Road To Artistic Greatness
By Chris Standring
I watched a fabulous masterclass recently
on PBS hosted by a vocal teacher at a music school. I wish I could
remember who it was who gave the seminar (answers on a postcard
please!) as it put much of my thoughts into perspective on a subject
I am constantly fascinated with.
The host had each of her students sing a song and then commented
on their performance. One particular student sang and her immediate
"We know you can sing well, but if you could just get past
the singing we might all have a connection with you!"
Wow! What an amazing insight. This is something I come across
all the time listening to singers and musicians, but never have
I heard it put so articulately. Let me explain exactly what she
meant by this;
Many artists may be technical experts. You know, vocalists able
to do all the acrobatic licks, guitar players able to sweep arpeggios
up the yin yang. But at the end of the day, these are merely tools.
Too many musicians have a desperate (and very often subconscious)
need to show their peers that they are indeed great and that they
can compete with the biggest stars. However, many struggling artists
get caught in this trap and this competetiveness can be a major
stumbling block in the road to their success.
Why do we have to "get past the singing"? Because
we need to live the song. This means literally forgetting
everything you ever learned (yet having trust and faith in your
abilities) and becoming vulnerable and giving in completely to
the song you are singing. Deliver the song with honesty and open
yourself up to the soul zone, you know that "other place"
we all want to get to when we get lost in a performance. That
place doesn't always materialize and it is usually because we
are too "conscious" of our surroundings, our audience
and our insecurities.
It is a tough thing to "get past the singing".
How many singers have you heard that want to sound like Aretha
Franklin? Or Ella Fitzgerald or Chaka Khan? They have learned
all those stereo-typed R&B licks and they can kick butt with
the best of 'em. It's like a boxing match. But listen to Aretha,
Ella and Chaka and there's simply never a contest going on. They
are not trying to compete. Why? because they are simply doing
what they do - and boy can they do it! Of course there were years
of practice, no one can simply sing like that without some degree
of work, but when you hear them it's about the song -
not about the singing. Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall, Bjork.
There's something else going on - something from within.
Artists want to communicate - that is what we are on this earth
to do. There are a million great singers, guitarists, sax players.
But not so many true artists. It is also important to remember
that the general public has not, for the most part, had a musical
training. They do not hear harmony. They simply respond to what
they like. And what makes them respond is that little bit of magic
that emanates from a vulnerable artist delivering a song - telling
a personal story.
And with this new approach I believe comes a true uniqueness as
the artist explores his or her own inner feelings, qualities and
life experiences and forgets about emulating heroes. Heroes are
important, after all they are what initially inspired us. But
if we want to be artists we have to move on and discover ourselves.
And at the end of the day this is what all record companies are
looking for. Unique and great artists.
|| Chris Standring
is the CEO and founder of A&R Online (www.aandronline.com).
He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed to
Ultimate Vibe Recordings. For more info on Chris' recording
career go to his personal website at www.chrisstandring.com
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