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The Benefits of Being Brave

Successful singers move beyond their comfort zone – says Juliet Russell

Recently, I was speaking to a group of creative producers and performers who are at the beginning of their careers.

We were exploring the skills and qualities you need to succeed in the music industry.

The group agreed on many qualities shared by their favourite artists – many of which they found they also possessed including passion, technical skill, motivation, creativity and determination.

However there was one significant difference. Overwhelmingly successful artists were described as brave.

Our Manageable Risks

As singers and performers we often take “manageable risks”, even stepping out on stage or attending an audition can require an element of bravery.

Yet, how often do we play it safe, sticking to what we know in terms of repertoire, tonal choices, setting our goals and particularly in our performance?

To stand out from the crowd and to develop as artists we need to embrace taking chances at a deeper level.

What’s Stopping You?

Reasons I have heard from singers include:

Judgement by others
Feeling self-conscious
Lack of confidence

Shining a Light on our Fear

Your reason may be different, but for most of us it’s the fear of failure that limits us.

The consequence of failure is actually very small – a bad review, a negative comment, some momentary discomfort.

So what? In the whole scheme of your career, these are tiny things. “Failure” always provides an opportunity to learn.

The upside of taking a risk is potentially much greater:

You up your game.
You feel more confident.
People notice and remember you.
You feel that you have given your best.
You get closer to your goals.
You express your individuality.

The important thing is to take action.

Ask yourself honestly: “How can I be braver?”

If you always write love songs, choose a different subject. If you are mainly comfortable in your mid range, explore what else your voice can do. If you have no contacts, be brave and start making some; talk to people. Some acts of bravery will be small and some much greater. All will be significant in your development as an artist.

An artist is someone brave enough to be who they are and who strives to be the best that they can be.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Andrew Trotter – Too Close (cover)

Thanks for sharing this Andrew. You have a distinctive tone, which I really like and a good emotional connection throughout the performance. I like your dynamic changes and this suits the song. Things to work on: open your mouth a bit more, and your jaw is a bit tense. As soon as you laugh at the end, you are very open and relaxed and you can apply this. Even when singing something emotive or serious we still want to be relaxed in the face and jaw. This will help with enunciation too. The other thing to work on is vocal agility – particularly the 3 note runs at the end of some lines. Practice runs slowly and gradually build up speed so you can move through a number of notes quickly, smoothly and accurately. I really enjoyed your performance. You conveyed the song very well.

Laura Monk – Baby Come Back (original)

It’s great to see a live performance and you are obviously being well received by the audience. You tell the narrative of the song in a clear and almost theatrical way, which suits the humorous elements in the lyrics. You have a relaxed performance style and this makes you very watchable and engaging. I would like to hear you experiment with more tonal variety, which will add more expression to your phrasing and delivery. You could also explore a more dynamic range, from softer tones to loud and powerful. Think about emotional and tonal differentiation between your lines – e.g. in verse 3 there could be more contrast between the “wrinkle your shirt” and “heart could have this much hurt”. Over all it’s a lively and very engaging performance. Well done.

-Juliet Russell

See VoiceCouncil’s Feature Interview with Juliet Russell

Juliet Russell has coached Grammy award winners and X-Factor finalists and is a vocal coach on BBC1’s The Voice. Passionate about developing aspiring artists, she co-founded Sense of Sound She has collaborated with artists and companies including Damon Albarn, Imogen Heap, Paloma Faith, Ringo Starr, BBC, Channel 4, Universal Royal Opera House, Greenpeace and Glastonbury, and has written music for film, television and radio. Juliet holds a Masters degree in Music and is in huge demand as coach, vocal arranger and musical director. Juliet is passionate about developing aspiring artists and supporting individuals and communities to explore their voices and creativity.
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  • Highcottonatl

    Thank you so much for your review and advice. I will take it to heart and try to concentrate on varying my tonal differentiation. Also, thank you for the timeliness of this article…..just what I needed to hear right now. Great points that I will put into practice next week at an “audition” for a gig…

  • Juliet Russell

    Hello Laura – You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for your feedback and good luck with your audition. Best wishes – Juliet