Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Welcome to my first blog post! I am so excited to be sharing tips on everything related to singing and performing. As a singing teacher and vocal coach I know that technique in my singing lessons is of course a very important aspect in the lesson, but knowing how to perform a song is just as valuable. In my 20-year career as a teacher, composer and performer, I have come to know what works and what doesn’t. And that’s why I’m happy to share 5 Key Ways To Enhance Your Song Performance: Part 1.
In today’s blog we’ll be covering the first key, which is (drum roll please….) Using Your Eyes. Let’s break down how to use your eyes in a performance or in an audition.
Open your eyes
Have you ever seen a performer who sings with their eyes closed? That is a sure fire way to disconnect with an audience. As the famous quote says, “your eyes are the window to the soul.” Besides your voice, your eyes are one of the most important tools you have as a singer. Some songs might require an emotional moment where you need to close your eyes for a short while, but don’t close them for too long, let the audience in to your emotional journey.
Where to look
If you are in an audition, the rule of thumb is to never look at the audition panel. This is because the panel is there to judge you and see if you are right for the part. If you are staring at them directly it can get in the way of them doing their job. It can make them feel uncomfortable because ultimately they cannot be there to reciprocate. They might feel obligated to keep eye contact with you when they might need to write notes. It also becomes a distraction for them and in the end they cannot take in your performance fully. So, the question then is, where should you look?
If you are singing a song where your character is singing to someone, it is important to create that person you are singing to. You don’t have the luxury of having another person in the audition room with you, but by planting your eyes on a specific spot in the room, you can give the illusion that you are indeed singing to someone. This is very important. Wandering eyes can make or break an audition. If there is one thing that separates the amateurs from the professionals, it is wandering eyes (that, and shifting your body around). It’s important to never sing so that you are in complete profile. The spot that you pick in the room should be in the general area of where the audition panel is. They want to see your beautiful face and EYES!
Singing to an imaginary character/spot in the room can be a very challenging task. It needs to look natural. Your eyes need to be relaxed, look at eye level, and make sure your eyes have a spark and energy to them. Now, I’m not saying that you have to stick to this one spot the entire time, in fact, if you do, it will probably look a little strange. If you break down the song, like a scene, you have to figure out the spots in the story where it makes sense for you to look at the other character.
Now, you might be saying, but in my song the character singing is not singing to anyone. If the song is a soliloquy, and it doesn’t make sense for you to make it your own (this is the 4th key which I will share soon) and sing to another person, this becomes a bit of a different approach. I want you to stop for a moment and think about what you ate for breakfast this morning. Now, think about it again, and I want you to pay attention to where your eyes moved, or if they moved at all. When we think to ourselves, our eye movement is very focused and sometimes slight. We don’t necessarily look at eye level; we might look down a little bit or up a bit (please note the words “little bit”, I by no means want you to look at the floor or the ceiling). And when we have brand new thoughts, our eyes can have a new sight line. When singing a song where you are singing to yourself you need to examine where it makes sense in the song to shift the focus of your eyes. You need to give the impression that you are indeed talking or singing to yourself, and this is achieved through having a focus and natural shift in the eyes.
Energize the eyes
When you use your eyes in performing a song you need to remember to have an energy in your eyes. Our eyes show the world the emotion that we are feeling. Every emotion, whether it be happiness, sadness, anger, or jealousy, is shown through our eyes. If there is a lack of energy in your eyes then you are missing out on connecting with your audience/panel, telling a story that is believable, and creating a performance that will move your audience/panel to tears or have them laughing in the aisles. A great tip is to practice in front of a video camera, so that you can watch what you do with your eyes, this way you’ll be able to see what the audition panel sees.
I encourage you to watch some of your favorite performers perform and study the pros. If you are performing musical theatre, watch some of the greats like Audra McDonald or Kristen Chenoweth. If you are performing pop music take a look at Lady Gaga or Beyoncé. The list is endless of incredible performers to study. Watch their eyes, take note, and see how they use their eyes to tell a story.
Stay tuned for the second key, which will be revealed next week!