What does it take to succeed on a TV singing show like The Voice or X Factor? Top vocal coach Juliet Russell shares her tips for winning over audiences and judges.
Juliet Russell is a singer, choir director and vocal coach who works on some of the UK’s biggest entertainment shows. She’s been involved with ITV’s The Voice since series one and for the past four years has coached contestants from the audition stages through to the live finals.
“Yes, you need a great voice to succeed,” she says. “Musicality, phrasing and how you interpret a song are all important. But you need so much more than that.”
Here are her tips on how you can make an impact on a TV singing show.
“Individuality counts for a lot in television,” Russell says. “The most successful artists have a vocal signature – you hear them, and you know it’s them. Their personality comes out through their work in a way that reaches other people.”
Tip: Be clear about who you are as an individual. If you’re struggling with this concept, ask people who you trust what they think your strengths are and then build on them.
A criticism sometimes levelled at TV shows is that participants need to have a “story” to do well. This may be true, but we all have a story, don’t we?
Tip: Russell says: “The question is: what’s your story and how are you going to tell it? Be clear about who are and want you want to achieve.”
Remember you’re not just singing a song, you’re giving a performance.
Tip: Spend time thinking about how you present yourself and embody the song.
The ability to perform under pressure
It’s not easy turning it on in a big studio in front of judges, crew and a watchful audience (not to mention millions of viewers at home). For this reason, psychological preparation is crucial.
“You need to able to do your best under pressure,” Russell says. “A lot of that comes with experience and a positive mindset.”
Tip: Visualise yourself performing on stage and all the specific elements of your performance. Don’t just wing it. Be as prepared as you can be.
Be ready to collaborate
“What I like about TV is the collaborative aspect. Everyone is invested in making it work,” she says.
Tip: Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Be open to working with other people and don’t be limited by doubts you might have about your abilities. How you see yourself might not be true. For example, you might believe you can’t hit high notes but is this really the case? Perhaps you’ve been scarred by one bad experience, and your technique has evolved since then.
“It’s a myth that you only get one shot in the music business,” Russell says. “There are lots of ways to be successful and lots of opportunities. Sustainability is important. You need to evolve, change and be responsive to the opportunities that come your way.”
Tip: It goes without saying that the music industry is a tough game. Whether you succeed or not on a TV singing show, you need to be prepared for life after the credits have rolled.