I asked 100 women – all Queens of Harmony and/or current int’l top-ten quartet members – to participate in a survey designed to offer advice to quartets still climbing the regional rankings ladder. The questions address song choice, time management, and coaching strategies as well as interpersonal relationships among quartet members and advice on how to deal with disappointment.
Here are some of their responses.
Today’s Question is:
Q. What strategy advice do you have for quartets who are top 5 at regional, but have yet to reach international?
A. It is more work than you might ever have imagined! In addition to having common quartet goals and working on those together regularly every week, each singer should spend private time every day working on vocalese, making recordings, listening critically, and letting go.
A. Work on details and fundamentals so that they become habitual. Then let go of the technique, get out of the box and find a way to touch the audience.
A. Work hard and don’t forget the basics. Set up your sound first with a good foundation of vocal skills and make sure you know how to ring chords! it is after all a singing contest! And have fun! If it’s not fun, don’t do it 🙂
A. Make sure everyone is on the same page for goals and the commitment it would take to get there (money, time, personal vocal coaches). Also, make sure you always have clear lines of communication between all four of you. No talking to one about the other, etc….to have a unit sound and approach on stage, you must lift each other up when you perform. It’s a TEAM sport!!
A. READ YOUR SCORE SHEETS!! The information that will get you to the next level is all there. Work on ALL of the details and GET COACHED. Invite coaches in. Piggyback on your chorus coaches or other chorus coaches when they’re in town. Ask if there’s available. If you want to win, learn everything you can about your voice and how to sing better.
A. HOME WORK, find your group personality, great coaches, ALL contribute to improve and progress, ie, marketing, finance, music selection, plan coaches, TEAM!!!!!!
A. Work on VOCAL PRODUCTION! If you have common vocal production, so many things will fall into place. And then trust that the other 3 will do their homework, know their stuff and when you get together, just work UNIT. Sing/perform/videotape and then watch together. Then do it again…and finally, LET IT GO!
A. My advice for top 5 regional quartets that want to make it to the international stage would be to find their coach and stick with that coach. I believe that regional quartets are definitely victims of coaching with anyone and everyone that gets brought in by their choruses. I mean, who wouldn’t want to jump at the chance at coaching with those big names?! BUT, getting so many different opinions and so many different strategies can be harmful instead of helpful. It’s a great idea until you find your coach, but once you find that perfect fit, stick with it! If your dream coach happens to be someone that isn’t local and would be too much of an expense for the quartet, find other quartets and choruses to share the expenses and bring him or her in for a weekend. If the goal is international, you have to be willing and able to spend some money on great coaching.
A. Work with coaches who challenge you.
A. Challenge yourself individually and collectively. If your goal is to win regional, get all the coaching you can handle, form and *UTILIZE* both a long-range and a short-range plan to help keep you on track to reach your goals, and buy With Winning In Mind. Incorporate this strategy into your quartet, to help you attain even greater heights, together!
A. Be pickier with yourselves about EVERYTHING. Finer tuning, Finer synchronization. Get expert coaching and do what they say. Sing everything on purpose ALL THE TIME. Have fun! Sing your heart out.
A. I’m not sure I could offer much “strategy” advice – we can’t control what other competitors do. But, if you keep working and go out on stage and do your very best, then you’ve accomplished something and that mindset should allow you to sing with more freedom and openness without worrying so much about the other top quartets in your region. That just might give you the edge you need to sneak past them and win!
A. Concentrate on free singing with no pressure on the vocal mechanism. Create resonance on the breathing space. All four parts must sing in the same resonating space to create ring and artistry.
A. Stay together, learn the max you can with the group you’re with before moving on (as long as you have similar goals) Learn to be the best YOU can be so you can offer the most to any given group that comes along.
A. Decide who you are as a quartet and to make sure that each member in the quartet has the same goals and work ethic for improving.
A. Don’t over coach. Get coaching help by reading score sheets to see where you need to improve. Perform as much as you can, get feedback from someone you trust. Do the grunge work – duetting, breaking down the songs, getting in front of a mirror to look for visual unity. Commit.
A. Be honest with one another, communicate and align your goals and expectations of one another, establish a coaching relationship with someone who can help you achieve those goals, choose easier music and “ring the hell out of it”, encourage your quartet mates and allow them to encourage you, when someone says “good job”, say “thank you”.
A. Keep working. Don’t get distracted by the small details and focus on the performance level guidelines and what will separate you from the pack. Our first year at international, we put all of our attention into our two contest songs, and worked out the details of the finals package and finals contest songs once we made it. Apply your “contest skills” to all of your repertoire so they become habitual and consistent. Don’t sing songs that don’t work – even if you love a song, if you’re having to work really hard at it, pick a new one. If you have the skills, it should start pretty easy!
A. Work on the basics always, vocal production is in all four categories, you need to have a handle on it. I tell groups I coach that you need to really play with your voice and get to know it. After that, get a coach who will be encouraging but honest, no sense working on things that aren’t going to make a big difference. Remember it’s a learning process, things take time and that ego can be a real success killer. If you’re loving who you’re with, if it brings you excitement and wonderful experiences, then rock on!
A. 1. Stay together! It took us six tries to get the Regional win! 2. Work on your relationship with each other until you have an excellent basis of trust and common goals. 3. Get coaching, listen to the recordings of the coaching, and hold each other accountable for what you’ve been taught. 4. Tell the story of the songs! Yes, you have to sing with good sound, sync, dynamics, etc., but a lot of that comes together for free if you become emotionally invested. 5.If you really don’t know why your quartet isn’t scoring where you want to score, find someone who will tell you the straight answer – do you need to work on sound? Is your blend not working? etc. Find an honest advisor, preferably a judge, who can tell you what is missing.
A. You always have to think about it as a hobby. You need to find your own image instead of looking at other quartets. When you have found your image you have to use that in every choice you make. For example, songs, clothes, mc-spots, hairdo. “It’s more amusing to have fun” must be a golden rule if you want to reach international.
A. Take personal responsibility for your singing/performing. Live, eat, breathe your music.
A. Sing sing sing and sing some more. The more you do it the better you’ll get.
A. Keep working! Don’t give up! Ask yourselves, “What is going to make our quartet different from the rest? What will set us apart? Why will people remember us?” My quartet had to win regional 4 times before we finally made the top-15 at International. I remember having that hard discussion…that “come to Jesus” meeting. We were going to give it one more year…we won Regional for the 4th time, went to International and placed in the top-15! It made it all worthwhile.
A. Find a coach who you work well with and stick with them. Coach internally within your own quartet so you aren’t just running through the songs, but you are actually working to make them better during each rehearsal. Work on your own to ingrain the information from rehearsal to rehearsal so you don’t take steps back and have to review all of the changes and improvements.