How can you accelerate the speed, accuracy, and quality of learning songs for performance situations?

On this blog I share my 'learning adventures' as I continue to improve my performance as a singer.

I share web resources I find helpful, and reflect on my experience using various technologies and ideas.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Your electronic accompanist - Classical Archives website

Classical Archives have just improved the usability of theri valuable website for singers and other musicians.

Classical Archives is one of my favourite and most useful sources of recordings after iTunes. However, Classical Archives is more valuable to me because of the huge availability of MIDI files. MIDI files are very helpful for learning melody, and practicing with an accompaniment.

I am about to learn for the North Shore Singing Competitions Verdi's Aria: Di Provenza il Mar from La Traviata. Entering the composer and song title in the Classical Archives SEARCH box, I quickly find both a recording, and MIDI file for the accompaniment. I previewed the recording which I then purchased ($0.88).

More importantly, I downloaded the MIDI file - for FREE. I can use the MIDI file in iTunes, Quicktime, Garageband or Smartscore. If I want to slow, or transpose down the accompaniment whilst I learn the song, I do this easily in Smartscore or Garageband.

La Traviata (opera)

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi

What is MIDI?
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) files are played through a synthesizer
(usually on your audio card.) They can also be converted into sheet music.

Download MIDI
13.Di Provenza il mar
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

How do you prepare for a musical audition?

How do you prepare for an audition? What song do you choose? What happens at an audition?

Last year, I participated in a workshop for Contemporary Singing lead by Irene Bartlett. Irene is Jazz and Contemporary Voice Teacher at the Conservatorium of Music at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. She was also a coach at the New Zealand National Singing School in 2009. The NZ Singing School is a summer residential school held in our mid-summer, January. http://www.singingschool.org.nz/

There were 20 singers in my three-day workshop, held at Unitec Institute of Technology. We each had the opportunity to receive a 'master-class' style coaching for a song we were learning. I chose "I'm Martin Guerre" - a dramatic song from Boublil and Schonberg's "Martin Guerre". (This team created the well-known modern opera "Les Miserables".)

Each singer had ten minutes of workshop time to gain maximum advantage from the master-coach, Irene. I launched into my song. The song begins with my singing 28 bars, nearly all the same pitch and rhythm. Just as I was about to launch into the exciting, drammatic, melodious part, Irene stopped me! And began my coaching.

Valuable coaching ensued, but I could have gained much more from the coach if I had known the secrets of preparing for an audition. Whilst this was more of a master-class than an audition, I think there are some useful lessons that apply regarding how to prepare for an audition.

Subsequently, I bought a variety of music resources from an an Aladdin's Cave for musicians, Piano Traders, in Mt Eden, Auckland....

One book I acquired has some relevance to the task of auditioning:

Pamela S. Phillips. (2003). Singing For Dummies. New York: Wiley. Retrieved February 18, 2009, from http://www.dummies.com/store/product/Singing-For-Dummies.productCd-0764524755.html.

Chapter 21 presents 14 pages of advice on auditioning for a song for music theatre. The chapter covers topics including:
  • Get some tips on musical theatre
  • Select a song that demonstrates variety
  • Dramatise your lyrics
  • Avoid the wrong song (the mistake I made)
  • Adjust the key if you need to (yes: I transposed down 3 semitones that using Smartscore - to the horror of my accompanist)
  • Make a 16-bar cut. That is, choose a small part of the song that shows you at your best ... you may be given no further time than 16-bars! The main mistake I made.
  • Work your songs with an accompanist
  • Know how to work with the audition pianist
Extra for scholars: bibliographic management
For scholars and researchers, if you were impressed by my complete APA referencing for the Phillips (2003) book, let me share my latest productivity aid. I have just installed the Zotero citation and bibliographic reference management system. Zotero heps me manage all the web sites I visit, local .pdf documents, and off-line print media in one database reference system.

When I need to cite a reference, I conveniently drag and drop from Zotero into a document, such as my blog (as above) or a text document. Zotero is open source (free!) software, and runs as an add-on to my Firefox browser. See: http://www.zotero.org/

Top image: Peter Mellalieu sings "I'm Martin Guerre" at NZ Aria Competition, Rotorua, October 2008.

Invitation to open rehearsal and audition: ShowWest Singers

ShowWest Singers Inc performs a variety of music from Opera to Oratorio, Classics to Cabaret. We invite new singers keen to develop their singing and performance skills.

ShowWest's mid-year cabaret-style concerts are often performed at the Glen Eden Playhouse, a popular, high-quality performing arts venue. These concerts have taken themes such as American music, Communication, Viennese, Opera selections, and Amahl and the Night Visitors.

In December, ShowWest presents a series of Christmas-themed concerts in cooperation with various institutions that have included a consulate, several churches, and other performing arts groups throughout Auckland. The music performed ranges from familiar and popular to unconventional and challenging. However, both members and audiences gain pleasure and satisfaction from the Music Director's leadership.

ShowWest was formed in 2000. Under the musical direction of Judy King, members are auditioned each year to establish their voice range, style, and ambitions in terms of solo, small group, and chorus work.

Rehearsals are held weekly on Wednesdays from early February at 7:30 pm. Small ‘Friends Concerts’ are held every second month in the rehearsal venue. ‘Friends Concerts’ provide an informal opportunity for members to develop their performance capabilities and confidence in front of a supportive audience.

Audition details
Date: Wednesday 25 February, 2009,

Time: 7.30 to 8.30 pm (or by arrangement)

Location: Opanuku Rooms, Corban's Estate, 426 Great North Road, Henderson. See map.

Bring a copy of your music for the accompanist… or bring your own accompanist or backing track

Demonstrate what you love to perform

Opera to Oratorio, Classics to Cabaret

No obligation!

Further details:
Contact the Auditions Coordinator: Peter Mellalieu,
Mobile: 021 42 01 18
Email: petermellalieu@me.com

Monday, February 16, 2009

Join the live audience for 'Stars in your Eyes' - APril 2009

It's too late for me to apply to 'Stars in Your Eyes (New Zealand). But perhaps I will join in as audience for one of the shows.

Follow the green paper clip icon (Clipmark) to find more information about Stars in your Eyes (NZ).
clipped from tvnz.co.nz
Stars In Their Eyes is coming to New

Applications for the show have now closed. Keep an eye on
www.tvnz.co.nz for
more information on when Stars In Their Eyes is returning to TV

Organise a group of friends to come and be in our audience. You
will be guaranteed a great night out!

The live studio audience are an essential part of the show as they
get to vote for their favourite impersonator. Who sounded so good
they were even better than the real thing?   All episode
winners go through to a grand final at the end of the season.
DATES: April 3, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 21, 23, 25 &

VENUE: Life Convention Centre, 110 Montgomerie Rd,
Airport Oaks, Mangere

TIME: 6:30pm - 9.00pm

AGE LIMIT: 13 years and over

CONTACT:  TaniaMcDonald
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