Your Next Song

No matter what’s happened, you must move past self-sabotage –says Donna McElroy

I’m so impressed when singers make a slight mistake and keep going, not letting the lapse in lyric memory or the place they are in the song blow the rest of it for them.

I’ve seen singers sabotage themselves – especially in auditions by letting nerves steal their concentration.

It’s so important to move onto your next song free of the past and fully ready for what is to come.

A Tactic to Try

Here’s a tactic I’ve developed over the years to help me make a full transition from one song to the next.

Sometimes when I’ve just finished singing a song, I get a little light-headed, as though I’m out of my own body, and watch the whole room from the perspective of the audience, the band, the sound engineer, the waitresses and bartenders, etc.

I’ve gotten used to doing this whether the song went well or terribly, just getting a vibe from the room as to a general atmosphere.

Most of the time the mistake I made was noticed by no one but me or the keyboard player, or possibly the songwriter if they’re present; in other words, the whole gig didn’t fall apart because of that misbegotten phrase.

I remind myself that there’s really nothing I can do about the previous song, and I certainly don’t have to let the rest of my show suffer just because of any lapses in concentration.

I’ve also learned at the end of the gig to accept any and all compliments with grace and a smile (I’ve practiced this in the mirror!!!), and not correct the audience members.

What they don’t know won’t hurt anybody.

This kind of thinking has been my savior, this transitioning away from what I just sang. NEXT!

Redefining Excellence

It’s only over time, after many successful gigs filled with great and grim outcomes, that I’ve come to understand excellence.

Excellence is not a single moment of performance success, but the culmination over one’s life and career of successful performance tactics that work to keep you focused—focused on the musical life you want to live and to communicate with others.

So keep on blazing through every song and performance experience.

And try to have a grand and glorious time no matter what mistakes were made.

In the spirit of Scarlett O’Hara:

there’s always the next song!

My Reactions to this Past Week’s Peer Review Vids

Liv Brooking – You Know I’m No Good (Cover)

I would like to encourage you, Liv, to keep learning great songs and emulating the singers whom you love! Like many, you are singing a cappella, and without the compass of the bass line, a drum beat, or any guide to your pitch or rhythmic accuracy. It is difficult to build the stamina and breath control for most contemporary music if one is not breathing in relation with and adherence to the groove. I’m urging you to sing to tracks or with accompaniment of some kind to develop your breath control and improvisational strength. Your performance skills can only get better!

Roby Sahonero – I’ll Be There (Cover)

Hello Roby! Wow, you have a big voice and a big sound! This song, however does not need anything but your sincerity and total understanding of the message. In fact, you might magnify your need to know the lyrics better by adding so many effects. Let’s use another approach: just you and the microphone with a scaled down track, maybe just piano, possibly a lower key, say a whole step lower. Sing it to me, Baby! Do you know what these lyrics mean? Is there someone in your life who needs to hear this message from you?


Read Donna’s Exclusive Interview for VoiceCouncil

Donna McElroy is a Grammy nominated vocalist, celebrated arranger and well-loved Voice Professor at Berklee College of Music. Her contributions include arranger/background vocalist on gold and platinum releases “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” by Reba McEntire; “We Shall Be Free” by Garth Brooks, “Addictive Love” by BeBe and CeCe Winans, and “House of Love” by Amy Grant. She’s been the recipient of a Grammy nomination for Bigger World (WB) and a Dove Award for Songs from the Loft (Reunion). Television appearances include Arsenio Hall, The Tonight Show, and The Grammy Awards.

Useful Links

Donna McElroy’s Website

Watch Donna Perform

  • Robysaho

    Dear Donna,
    Thank you very much for the tips, will help me a lot in my career … I´ll be there is a song that I started to sing recently…. I was still reading the lyrics from my computer.
    I hope to have another opportunity to receive your advice.