’t going to
move someone unless you do it well and it fits in a bigger context, okay, if you’re struggling a little bit for that note they’re struggling
along with you, they’re going. “Oh, I hope he hits the note!”, well you’re not doing
your job anymore. You’re trying to impress them because you can hit that
note. “Well the original singer did it than that key.” I don’t care if the
original singer singer did it in the same key or not! It doesn’t matter! You
know, that would be like me saying, “Well, you know this guy over here he just
wrote a check to buy his Mercedes Benz so I should be able to”,
but then your checks gonna bounce. You can’t do that that way. You have to
do it differently. So choose songs that you know you can do well. Now, you
practice songs that are a little out of your reach, yes, so you continue to
grow and learn how to deal with the problems, but that’s not what you do for
people. Don’t put them through it. You wouldn’t invite over, you know, the
president of your choice and try, you know, for dinner and try for the first
time a recipe you’ve never done before. It’s like, “Oh this recipe I read it
from a book, I think that’s gonna be good. I’m gonna try that when the president
comes over and I’m gonna make that for him.: I doubt you would do that. You would
probably do one that’s pretty tried-and-true, you know, one of your
signature dishes, it’s like okay, yeah I don’t care if it’s a bowl of cereal, if
you don’t screw it up you’re gonna do that one. You’re not gonna just try
something brand-new. Well don’t do that to people who you’re singing for. Don’t
do stuff that you’re working on hoping to get good at someday or do it because
you love it but you’re still struggling with it.
Don’t put them through that! Do that yourself at home or in the shower, okay,
you want to do something that you can help people immerse themselves in that
music and the meaning of that music, okay, don’t do something just because you like
it. Just because they did it that key. Just because they moved you doesn’t mean
you can move them with that same song, if you don’t have the same
technical ability or the same vocal range any of that kind of stuff. Pick things, pick songs that are easy enough for you to really utilize well,
you know, as a singer to help people feel things, okay? And then the other thing is,
this ties in also a little bit with stage fright because much of stage fright
comes from, well it comes from mainly from two different places:
number one is you don’t know what you’re doing, okay, or you’re choosing a song
that’s too hard and you don’t know what’s gonna come out of your mouth, okay?
That makes you a little nervous, so choosing songs that are a
little bit easier… you set yourself up for success especially if you know that
you tend to get a little nervous. Well, don’t go for the super, super hard song
that’s just gonna raise, that you know “freaked-outness” to a higher level. No!
Do stuff you know you can do well. The other aspect of stage fright is more
the mental game. If we’re there to try
and impress people, even if you’re impressive
you’re not gonna impress everybody. There’s gonna be some people who just
don’t like what you do. They don’t like your voice, they don’t like what you’re
wearing, they don’t like… you know, this is a life lesson, right? People just, some
people aren’t gonna like us. You know what? We don’t like some people either.
They may be worked very hard on their song and image and music and everything
like that, it’s like, “Meh. It doesn’t really do anything for me.” Okay, well
they’re not singing to us then because we’re not the ones they’re gonna move,
and so you have to focus on who you can move emotionally, and your focus
should be on them, not on you. Not on them liking you. Your job is not to be liked
up there. That causes a lot of fear. If you’re there to do a job then do your
job. Don’t worry about whether people are being impressed by you, it’s okay. I
always give the example of a server at a at a restaurant all right if you go to a
restaurant and a server is putting down forks and spoons and drops a
fork, if the server was wanting to be impressive they would feel really
stupid and embarrassed at that point. “I dropped the fork! I’m sorry! I’ve never
done this before! I feel so stupid!”, and you know we’re like, “That’s okay just you
know you can get me another fork. It’s okay, it’s not a big deal. Nobody cares. No
one cares if you just, if you’re concentrating on them. If they say, “Oh I’m
sorry about that. I’ll be right back and with a fork and I see you need a
water. I’ll be right back!” Boom! You’ll forget that it ever happened.
Same thing as a singer. You know, if you just slip on a note or this little, you
know, the word was slightly… you kind of fudged on… whatever, no one’s gonna care
if you’re focused on them, on talking to them, on moving them. It needs to be
the focus, needs to be on your audience, and if it’s not then either the song is
too hard or you’re too self-absorbed! Sorry to put it that way, but we we
performers tend to be pretty needy, self-absorbed people in general, so we
have to be very careful that the reason that we’re going to be up there is to
serve other people. Serve their needs and if you’re struggling with the pitch,
if you’re struggling with the note, struggling with a bunch of things
because you’re choosing too hard of a song, then you’re just making it
difficult on yourself and you’re making it difficult on them because they’re
going to see you struggling with that stuff. It’s not that, it’s not that you
can’t make mistakes, and people forgive the mistakes. Like I said, you drop the
fork – no big deal, but you don’t want to be doing it all the time because
that’s just going to be distracting to people and you’re not being effective.
Instead, you’re just make you’re just making them put up with you. Do something simple and moving and touching rather than trying to be
impressive, okay, and I’ll say this over and over again. I know I’m sort of
repeating myself but if you’re focused on other people you won’t be so afraid
of them being focused on you. You go to help. So our number one goal as a singer is
to move people. Don’t try to be impressive,
instead choose music, choose keys, choose songs that you know you can successfully
go into people’s lives and help them feel something, and help them feel good
about it. That’s your job. It doesn’t matter… you don’t even have to feel it
yourself! You don’t have to feel it. I cook this amazing salmon, (I have to say I
make pretty darn good salmon! That’s what I would make if the president was coming
over.) but a lot of times I don’t even eat it, you know. I’ve had it so many times
and I enjoy cooking it, enjoy watching other people eat it, enjoy it, and I can
do that with songs. Singers need to be able to do that with songs as well “I’ve
something that’s a thousand times!” Well your job is to make it sound like
it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it. It’s to really move them with that and
you can do that. It’s not being insincere, that’s not the point. It’s
taking this song, bringing it to life for them. It doesn’t have to for you, and
believe me you can do that! You can do those things separately. You don’t have
to feel something and yet move other people with it
very deeply, and you know, I go into that on some other teaching. In fact if you
feel something too intensely yourself it will generally mess with your vocal
technique. You lock up your breathing if you feel emotion really intensely,
whether it’s anger, excitement, whatever… it’s all, it’s “in”tensity. That tension inside is squeezing your breathing off,
so actually that can get in the way. We don’t want stage fright. We
don’t want to try and impress people, so just try to pick songs that you
can do well, that you know you can move people with, and that they’re going to
enjoy. Do songs that they’re going to enjoy, not songs that you enjoy
necessarily. Hopefully, they’re both, you know! But anyway, that’s my
thought for today. That’s my thought for today, is to just try to move people with
music, and then that, in turn, serving them, okay, it’s very meaningful to you,
but more importantly, it is meaningful to them. Make it a meaningful experience for
your listener. Don’t worry about yourself, okay, life lesson as well, but this is
especially true for artists. That’s that “X-Factor” that people talk about, you know?
“Wel,l you know, we’re really – we don’t know what we’re looking… we’ll know when we
see it you know it’s just sort of…” That’s what it is!! It’s when you touch someone’s
heart, it’s not when you impress them with the highest note, biggest loudest
note, held it for 20 minutes, okay, and that has a certain excitement level to
it, but that won’t necessarily move them. Touch them in a very very deep way
it could be impressive, okay, but we want to go well beyond that. Make other people
make, our audience, our focus and our goal to change their lives even
for a little bit of time in some way with that music, not to
be liked, not for people to be impressed by you, If you do that, it’s
gonna be distracting and you’ll constantly be disappointed because you
will never get enough accolades to feel good enough, you know, about how you did,
and so just kind of keep that concentration on others (again, life
lesson) but this is true for us as singers. Really go out there, move
people, touch people, choose great music that you can do really, really well!

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