I’ve GOT TALENT – have you?!
Posted: March 24th, 2014 by Ashley Saunders
The last four Sundays, I’ve been a talent show judge. I know – it’s scary that someone would trust a guitarist, let alone me to judge talent! Be that as it may, I had a lot of fun emulating my hero – Simon Cowell.
“You have the personality of a handle.”- Simon Cowell
The format was exactly like the TV shows, with one small change. We weren’t allowed to give verbal feedback direct after the act had performed. Instead, we took notes and use them to discuss in a holding room backstage who got a Yes, No and who needed more consideration.
The acts were mainly singers – although there was a dance troupe who were good, a Chinese boy who played piano like Ling Ling (no really, he’s 14 and exceptional). Then there was the case of the magician. He was so good he disappeared and couldn’t be traced!
I learnt a lot about performance, dance, sound levels, being positive when giving negative feedback. Let’s looks a few of the key points you can learn from.
Get feedback when possible
The hardest part, in some ways, was having to wait around at the end to give feedback. You might see on the TV the phenomenon known as stage mothers. Yes, they exist in real life as well. Luckily for us, other than one small run in (where we were saved because we happened to be talking with another constant), there was very little drama and no tears.
The thing that truly fascinated me, is that most of the acts we put through in to the semi-finals, wanted some kind of feedback. This included our piano wonder child, who we couldn’t fault and therefore had nothing constructive to add! To pro singers who knew they could sing and didn’t need much feedback at all.
Not one of the acts we didn’t put through came back for advice or to ask us why. This not only baffles me but drives me a little crazy. There is always room to improve. I’ve been playing for over 15 years and I still learn something new every time I pick up the guitar.
That said, each contestant had the opportunity to talk with three industry experts. Which is a quite rare opportunity, those who sought our advice will hopefully put the feedback in to practice and grow as a performers.
By the way, don’t ask your friends or parents – they probably love you too much to be brutally honest. Find experts who want to help you and be honest with you. Trust me you’ll learn more that way.
The art of starting
One of the constants who inspired me the most was a guy in his late 60s who didn’t start singing until he was in his 60. We were told that he’s just kept singing and over time has developed a great voice in his style, he spent years performing and singing badly only to keep going and refining his craft. The point is, is he started, then he kept going.
If you want to learn to sing or play guitar or even paint – start today and refine from there. Don’t wait until life slows down or work eases up – that’s a false believe, life will only get slower when you’re dead or close to heaven’s door and it’s likely that you won’t have the brain power by then to learn a new skill.
Join a local choir or jam night
The best advice I can give to any contestant and to you is to simply get out there and try. Sure, it’s scary but you’ll find that you will improve greatly by pushing yourself.
Local jams and community choirs are the best training ground for you to really learn your craft, smooth some of the rough edges down and go some way to getting over your fear of preforming and failure.
Plus by getting out there you’ll see more opportunities that you just wouldn’t have had if you had stayed at home. If know you’re gifted, you’ve have to share it with the world!
If you’re interested, read my guide to Jams.
Are you the whole package?
The other slight change to the regular format is that each act has two songs. This small change created a huge amount of problems.
Firstly, very few artists thought about what to say in between and many resulted to nervous laughter. This is a great tip for all those who preform regularly as well, think about what you’re going to say in between songs.
Do you have a story about the song you’ve just sung or maybe about the next one?
If you don’t have a story or something interesting to say, then ask the crowd how their doing today, ask them if their having a good time.
If you’re a support artist, tell the audience that you’re really grateful that you’re getting to support the main act, tell them why you like the main act.
The one rule of chatting – keep it short, fairly funny (but don’t try to be a comic) and if possible, lose the nervous laughter – it’s hard to do this but try!
Another big problem was song choice. Only 6 artists out of the 40+ we watched had chosen two good songs to sing that worked for their voice or act.
The rest, chose one good song and one rubbish song – the person who sticks out for me, was a girl who sang “somebody else’s guy” (funky dance track from the 80s). The arrangement was an enormous seven and half minutes long, which makes it easy to lose interest and fast. The key was all wrong as well, which didn’t help. She killed it and not in a good way. However, for her second song she did a Duffy song. She transformed into a completely different singer! She nailed it. Luckily for her, she got through based on that song alone.
When preforming think short, sweet and memorable. Leave them wanting more.
Another common problem was stage presence or lack of it. Hiding behind a mic stand isn’t really preforming, nor is sudden and awkward movements!
Like with chatting in between, think about how to use the stage to add depth to your performance. I know that’s a lot to think about – but it all transfers to the crowd.
Remember, when you look like you’re having fun, look confident and use the stage to connect with the audience. If you look happy and like your enjoying yourself, the crowd will pick up on it and they’ll feel like they have been entertained!
Don’t enter a local talent competition judged by me!
Well, this goes without saying really!
I do hope that you can learn from the mistakes of others and use these little tips to make your performance that extra special!