To the uninitiated and people who don’t themselves possess golden, soaring, technical vocal ability, singing examinations must seem effortless as long as you ‘can sing’.
All you need to do is sing from the diaphragm, maintain good posture, feel the tune, and let ‘er rip. There's your certificate.
Three of those are best practices of singing, by the way.
As with any expression of ability, from computer programming to performing theatre on stage, aspiring singers must devote hours upon hours of strenuous work to their craft, to fulfil their aspirations and achieve mastery.
Music performance excellence does not come easy to nearly any voice student.
It might be easy to imagine how a future mathematician would prepare for their exams, or a doctor, but what about a natural talent, studying for a singing exam?
What kind of comprehensive performance preparation needs to be done to get a high level score and make your way to classical musical theatre, or live band performance.
Superprof singing teachers discuss the full spectrum of best practices for singers to prepare themselves for their potentially life-changing chance to ace a singing exam.
Whether you to carry on your music for leisure, or to really work on your voice and technical ability so one day you can join a hit band or perform musical theatre, we will help you ace your voice performance examinations to get the practical, technical skills you need.
Planning For Success
For some, planning an artistic endeavour doesn’t necessarily align with the spirit of art itself.
Where’s the spontaneity? Where’s the passion in the moment? Where’s the freedom to take a left turn when everyone is expecting you to go right?
Despite what the bass player in your band might tell you, winging it is not a clever plan.
Before you choose the songs for your repertoire and start working on the technical aspects of your upcoming voice performance examination, have a think about why you are doing this.
Do you want to enter classical musical theatre? Are you interested in starting a band with the bass and piano players from your school?
You might want to take some time to think about music, why you enjoy using your voice, and what you want your grades in this voice performance examination to lead to.
Help yourself by writing a short, practical piece about what you want to achieve through your music examinations and what you think all the teaching you have gained as a student might lead to.
You have put in a comprehensive amount of work. Further clarifying your purpose will help you hit the high grades you hope for.
If you love using your voice, why not prepare a short speech for you and the face in the mirror, which details your comprehensive application to being a music student.
You might even make a video of your face saying the speech, which you can watch in the future if you need a little bit of inspiration.
Once you clarify what you want to achieve in music, remember, you may have been blessed with vocal chords that bring you all kinds of praise, but raw vocal ability alone will not earn you those top marks you dream of.
You have to nail all components of the voice exam as well to get the grade you want.
That means knowing which aspects of voice performance the examiners will be looking and listening for.
- Compliance with requirements of the task
- Skill in performing accurately and with clarity
- Skill in performing a range of techniques with control and fluency
- Skill in producing a range of expressive tonal qualities
- Skill in expressive communication through articulation and phrasing
- Skill in differentiating the musical lines
- Skill in differentiating the structures and characteristics of each work
- Skill in presenting an informed interpretation of a range of styles
- Skill in performing with musicality through creativity and individuality
- Skill in presenting a musical program within appropriate performance conventions
What do Mandy Harvey and Janine Roebuck have in common? They are both one of very few famous singers who are completely deaf.
Even though they are deaf, they still have the musical ear, something you will be tested for in your singing exam.
Having the musical ear is vital in all aspects of making music, it’s an auditory medium after all.
Whether you are singing in front of examiners, a stadium of people, or for yourself in the shower, developing these key listening skills is an important ingredient for those wanting to further their musicianship.
The aural exam is designed to test how well you can recognise how different musical pieces create atmosphere through different techniques.
It then goes further to probe how well you transpose music and recognise different notes, keys and beat patterns.
The exam will also test your ability to perform sight reading. Make sure you brush up on your musical theory and technical reading and listening skills, to avoid falling short in this exam.
You may practise a practice exam online – they are not hard to find.
Alternatively you can make use of subscription-based apps to help train your ear.
Auralbook and Hofnote are two particularly good tools for aural exam preparation.
Checking out any video online that can assist with teaching you about this topic and give you a comprehensive rundown on how to improve will give you a greater chance of success when you come face to face with your music exam.
You can even do a study session with other voice or music students as a preliminary way of preparing to come face to face with the aural component of your music exam.
At what level can you earn distinction on your singing exam? Find out how to get a high grade and ace your voice examinations.
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Selecting your repertoire
When you do your voice performance examination, you will have a range of songs in many styles that are available to sing from the syllabus.
Although at this level you are expected to adapt to multiple styles, try to pick songs that best suit your technical ability, as well as showing off what your music teachers have been teaching your from the syllabus to prepare you for these voice examinations.
If you want to be a musical theatre performer, and feel that style is what best shows off your technical voice ability, then choose musical theatre style numbers that will create an enjoyable performance for you and likely score you a high grade because that is where your voice performance usually shines.
If you like singing in a rock band, then choose songs that show off your music level when it comes to singing with a backing of percussion.
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Getting Ready for the Exam
A key to voice exam success is knowing what the markers are looking for. Make sure you are familiar with the syllabus and understand the technical theory that will be in the musical examinations.
For your singing exam, you will be expected to recognise aspects of music such as beat patterns and different notes.
You will also need to sing on key in your musical performance component.
These things may seem obvious, but other aspects are not so obvious, such as showing proper deference and restraint, and presenting yourself well in the exam.
These things are small details that won’t be practiced much in the lead up, but there are things you can do so that they just fall in to place on the day.
You want to avoid as much exam day drama as possible to deliver a high level performance and ace your voice examinations.
Stress is a primary cause for earning lower marks for people who would otherwise know the material back to front.
Whatever you can do to minimise stress, is only going to improve your performance in the exams.
Other than practicing and reviewing your material and repertoire, the night before your exam you should:
- work out what you’re going to wear
- plan an alternative route to the exam hall
- aim to arrive 20 minutes early
- collect your materials, including sheet music for the accompanist and your run sheet
- get ready any props you will be using
- get a bottle of water and leave it with your belongings. Nothing will stree you out like a dry mouth before singing exam!
Taking charge of your exam in this manner will enable you to feel confident come exam time, allowing you to perform at your very best.
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Good Practices During Your Exam
A key part of preparing for your exam is to visualise how it will go and what you are going to do.
This is the first step to joining a great chorus, or linking up with a bass player, a percussion player, a guitar player and a piano player at rock school to start up a band.
When it comes to singing exams in Australia, knowing how to sing is just the beginning.
Walking in to a room knowing that your dreams and potential future success may hang in the balance of what is about to happen, can be a little intimidating.
Make sure you walk in with purpose, confidence in your preparation, and giving it your best to work the room.
Keep these things in mind and you will give yourself the best chance at wowing the examiners.
Arrive early at the exam site and give yourself ample time to warm up.
This is important not only to perform at your best, but to protect your vocal chords. You could add some breathing exercises to your pre-game warm up as well.
Don’t forget to smile, or at least seem like you are enjoying yourself. You are after all, there to put on a performance.
Make sure your expression does match the piece you are performing though. No sense smiling in a song about a tragedy.
Don’t get flustered, ruffled or confused if it seems like the examiners don’t want to be there.
They have a lot to keep track of over the day and during each performance, so just give it your best and know that they are paying attention.
Have patience. After each song the examiners and accompanist will need time to organise their notes and change over the sheet music.
One thing to keep in mind is that your exam is more of an audition than a singing performance. There will be starts and stops.
If something is taking time, use the time to breathe, relax, and get ready for the next song.
And, when it’s all over, don’t forget to politely thank your examiners.
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Things to be Wary of
A couple more points for your singing exam.
Avoid straining your voice. The main point of a singing exam is to sing, but in the lead-up to your exam, you may want to limit yourself to 15 minutes of singing per day, just to protect your vocal chords.
Make sure to eat well and get lots of rest. You will be using a lot of energy in preparation for your exam and need to look after yourself to bounce back each day.
Vocal health is a part of general health, it’s all connected. So make sure you treat yourself well.
Taking care of your voice is a skill that will serve you well in the long run, not just in the lead-up to your exam. If you see yourself being a career vocalist then make it a priority to educate yourself on vocal health and practice before your exam.
Whether you do musical theatre, join a band, sing classical or just for leisure, voice care will always be important.
Follow these tips to ensure a great result on your upcoming singing exam. Even if you are skipping a singing grade, your musical education will benefit from these points of advice.
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