Before we begin, I would like to say that the Top 12 Vocal Masterclass evaluations will be shorter than those you will read as the season progresses.
As I begin more familiar with the singers and, hopefully, notice changes in their vocal and performance technique, then the critiques will become more detailed and comprehensive
Now, let us move forward to my Vocal Masterclass evaluations and I welcome your commentary and suggestions after the read!
Here are my evaluations and, remember, I am reviewing each singer in (first name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome. To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.
Strengths: Aaron- seated on the steps at the beginning of this song, you established the perfect ambience for this song. It also gave you an opportunity to collect and pace yourself accordingly as the song progressed.
And then, as you moved forward toward your audience, you continued to create and communicate this song with genuine emotion and passion.
Technically, you still have some work to do with your voice; however, as a performer, I see you are not afraid to take risks, given the fact that you not only challenge yourself with your song selections, but also are a very approachable performer.
I did notice that you had a relaxed bend in your knees and this is an important aspect for solidifying the diaphragmatic breathing process. The bend also accelerates a sense of ease and comfort throughout your body.
Also, the forward alignment of your body is a visual bonus – you always want to signify that you are reaching toward your audience. It establishes a confident and approachable demeanor.
This was a tender performance and the song selection was just perfect for your light, lyrical voice. Excellent work Aaron and I have no doubt we shall see you next week!
Critique: Aaron- make sure that you refrain from spreading your mouth on the “eye” diphthong. Round out your mouth and grab the pure “ah” vowel and you will be amazed at the ease you will feel when you sing through this – or any - diphthong.
Furthermore, you need to maintain this circular mouth position on all your vowels and, by doing so, we will hear more depth and clarity in your vocals.
Try to breathe more deeply and from the diaphragm. Inhale the air through your nose and you should notice that the diaphragmatic rib cage muscles expanding with ease and effortlessness. Then, when you start to vocalize, contract those stomach, abdominal and back muscles to release the correct amount of air for your vocal sound.
As the season progresses, I will explore these technical issues with more depth. However, overall, this was a wonderful Top 12 performance and I congratulate you! Bravo!
Strengths: Andrew- you have a very husky quality in your vocal timbre, especially in your lower range. It provides wonderful contrast to your power vocals, which generally sound purer and cleaner. I also appreciated the passion and intensity you brought to this performance, as it was sincere and heartfelt.
However, that being said, I was pleasantly surprised to see you use that all important circular mouth position on the word “way” – this element is what you must implement into your singing on a consistent basis. The round mouth adds depth, focus and alignment to your vocal quality.
Critique: Andrew- you encountered so many pitch problems and this is definitely the result of your very green diaphragmatic skills. You basically have a solid voice, but without the power and confidence that comes from strong diaphragmatic breathing skills, you will continue to have problems with the focus of your voice.
And always remember that softer dynamics and/or the lower range of your voice need this support as well. It’s aways easier to power through one’s voice when singing with louder dynamics and/or one’s upper range. The intensity naturally increases throughout your body. However, this intensity must remain a constant through every part of your dynamic and vocal range.
As I said in the “Strengths” portion of your Vocal Masterclass evaluation, you must focus your voice on the pure vowels throughout your song. You have the capability, as evidenced when you sustained the word “way” on the “eh” vowel. Now you need to apply this technique on a more consistent basis.
To make things a little easier, try to think “British” when pronouncing your words – the refined British, that is! (Simon Cowell). These folks speak with pure vowels and crisp consonants, while maintaining a vertical mouth position and relaxed jaw.
Great work nonetheless, Andrew! Kudos!
Strengths: Casey- you took out the ‘ole electric guitar and just decided to rock out tonight! Good! For! You!. What was great about this song choice is that it highlighted your enormous strength as a performing artist. You need to work on some vocal issues, but you wisely selected a song that highlighted the bluesy, gritty qualities in your voice. And it worked!
I absolutely loved the head voice at the end of the song – nice to hear the ease in which you accessed this area of your vocal range.
You also demonstrated superb guitar skills and this added further dimension and excitement to your Top 12 performance. Also, you were the only person who managed to reach their audience with a guitar in hand during this week’s performance.
Excellent and surprising work this week. Casey! It bodes well for your future showcases. Bravo!
Critique: Casey- you have a great smile, but make certain that you do not allow the “smile” effect to hinder the correct mouth position when you sustain your vowels. You need to maintain a circular mouth position when you sustain those vowels. Also, your jaw must be relaxed and ready to drop as you move toward your upper register.
Although this song was not a challenging number – it was more entertaining than vocally challenging – somewhere down the road you will encounter a song that will require stellar technical skills. It’s only a matter of time.
So you must make certain to adopt the “bel canto” singing technique, as it will add further dimension and focus to your wonderful voice. And, of course, further refinement of your diaphragmatic breathing skills is a necessity that cannot be underestimated.
However, your performance made a strong impact this week. You looked and sounded confident and, as a result, created a most memorable Top 12 showcase. Bravo Casey!
Strengths: Crystal- this was a wonderful performance. I am finally “getting” who you are as an artist. You sang this song with power and passion and added some melodic dimension to this song. Good job!
You have been blessed with a naturally beautiful voice and a stellar gift for interpreting your songs with your distinct performing style. Your bluesy, passionate voice wrapped generously around the melodic line of this song and further showcased your innate musicality.
Great work, Crystal!
Critique: Crystal- unfortunately, you are currently experiencing technical problems with your voice. That push from your throat and that horizontal mouth position will continue to be problematic in your performances if you don’t adopt some changes in your technical regimen.
You need to maintain a circular mouth position when you sing, fully sustaining your voice on the pure vowel in every syllable of every word. This is called the bel canto technique. By doing so, you will feel the very important need to access the powerful and confident support that comes from the diaphragmatic breathing muscles.
Once you grasp these important elements, you wll notice a marked improvement in the dynamic and expressive range of your voice. You will be able to sing with further ease and your voice will sound even and smooth from top to bottom.
That being said, you do seem like the sweetest thing – like you have the world on your shoulders and want to solve everyone’s problems.
However, you have to move past all of this and start to solidify and center yourself so you can give meaningful, powerful performances each and every week. I know, it’s not easy, but the life of a performer is difficult and you have been given an opportunity of a lifetime. I sincerely hope that you can move beyond your personal difficulties and embrace the wonderful experience that American Idol is offering you.
I have no doubt that I will be seeing you next week! Keep up the good work Crystal and remember – courage! Brava!
Strengths: Didi - you selected a ballad and, yet, one with dimension and passion. I loved the dramatic element you added to this performance. Your voice sounded very good, indeed, and you demonstrated a reasonable amount of technical skill. Also, you exhibited a beautiful charisma on stage and this alone counts for so much in this competition.
I was happy to see that you abandoned your guitar and just decided to work the stage and embrace your audience. As a result, this heightened the visual and aural dimension of your performance and, as a result, I was drawn to the exceptional tone of your vocals. You have a naturally resonant voice that is capable of many wonderful things, especially when you are given the opportunity to showcase it as brilliantly as you did this week.
Of all the performances you have given thus far, this is my favorite! It gave me a glimpse into the exciting possibilities that will surround your future performances.
Congratualtions, Didi! This was an excellent showcase!
Critique: Didi - be careful that you do not push your vocal sound when moving through your upper range, although I suspect that your nerves played into this factor. To your credit your managed your nervous energy very well, staying totally in the moment and in complete control.
Also, be very careful that you don’t raise your head when trying to access your upper range. We lose valuable facial communication with your audience. Additionally, it encourages that push from the throat rather than from the diaphragm, thus diminishing the perfect focus and core of your voice.
Finally, watch your over-usage of all those vowels in your diphthongs – I would have preferred that you sustain the word “fire” on the “ah” vowel, rather than add two and sometimes three syllables to the word. It became increasingly noticeable because you had to repeat the word many times, so be careful that you adopt a cleaner “bel canto” approach to your singing style.
Congratulations Didi! Brava!
Strengths: Katie - seated on a stool at the beginning of this song, you created the perfect atmosphere for this number. Also, you immediately presented us with a beautiful presence on stage.
Your change in position, from seated to standing, allowed you to pace yourself extremely well and your movements on stage further relaxed your body and enhanced the visual and aural aspects of this performance
This was a brilliant performance in every aspect. You are gifted with a beautiful voice, you utilized it technically well and you sang this song with passion and genuine emotion.
I also loved and applauded the melodic variations you added to the “Wild Horses” refrain . It emphasized that you are a musical young vocal artist – not afraid to take risks or move beyond your comfort zone.
This was a thoroughly excellent performance, Katie! Brava! You remind me so much of Season 5 American Idol Top 2 Finalist, Katharine McPhee and that is a very good thing indeed.
Critique: Katie - I have very little to critique this week. However, I would caution you to remember to support your voice when singing through your lower range. This is why you encountered some pitch issues in the front end of this number.
Also, make sure you articulate your consonants with more precision when singing in the lower part of your range. By doing so, you will add energy and enhanced focus to your voice and this, coupled with the power of diaphragmatic support, would create more presence in your contralto range.
However, this was an immensely strong performance, Katie! You bring great resilience and determination to this competition. Brava young lady!
Strengths: Lacey- I loved the string quartet that accompanied your song. I also loved the visual dimension that you added to your song performance – moving from a standing position to a sitting position midway through this song.
You exuded a beautiful charisma and you always appeared relaxed and approachable throughout this performance. You have a beautiful voice that needs to be harnessed and pointed in the right direction; however, your musicality and vocal ability cannot be denied.
Good work, Lacey!
Critique: Lacey- Ellen is absolutely correct. You should have modified the standing and sitting positions to address the dynamic level of the music. I was wondering what was bothering me about this performance and Ellen hit the nail on the head!
Your voice, additionally, needs to be better controlled from the diaphragm. It just sounds so wayward and erratic and, as a result, your pitch was poorly centered.
And that smiling mouth position didn’t help this problem. Singers with strong technical skills learn to smile with their eyes, allowing the mouth to freely maintain the roundness that is so important for a crystal clear, precise and seamless vocal sound.
Also, you must make absolutely certain that you are breathing with depth and consistency from the diaphragm. You looked very relaxed in your upper and lower body, but, perhaps you were a tad too relaxed in your lower body, where all the diaphragmatic action needs to happen.
You need to strike the correct balance between relaxation and intensity when you perform. Presently, I feel that you are throwing “caution to the wind” and it’s a “Que Sera, Sera” approach to your singing style.
Hope this advice helps you Lacey! Best of luck!
Strengths: Lee - you impressively strummed your guitar for this performance and it complimented your vocal delivery so very much. Oh how I love the grit in your vocal essence and when you mixed it up with your pure vocals, it added variety and dimension to your performance.
I love your voice – it is inherently beautiful and you instinctively understand how to use it. For instance, your song selection this week was a perfect fit and this goes a long way in securing successful performances from week to week. When a performer understands and realizes his or her strengths and limitations, then song selections are based in a realistic approach.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t take risks; however, it is important to do so wisely, not reaching too far beyond what you are technically capable to handle. Therefore, I felt that this showcase was the perfect fit for you this week, Lee.
Yet, I can envision that, at some point down the Idol road, your musical persona will gain even more dimension and range. You may be slow at the gate but you will succeed to gain momentum as the weeks go by.
Great work, Lee. You sang this song was expressive energy and passion and came across as an extremely genuine and gracious performer. Bravo!
Critique: Lee- you need to make sure that your vocal energy is consistently supplemented through strong diaphragmatic support. Once you do this, the energy level will increase and, more important, you will feel more confident to take more vocal risks.
Also, at some point in this competition, you are going to have to relinquish the guitar and establish further connection with your audience. I understand your nervous energy and it is difficult to abandon old habits and, most important, your best friend forever, your guitar.
However, abandon you must or, at the very least, you should move around with the guitar in hand. You would be surprised how relaxed you will feel by moving away from the microphone and commanding that stage. By freeing your body from one position, you will most definitely liberate your voice.
One last word of caution ( and I feel like a broken record here with the majority of the singers): remember to maintain a circular mouth position on all the vowels. As you move toward your upper range, extend your very relaxed jaw in order to make room for the upper range to resonate freely in your vocal masque.
However this was a very strong performance this week and I congratulate you on your fine Top 12 achievement!
Strengths: Michael- you own a wonderful vocal instrument. I loved the head voice at the beginning of this song and you thankfully maintained this valuable vocal component throughout this number. Your upper falsetto range just flowed from your mouth with clarity and precision. Beautiful!
I also appreciated your strong efforts to reach for and embrace your audience with those expansive arms. Your strong communicative skills are imperative for success over the interim of this competition, so it is pleasing to see how naturally you are able to express yourself.
You appeared extremely relaxed on the stage and used the stage area wisely. Not only was this important from a performance level, but also the movement allowed you to maintain your composure throughout your performance.
Movement is very liberating, but one always has to make certain that the choreographic and vocal elements are perfectly balanced. One shouldn’t overpower the other. I thought you paced yourself extremely well in this respect, Michael.
I also appreciated your effort to maintain a circular mouth formation on those sustained vowels. I noticed from your American Idol biography that you have had some impressive training in classical voice, so your confident vocal delivery makes absolute sense. You obviously have a firm grasp of the proper diaphragmatic breath support and I expect nothing but the very best from you in the future.
Kudos, Michael, on a very fine performance! Bravo!
Critique: Michael - be very careful that you don’t raise your head when trying to access your upper range. The key to attaining those higher notes won’t be found on the ceiling but rather from believing in the potency of your diaphragmatic breath support system.
Bend those knees and squeeze that butt! By doing so, you will fortify your back muscles to lend added support to the vocal process. A great rule of thumb is: “Think down when you are singing up” and reverse this thinking process for the lower notes so that they do not flatten in sound.
Also, be careful not to spread your legs too far apart when standing in one place. I understand that you wanted to communicate a powerful presence on stage and, thus, you felt that this stance would do the trick; however, for me, it looked slightly awkward.
Trust me, you already exude presence and power on stage – you don’t need to do this so I would caution you to refine your body position. Bring those legs closer together and have one leg positioned slightly ahead of the other, as if you were walking.
Hope this does help you Michael – you are a passionate and musical artist and I want you to improve monumentally each week. Congratulations on an outstanding Top 12 performance!
Strengths: Paige - I thought you tweeted that you lost your voice. Well, I wish I could sound this good when I’m having vocal problems. You worked the stage very well, moving away from the mike midway through this song ( my favorite thing).
And, boy, did you ever add power and pizzazz to this number! This is not the Paige I saw in the semi-finals – this is a new, confident Paige and those power notes, particularly in the upper range, were brilliantly secured. Slam dunk!
I was really impressed with your vocal delivery. Your voice sounded free and confident and there were some technical aspects that you were grasping despite the fact that you have never acquired the benefit of vocal training. You obviously own a God-given vocal gift but I caution you to not take any of this for granted. Make absolutely certain that you equip yourself with the proper technical elements so that you can continue to grow and develop as a vocal artist.
This was a stellar song choice, Paige – one that allowed you to leave an impressive mark on that Top 12 stage! Excellent work!
Critique:Paige- careful that you don’t raise your head when you explore your upper range. It creates added tension in your voice by constraining your neck muscles, thus putting a great deal of pressure on your vocal cords.
Additionally, once you raised your head, you detached yourself from your audience and, therefore, the communicative aspects of your performance were less significant.
I mentioned in the “Strengths” portion of this evaluation that this was a stellar song choice and there is a reason for this statement. It allowed you to “power -vocal” your song delivery, using the natural strength of your voice. However, over time, you must rely on your diaphragmatic breath support to harness and focus your voice in the proper fashion.
Presently, you are pushing and pulling your vocal sound by constricting your throat muscles and not allowing the breath to support and liberate your sound.
Whatever are you going to do when you are presented with a softer and/or slower number? That is the test of a true vocal artist and this is what you must work on in the coming days,weeks, months and years. You must develop the ability to sustain your sound on pure vowels, allowing the strength and power of your breath support to guide this process.
However, I did enjoy watching you have fun on that stage, Paige! Good for you!
Strengths: Siobhan - this was a great song for a great singer. And that would be you, my dear! I loved the eery ambience you established at the beginning of this song. And what a quirky, yet cool arrangement – sort of waltz-like at the beginning and then moving into the customary up-tempo beat we normally associate with this song.
Because of this, your performance was visually and aurally stimulating. You changed position on the stage, you maneuvered the rhythmic variations and then you took us on a ride by demonstrating your amazing vocal ability.
Your lower range is luscious. I rarely hear any singer acquire such depth and beauty in his or her lower voice, so this was such a pleasant surprise. It truly distinguishes you as an artist – your sound is so unique in every good way imaginable.
Your contralto voice sparkles with clarity for,whether you realize it or not, you have implemented just the right amount of head voice in this part of your range. Chest voice in the lower end of a singer’s range is a “given” but, without a nice mix of head voice, then the sound becomes muddy and vague. So never change this vital vocal element – I will cry if you do!
You also demonstrated great sustaining power throughout every aspect of your vocal range. This was crazy good! And that beautiful soprano voice at the end – after all that power singing? Sheer brilliance!
And yes, as Kara said, I was having flashbacks of Adam Lambert. You are totally fearless and how I love this in an artist. I can’t believe that you have no vocal training, as it seems that you are generally doing everything right. Your voice is wonderfully focused in your vocal masque and your mouth, circular and relaxed, is always ready to grab those pure vowels.
This was a nuance-friendly performance – nothing was held back. Brava! Brava! Brava!
Critique: Siobhan- finally -a singer that is giving me a break. However, I would like to caution you to work on your diaphragmatic breath support. It will aid you in keeping your voice perfectly focused and centred. At the beginning of this number, there were some very slight pitch issues – quite possibly due to nerves -indicating to me that your breathing mechanism was slightly compromised
Strengths: Tim - I love the timbre of your voice. You have a neat little vibrato in your voice that distinguishes your sound.
You also seem to have a working knowledge of vocal production; you are focusing your voice reasonably well and attempting to sustain a circular mouth position. This is why your voice has presence – you have a nice balance between head and chest voice in your vocal mix.
I have to confess that I never heard this song before, so I thought the relaxed calypso/reggae arrangement complimented your naturally laidback persona. I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as some of the other songs you’ve performed in past weeks, but I do understand your decision in choosing this number.
All in all this was a fine performance! Good work, Tim
Critique: Tim- now I am going to contradict myself. I felt that your voice sounded very one-dimensional and part of the reason was your song selection. The melodic range was very limited and very pedantic and I think you, as a singer, needed to address this problem. I was hoping that you would add more variety and flexibility to the melody. This is where you as an artist needed to take the rein and turn a very simple song into something truly special.
As I said in the “Strengths” portion of your evaluation, I do not know this song, but, given this fact, this reggae beat was lost on me. It just seemed so repetitive and, given this fact, we needed to hear more creative vocal energy from you, Tim.
Vocally, you lacked energy and initiative, almost realizing that this song was on a train to no where. Like so many of the others, I was hoping that you would leave the microphone stand and walk toward your audience. At the very least, you would have added some visual dimension to this performance. Also, the movement may have inspired you to be more creative in your vocal delivery.
I really believe in your talent, Tim. You have a great voice that needs further refinement from solid technical skills. work hard and do your homework. We want to see you around for a while, buddy!