Eight Steps to a Great Vocal Performance

Eight Steps to a Great Vocal Performance
Whether it’s your first time in the limelight or gig number 1,052, the steps you take in preparation of a show determine its outcome – says Mark Baxter

Use this guide to ensure you’ve done everything possible for a great performance.

Say the following sentence as a mantra, changing the ending each time you’ve completed a step.

“A great performance begins when I am…”

  • “…well rested.”

    By far, this is the hardest step to accomplish. Nerves and schedules have a tendency to rob us of valuable sleep before a show. However, nothing is more important for singing than proper rest.

  • “…well rehearsed or very skilled.”

    Nothing settles the mind like preparation. Remember how good you felt walking into school when all your homework was finished? The same confident stride can be yours as you approach the stage if you are well rehearsed.

  • 
”…warmed up.”

    All too often singers forgo a warm up routine because they’re either embarrassed, running late or don’t know what to do. The irony is that there’s no way to avoid warming up. It’s either going to happen before, or during the performance.

  • 
”…in control of breathing, not nerves.”

    Contrary to popular opinion, stage fright is not a problem; it means you care about the performance! The symptoms, however, often include shallow breathing. So place a hand on your belly button and focus on breathing long and slow.

  • “…feeling normal.”

    Many people will use an up-coming gig to clean up their act. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that a single day of good behavior will erase years of abuse.

  • “…hydrated.”

    This is the only exception to the step above. If you are not already in a good routine, start with sixteen ounces of room temperature water fifteen minutes before the show. It will make a difference. 
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”Lubricated.” This is not the same as hydrated. Another disruptive symptom of stage fright is dry mouth. Anxiety restricts saliva ducts, which means the saline that lubricates the larynx stops flowing. To get things wet down there suck on your finger!

  • 
”…courageous.”

    This is important to say to yourself over and over again. You don’t have to be the greatest singer in the world. All you need to be is brave. Stepping on the stage does not mean you claim to be better than everyone else; it means you are willing to rise to your potential.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Wooil Wooil – “Story Of My Life” (Cover)

Woo you have a great tone when singing the verses. The feel and control is there too. When you belt out for those choruses, though, your voice becomes a little pinched. This is due to overloading the larynx with more pressure than necessary for those notes. At the very end you back off just right and the tone opens up.

Julien Sardon Julien Sardon – “She’s Out Of My Life” by Michael Jackson (Cover)

I really liked how balanced your voice is Julien. You allow your registers to switch and blend freely. That creates the sensitive touch you utilize so well. Your dynamics become predictable, though, as every time you rise in pitch the volume rises as well. The lyrics “Damn indecision” deserve more edge but because they were on low pitches got lost.

Chelsey Johnson Chelsey Johnson – “Stay With Me” (Cover)

Chelsey your approach on this song is very heartfelt. Your phrasing breathes emotion into every line. You have developed a habit of tensing your jaw and tongue and so it restricts the sound of your voice at the peaks. You wouldn’t lose that great smoky texture if you learned to release that tension – it would only add more colors to your vocal paint box.


 The Ultimate Guide to SingingMark is a contributor to The Ultimate Guide to Singing Available in print and Kindle versions in the US, the UK and across the world.

Mark Baxter Professional Shoot

Mark Baxter has worked as a coach with Aerosmith, Journey, Goo Goo Dolls — and many others. He is the author of The Rock-n-Roll Singer’s Survival, creator of The Singer’s Toolbox instructional DVD, Sing Like an Idol instructional CD. Mark operates vocal studios in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and online via Skype. Visit his website: VoiceLesson