by Janet Goodman
Knowledge is power, and if you want to be a pro at anything, there’s no getting around having to learn the craft, picking up tools along the way that will get you there. For those looking to be a singer for a living, one must-have tool that will save time in achieving that goal is a unique book that directs you through the maze of dos and don’ts of the trade: “Working With Your Voice: The Career Guide to Becoming a Professional Singer” by Jaime Babbitt (Alfred Music Publishing).
In a delightful, conversational way, Babbitt – background vocalist, jingle singer, vocal and performance coach with a motivational speaker’s Zen mindset – shares her 27 years of experience, laying out the protocols and etiquette of auditioning, gigging, studio work, rehearsals and touring, generously revealing tried and true tips to help give singers an edge over the competition. “I’m going to fill you in on all the stuff I had to learn the hard way,” she writes, and honors this promise big time, with emphasis on sharpening professional skills rather than vocal technique. Post-it-note-reminders kind of advice is flat-out simple, like don’t forget to pack the nail clippers in your gig bag if you accompany yourself on guitar or piano, or always thank the sound engineer; he’s your best friend in the studio and on the road. Each little pearl of wisdom adds up to a raised level of professionalism that’s invaluable.
This 264-page book is smartly organized and user-friendly. Scroll down the table of contents for sub-chapter points of interest; the handy-dandy “music-speak” glossary will help music-biz newbies sound more knowledgeable (power, remember?) – heck, the author even puts each word in a sentence for clarity. Dozens of her entertaining personal yarns are numbered and italicized, used to illustrate issues she wants to stress, often missteps she has taken and not afraid to admit. Page margins contain high-lighted quotes from her text, and she wraps it up with interviews with successful people in the industry.
Babbitt drives certain topics hard, but turns them into humorous teaching moments. “Alcohol is served,” she writes. “And you don’t get to drink any. So sorry, but you’re a professional singer and we don’t drink on the job.” She makes her case for staying hydrated in sections like, “Being Dry: Great For Armpits, Bad For Voice,” and tells us again and again of the importance of networking, in sections like, “Getting Your Schmooze On.” It’s her friendly literary voice that makes what could have been a dry how-to book very enjoyable, and what were once painful mistakes made during her career are now insights into a lifestyle that she makes us believe is achievable. This book ought to be required reading for voice majors, aspiring auditioners, and any singer wanting to up their game in the big leagues.
Visit the website www.workingwithyourvoice.com
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