A few years back I had the honour of being a judge at a 2 day Country Music Talent Contest. The standard was quite high which really made the task very hard. I did notice though, just like Band Competitions, that many of the contestants were making small but not unimportant mistakes that could have lifted their scores if addressed. Bob Colefax of R&B Music is also an old hand at running talent quests and between us we came up with a list of helpful hints for those competing in Talent Contests.
- Introduce yourself and your song. Far too many contestants just wandered on to the stage and waited for the band to start without any acknowledgment of the audience or judges at all. Having said that, don’t talk their ears off. There is no need to tell the whole story of how this song changed your life. Just say: “Hi, I’m Mary Smith and I’d like to sing The Wind Beneath My Wings… thank you.”
- Make sure your music charts are accurate and helpful. Some folks had to spend 2 or 3 minutes explaining to the band how their particular song went. Your chart should do this. Make sure it has a time signature, an approximate tempo, all the important stops etc, and make sure it’s written neatly enough for someone else to understand. If you can name the rhythm as well, then do so ie. Waltz, foxtrot, rock, swing etc
- Pick a song that suits your voice. Quite a few contestants picked songs which they may have liked but which did not suit their voice or vocal style at all.
- Pick a song that the band and the judges will know. The band will always do a better job of a song that they have heard before. If the band play well your performance will always sound better. Don’t give them something that they will struggle with.
- For the same reason don’t pick an obscure version of a popular song. If a song has more than one version, do the version the band will know. If you and the band are not in sync then it won’t matter how well you sing the song.
- Make sure your guitar is in tune. Don’t just tune it before you leave home and hope for the best. Temperature can alter your tuning greatly so make sure you tune as close as you can to performance time and as close as you can to the stage. Don’t do it on the stage in front of the audience if at all possible.
- Thank the band and the judges. This is just good manners. Again, keep it brief but genuine.
- Wear something nice but don’t turn it into a fashion parade. If you are in more than one section then pick one outfit and hairstyle and stick with it. It will help you if you seem “familiar and comfortable” with the judges and the audience. If you keep changing your appearance this won’t help. It can also lead to delays with people who are competing in adjoing sections but who feel the need to do a complete wardrobe and makeup change. Don’t do it!
- Wipe over your instrument before you take all the finger prints and grime out into the spot lights! Million dollar dress and putrid guitar, not a good look.
- If you are an accompanist for someone, look the part, face forward and don’t assume you are invisible to the performance. Track suits, facing the back wall, pulling faces, glaring at a band member if a mistake is made can all be seen by judges and audience.
While there are no magic formulas, there are many things you can do to put the odds in your favour. You need to do everything possible to take the nerves and stress out of your performance so you can be at your best.
If you have any other tips that may be helpful for other folks competing in talent contests then please leave them in the comments section below.
Thanks again to Bob who was very, very helpful as usual.