AMERICAN IDOL 4 TOP 6 VOCAL MASTERCLASS
BY: ROSANNE SIMUNOVIC APRIL 28TH, 2005
Hello, once again, all you Idol fans! Before I continue, I would like to thank you for your e-mails and links to the Master Class articles. It is deeply appreciated and I hope that these suggestions and tips are allowing you to appreciate the hard work and energy that is utilized by singing artists in their effort to achieve stellar performances.
This week, the Top 6 American Idol finalists celebrated the new millennium by selecting songs that were Billboard hits during the years 2000-2005. It was, generally, another splendid showcase for these talented young artists and, one, in particular, really knocked the vocal ball out of the ball- park and went to the head of the class! Who could that be? Read on and come to your own conclusions!
To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below and, voila, with the touch of a click, you will be forwarded to your favorite singer’s link! Enjoy and please let me know what you think!
Bo Bice “I Don’t Want to Be” originally performed by Gavin DeGraw
Strengths: Well, it looks like you hit another home run this week, Mr. Bo! For the second week in a row, you were an animated and charismatic presence on the Idol stage. It is always exhilarating to watch a performer completely in his element and, clearly, this statement applied to you this week Bo!
You performed this rock number with genuine passion and ease and absolutely involved your audience in this stimulating showcase. Your performance was genuine and artistically convincing. The rock energy fervently flowed from your artistic soul. This was a very demanding number, yet you paced this song extremely well, always balancing the vocals and stage technique so that both components complimented rather than competed with each other.
This was an authentic performance this week, Bo and, although you performed this rock genre of music effortlessly, you obviously honed and crafted excellent stage skills to compliment your energized vocal performance. As I mentioned last week your movements on stage were fluid, and had an artistic sense of purpose, as stage technique is crucial to the successful performance of any number, especially a number with high energy and muscle.
And speaking of high energy and muscle, your voice sounded invigorated and beautifully resonant. Your vocal sound had a nicely tuned rock edge that was technically secure and focused. I loved the communicative elements in this song and you managed them in expert fashion.
The key selection was perfect; it highlighted your splendid baritone range. You actually have a classical element to your voice that may not be apparent to the average listener – but it is there and you would be wise to explore and develop your range to its full potential. I suspect there are components in your voice that have not yet been tapped, but, for now, you are choosing songs that speak to who you are as an artist and as a singer at this stage of your life.
Congratulations on an absolutely spectacular performance, Bo! Just outstanding!
Critique: How can I critique this performance? It was just excellent and what made it even more spectacular was the fact that, after a few less than stellar weeks, you managed to find the strength and the courage to “jump back on the horse” and really bring home two solid performances last week and this week.
Your perseverance and personal belief in your enormous talent are to be applauded and congratulated! That’s the key, you know? Belief in yourself! It has to start there and then, like a ripple effect, it will spill over to your audience. This is not arrogance – this is part of what makes a performer succeed and maintain a consistently high standard in each performance
However, be very careful, Bo, that you sustain and resonate your voice consistently through the proper diaphragmatic breath support. At times, I felt that you were on the verge of losing control of your air- flow during this powerful performance. You have to make certain that the air is utilized for proper production of your vocal sound.
I think what saved you this week was the appropriate tonality of this song. The key rested in the perfect range for your natural singing voice; however, you shouldn’t rely on this to be an absolute in future song selections or you will run in to problems as you did during your ”Freebird” showcase a couple of weeks ago.
Also, I would like to leave you with this thought, Bo. I think you would be more interesting as a performer if you performed a ballad or two once in awhile. For instance, in your Top 11 showcase, it was super to hear you sing the heartwarming Jim Croce number, “Time In A Bottle” and I think you gained many new fans as a result of that performance. You love the high-energy rock numbers and you perform them well.
However, an artist must be more diverse to succeed in this business and it would be to your benefit if you showcased your ability to sing slow, sustained melodies. Not only would this allow you to broaden and expand the dynamic range in your voice, but also, it would heighten your depth and intensity as an artist. Additionally, you would adopt many new fans along this journey of discovery – and every artist wants that, huh?
However, this was a great showcase and kudos once again for bringing the rock and roll energy to the Idol stage. Bravo!
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Anthony Fedorov “I Surrender” originally performed by Celine Dion
Strengths: Anthony- this was your definitive performance to date! Additionally, this was the best vocal performance of the evening. I was mesmerized by your innate vocal ability and the strength and consistency of your vocal training. You are only 19 years old? This is absolutely remarkable, as your voice is still developing and changing with each passing year. Therefore, to be able to sing with this superior level of confidence and technical ability at your young age was simply breathtaking to hear.
This week, your voice was beautifully focused and seamless throughout your range and your timbre was resonating quite freely in your vocal masque. Your phrasing was musical and fluid and those sustained vowels within the melodic line of this song were impeccably sustained in your vocal masque.
You managed the transition notes with technical ease and security and your diaphragmatic breathing process most certainly was a viable component throughout this performance.
Generally, your mouth maintained that ever-important circular formation that is so imperative for proper vocal production. The roundness of your mouth and the openness of the throat allowed the voice to present itself with a rich, pitch-centered timbre that remained a constant throughout your performance.
During the interview portion with Ryan Seacrest, you mentioned that you visited the gym twice daily and this statement reinforced the reason why you are able to sustain such energized performances each week. A singer’s body must be strong and toned, as much of the singer’s technical support is energized through the highly developed strength and muscle within the singer’s body.
Exercise expands the lung capacity, strengthens the abdominal muscles and provides great stamina – all components that are mandatory for a successful vocal and stage performance. Additionally, exercise relieves daily stress and relaxes and conditions the mental process – again, another important benefit for singers and musicians alike. You looked healthy and relaxed on stage Anthony and, no doubt, your daily exercise regimen has contributed to this factor. Good for you!
Stylistically, your persona on stage was sincere and genuine and your mannerisms appeared natural and effortless. You are an extremely well rehearsed performer, Anthony, and I have always reminded performers that attention to detail during the rehearsal process is integral to the success of a stellar performance. Excellence is in the details! And excellence is what you gave us this week and I congratulate you immensely for a phenomenal performance! Bravo!
Critique: Anthony – as I mentioned last week, you must be very careful to avoid unnecessary strain to your upper register voice. A few times during this number, you allowed your mouth to lose its circular formation, especially when you were navigating your upper register.
Try to remember to keep that mouth round throughout your song, allowing the diaphragmatic breath support to produce and sustain your vocal sound in your vocal masque. Do not spread your mouth and, additionally, keep all those facial features relaxed and open. You want to make certain that the technical process is a constant when you perform.
Additionally, be very careful that your lower and/or dynamically softer vocal sound is adequately supported through the diaphragm. I loved the opening lines of your song; it contrasted beautifully with the more passionate and dynamically louder refrain of this number. You are one of the few singers adding a nuanced and expressive effect to your voice and this is wonderful.
However, do not allow the air to escape haphazardly when you sing softer and/or into your lower range. You were a little breathy, almost hesitant at the beginning of this number. Nerves, perhaps? Just access those breathing muscles and the problem will be solved and your lower and/or softer voice will be as resonantly beautiful as your upper. Kudos, Anthony!
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Constantine Maroulis “How You Remind Me” originally performed by Nickleback
Strengths: Constantine – as I stated in all sincerity last week, you are comfortable in every genre of music and have the stage skills to create successful performances each week. Paula Abdul echoed this statement this week and I feel that it still a factual comment. You have a theatrical and designed approach to every song and I respect the effort and detail that you expend in each and every performance.
This week, your song selection was all about the style (stage technique) and had very little to do with substance (the vocals). The vocal line rested primarily in one area of your voice – the mid-range – and therefore, melodically, there was little to challenge you during the course of this performance. However, stylistically, you had a great time with this number and added some very neat kick moves into the camera that accentuated your flexible stage skills once again.
The camera loves you, Constantine, and I find that you are maneuvering your facial and body mannerisms in a less exaggerated manner than in weeks previous. Yes – you exhibited tons of energy and vitality during this performance, but you are becoming increasingly more comfortable with the television camera and allowing the camera to amplify your stage technique.
As a result, this knowledge eliminated the sense of urgency to expend too much energy on stage, as the camera magnified the most subtle stage moves. You are a brilliant and prodigious performer, Constantine, and are a gift to the American Idol stage! Congratulations once again on another inventive and entertaining performance!
Critique: Constantine –I have to say that this song selection was a step backward for you. It was actually upsetting to hear and see you perform this number, as I feel that this heavy rock genre just doesn’t speak to who you are as an artist. It’s one thing to want to sing a specific song or genre and it’s another to comprehend whether the desire is based in reality. As I said above, you have an interpretive gift in your stylistic approach to every song; however, every performer must realize what works and what doesn’t and, vocally, this did not compliment you as a singing artist.
Remember your Top 11 performance? I mentioned that you have a unique vibrato in your voice, which is a great vocal component as long as you support and control it through the correct technical process.
Well, what essentially happened this week was my biggest fear; you allowed the stage performance to overwhelm your vocals and darn – that vibrato went out of control and affected the pitch centered security of your voice. Additionally, you are far too gifted a singer to perform a song with such a limited vocal range. I felt the limitations in the melodic line actually encouraged you to sing in a technically more disheveled manner.
I prefer the classical pop/rock (Bohemian Rhapsody) or jazz genres (My Funny Valentine) for your voice, Constantine, These genres challenged you as a vocalist and as an artist and seemed more authentic during your performances. Why try to be something you’re not? No one on this stage can sing these genres as well as you, with the exception of eliminated contestant, Nadia Turner. Your voice naturally embraced these two styles of music and you have adopted thousands of new fans because of your enormous ability to sustain and innovatively interpret these genres.
However, even your least successful performance still screams great entertainment. You are flamboyant and fun loving on stage and your enthusiasm and passion for the music is a celebratory element during your performances. Bravo!
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Scott Savol “Dance with My Father” originally performed by Luther Vandross
Strengths: Scott –once again this week, I thought your song choice this week was absolutely perfect for your voice. Your voice rested pretty comfortably in the tenor melodic line of this song and, therefore, your voice resonated naturally throughout this song selection.
I was watching your facial muscles this week, Scott, and noticed that your eyes were noticeably more open and expressive and, additionally, your head was not as elevated as in previous weeks. Kudos to you for successfully negotiating these subtle but very important technical elements.
The facial features must be relaxed to allow the vocal sound to resonate freely in the cavities located inside your head – behind the eyes, within your nose etc. If your face is contorted and constricted, you lose your capacity to resonate your voice to its full potential and, additionally, your stage persona is negatively affected.
Also, the elevation of the head as you move toward the upper range negates the benefits of proper technique. Singers learn not to reach for their higher notes, but to sing over them. And, again, if your head is raised, then a singer loses eye contact with the audience and, once again, stage technique is negatively compromised.
So, Scott, you really have worked very hard to minimize these technical problems and I congratulate you for your dedication toward your craft as a vocalist. The process is what is important. You are only better – or worse – than your last performance, so never compare yourself to anyone else during the course of your career. You compete with yourself – always remember that!
Critique: What happened this week, Scott? You looked great on stage, the fashion guru finally worked his or her magic, and the song selection was key and style appropriate! However, as a performance, this was probably the most tentative, ill at ease performance you have ever showcased. You looked distracted throughout this song and the tension in your stage performance was palpable. Your voice sounded tired and less resonant than last week; it just didn’t present itself in a clear, pitch-centered fashion.
Generally, your facial muscles seemed more relaxed; however, I felt that the diaphragmatic breath support was not accessed in the proper fashion and, therefore, your vocal timbre lacked the intensity, passion and forward momentum that was noticeably evident in blast week’s performance.
As a result, your voice exhibited a breathy, unfocused quality throughout this number. I was waiting for your dynamically potent vocal sound to “kick in”, but it just never happened. Your overall vocal sound lacked energy and drive and your phrasing, which is usually musical and sensitive, was stagnant this week.
Therefore, Scott, you must make certain that you are always rehearsing your songs by applying the correct technical process. Those vowel sounds must be cohesive throughout your range and your diaphragmatic muscles need to be energized and conditioned to provide the correct support for the bel canto technical approach to the art of singing.
Nothing less will suffice, especially if you wish to maintain consistently excellent performances each week. Technique is essential. Never rely on your natural singing ability to carry you through your performances. Technique is there to ensure that your natural ability is never compromised. Good luck, Scott!
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Vonzell Solomon ” I Turn to You ” originally performed by Christina Aguilera
Strengths: Vonzell, last week I mentioned that I would like to hear you sing a ballad, as your voice resonated so beautifully when you sang “Anyone Who Had A Heart” during the Top 12 performance. So, this writer thanks you from the bottom of her heart for treating all the listeners and “yours truly” to this splendid rendition of Christina’s song.
And, to reiterate the judges’ comments, this is a very difficult song and you possess the God-given vocal capabilities for the successful performance of this number. In general, your voice sounded glorious throughout this number and, even though you ran into some technical difficulties during the performance, you have a natural vocal ability that managed to circumvent and diminish the technical shortcomings. You managed some wonderfully fluid melismas throughout this song and your voice generally sounded brilliantly focused and resonant throughout your range
I might add that I was impressed in knowing that you rest your voice on the day of your performance. It speaks to your disciplined and studied approach as a vocal artist, Vonzell, as you are protecting and preserving your enormous vocal gifts. This habit should be noted and practiced by all the singers. Vocal cords, if damaged, cannot be replaced and, oftentimes the damage is irreparable. So, good for you for adhering to the rigorous protocol that must be followed to achieve successful singing performances.
You exuded a wonderful charisma on stage this week and allowed your genuine and sensitive persona to permeate your performance. You moved with confidence and toned down the excessive movements that negatively impacted some of your upbeat performances a couple of weeks ago. Good for you! Congratulations on a sensitive and passionate performance this week, Vonzell!
Critique: Vonzell – once again, you experienced a few technical problems this week with your vocal placement, particularly with the correct addition of the “head tone” element. As I mentioned last week, your potent song selection encouraged you to sing with a powerful vocal sound; yet, in doing so, you added too much of your chest voice as you navigated your upper register. This was not a persistent problem, but when this technical deficiency presented itself, your voice lacked a pitch centered clarity and ring. Additionally, your vocal sound exhibited a constrained quality that affected the naturally beautiful resonance of your vocal timbre.
Also, I felt that your phrasing generally lacked the fluidity and ease of the previous week. At times, the melodic line seemed fragmented and incoherent and then, presto, you were back on track again. You must make certain that you are rehearsing your songs judiciously, Vonzell, and are planning your breathing spots very carefully. If not, your song will slowly unravel. When you sing a ballad, all the technical elements must be in place, as they become more conspicuous if they are absent.
For instance, although you sang a beautiful melisma midway through your number, your natural abilities allowed this element to happen – which is fine to the average listener. However, these melismas need to be rehearsed like classical scales or runs, making certain that each note within the melisma is supported and projected from the diaphragm.
Additionally, you need to procure a lighter approach to the melisma element, so that the tuning is more correct. The lighter head tone element is essential here – it will add a bell like ring not only to the melisma, but also throughout your entire performance.
Also, you seemed ill at ease during this performance and I wonder if you had the appropriate time to prepare this song properly? Perhaps, you would be wise to choose a song with a slightly lower risk factor that would allow you to add enough challenging artistic elements that would make it exciting, unique and innovative. Good luck, Vonzell!
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Carrie Underwood: “That’s Why God-Fearin’ Women Sing The Blues” originally performed by Martina McBride
Strengths: Carrie –this week, I think I can safely say that all the American Idol journalists were ecstatic to witness your long awaited return to your country roots. Because you were singing in the genre that defines your artistic vision, you exhibited more personality on stage and communicated more effectively to your audience.
You finally looked as if you were having the time of your life and, as a result, this week’s showcase was entertaining and enjoyable. You moved with a natural ease and grace that have been conspicuously absent in the previous weeks. It was a more authentic and real performance, Carrie, and it is good that you realized that it pays to stay true to who you are as an artist.
You exhibited a naturally bright and resonant vocal quality, most noticeably when you allowed the head tone element to blend with your chest voice. Then your vocal sound really enjoyed a wonderful sense of clarity and transparency. Good work, Carrie!
Critique: Carrie – it was wonderful to see and hear you perform with a sense of joy and exhilaration. However, that being said, your familiarity with the genre and song selection seemed to encourage you to “let down your guard” in terms of applying the correct technical support during the performance of this number. Your confident and energized sound was great, but it was maintained through inadequate technical ability.
As a result, your overall vocal sound throughout this number sounded very constrained and tense. At times, the “head tone” element tried in desperation to permeate your upper register but, for the most part, you belted the song with too much chest voice, not allowing the diaphragmatic rib cage muscles to support and focus your sound in your vocal masque.
As a result, your pitch was noticeably under throughout this song because you were not centering and placing your vocal sound on the sustained pure vowel. You were allowing the messy diphthongs within your lyrics to obstruct the pure vowel placement. This problem manifested itself at the outset of this song and, unfortunately, never corrected itself. Therefore, the spread unfocused quality to your voice became increasingly evident as the song gained momentum.
You have to remember to consistently apply your technical skills in every style of music. You can still perform the country genre with a sense of enthusiasm and abandon; however, the technique must always be central to each and every performance. If not, you will limit the development of your singing range. Although you have had some technical training, it still must be an ongoing process or you will continue to experience performance hazards.
Also, as I stated last week, you must be very careful not to over extend your vocal capabilities. At times, your vocal sound experienced a shrill component in its production. Whoa lady! You have to allow the sound to present itself in a free, diaphragmatically supported manner. I still feel that you have a wonderful head tone register that needs to be explored. I would almost bet that, with proper supervision, you could develop your voice to sing with freedom and ease in the upper soprano register.
You emulate Martina McBride and there is no country singer today that sings with better technique. She is a wonderful role model, Carrie. I feel that you have the capabilities in your voice to develop a sound comparable to Martina. Keep working and good luck!
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Rosanne Simunovic is the Voice Instructor and Conductor for the Timmins Youth Singers. If you have any further questions our comments, please at e-mail her. If you want to hear how she applies her technical methods to a variety of musical styles music, have a listen to one of her double disc CDs, Scenes from a Dream, a live compilation featuring outstanding performances between 1984-2000 with the Timmins Youth Singers and renowned classical, Broadway, and pop artists. Enjoy!