Tara's Thoughts

A Song Without Believable Acting is just a lot of Notes

Posted on: December 2, 2009

This week my good friend, acting coach Jeanne Hartman, will be traveling to Hong Kong to teach another series of master classes in acting technique. Here in Los Angeles Jeanne has been my acting coach and director on a number of theater, radio and voice-over projects so I can truly say that I am envious of the students who will be attending her classes next month. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Jeanne talk about acting. Her insights and clear descriptions of the tools an actors needs to build believable characters are invaluable.

We tend to accept that investing emotionally in your character is necessary when we think about non-musical performances. But I consider it just as important when your job is to sing a song in a musical theater or live concert performance. In my work as a singer/songwriter in a folk rock band I often have the opportunity to watch other artists perform. The singers that I enjoy the most, the ones I remember and want to see again, are the ones who know how to connect with their audience. Because they invite us into their experience. Their performance makes you feel something. But in order to have an experience to share the performer must know how to create that reality for themselves and then commit to the emotional investment that will draw your audience into your imagined reality.
Which is where grabbing the chance to study with Jeanne Hartman comes in.

I recently watched a young singer/songwriter sing her original tunes. She sang well and her songs were well-written. But she sat at the keyboard and stared at her hands never making eye contact with the audience and never giving us any clues as to what she was thinking or feeling. She made no effort to connect to what she was singing about. Without that connection to the material you are performing there is little chance you’ll be able to connect with your audience.

Using the same set of tools that actors use to create believable characters the singer can make a song real for themselves. Which will make it real for the audience.

In the November 16, 2009 Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times there is a review by Randy Lewis of a concert that has in it this paragraph:

“He coaxed shimmering, pulsating tones from his Lowden guitar and unleashed dazzling tones and fills that never came off like Guitar Hero grandstanding because they were always inspired by, and in the service of, the emotional heart of each song.”

I’ve learned to treat my song lyrics the same way I would a non-musical monologue or dialogue in a scene. The techniques I’ve learned from coaching with Jeanne lead me to discoveries about the song’s content and my reasons for singing it that allow me to find the emotional center of the song.

So, for all you singers out there, go to the events page and sign up for Jeanne’s workshops. OR contact her through her web page and make an appointment for a coaching session:

http://www.JeanneHartmanactorsDetective.com

Because a song performed without the emotional investment made possible through the use of the actor’s homework is just a lot of notes.

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As a member of the Americana-Folk/Rock band, John Zipperer & Friends, Tara performs in around Los Angeles, CA (with an occasional out-of-town appearance). Come see for yourself why John Zipperer's CD "Full Circle" has been on the top 25 of the Roots Music Report Album Chart for over a year!

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