How to Prepare for a Singing or Music Competition [21 Tips]
Trying to prepare for a singing competition is always nerve-racking. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take, beforehand, to optimise your performance and prepare for a singing or music competition.
Knowing how to prepare for a music competition is essential if you want to be in with a good chance of winning one. We have the 21 best ways that will tell you how to prepare in the run-up to the competition.
Understanding how singing and music competitions work is vital for your success as an aspiring professional singer, and if you don’t know how to prepare effectively, you’re going to struggle to be in with a chance of winning. Below are 21 easy ways that will teach you how to prepare for music competitions.
How to prepare for music competitions
It isn’t the easiest thing to know the best ways to go about preparing for a competition or audition, but there are some simple tricks to making it a little easier.
Following these tips will assist you in knowing how to prepare for a singing or music competition:
- Make sure you’re auditioning for the right show
- Understand why you’re doing it
- Know yourself and your voice
- Know what’s unique about yourself
- Engage with the lyrics
- Practice singing
- Practice performing
- Plan your outfit in advance
- Take some time out the day before
- Be organised in all things
- Have plenty of rest before the singing competition
- Wake up with plenty of time
- Eat a light meal before the singing contest
- Avoid eating salty foods
- Warm-up your voice
- Stay ‘cool’ and enjoy the event
- Be professional and confident towards anyone you meet
- Drink plenty of water
- Make eye contact with the judges and audience
- Keep good posture and body language
- Be yourself!
What to do before music competitions
#1 Make sure you’re auditioning for the right show
When preparing for any music competition, you need to understand what kind of competition it is. What sort of music genres are the judges looking for?
If you’re auditioning for a show like X-Factor, it’s unlikely that you’ll win if you’re a jazz singer for example (just based on the previous people who have won). If you’re entering Britain’s Got Talent, however, you might have a great chance of winning if you’re an opera singer for example.
Of course, if you offer the competition something brand new and unique that the judges and audience love, you might be in with a good chance of doing well.
Always do your research on any show you intend to enter – it’ll prevent you from experiencing disappointment or confusion further down the line.
#2 Understand why you’re doing it
It’s always good to have a think about why you’re entering a competition before you enter it.
There could be a number of reasons for entering, you might be doing it for the experience or to get feedback on your act from industry professionals.
Do you actually want to win the competition or are you just doing it for exposure?
All of these are questions that you’ll need to ask yourself – there’s no right or wrong answer, just think to yourself which ones you want to focus on – it’ll help you stay focused when you’re preparing and, of course, when you’re making your way through the competition.
#3 Know yourself and your voice
When preparing for a singing competition, choose songs that you know well, that suit you and avoid songs that are out of your vocal range.
To stand out from the crowd in the singing competition and impress the judges (or the crowd), you need to be original, so be yourself (enhancing the attributes that you feel make you unique) and avoid mimicking other acts.
If you are singing a cover in the competition, be creative and make it your own.
#4 Know what’s unique about yourself
Having your own unique sound and ‘image’ is often overlooked by small artists in the industry. It might not be something you want to focus on when you’re starting out, but it’s something the judges will notice if they’re thinking about allowing you to progress further in a competition.
As an artist entering a competition you don’t necessarily need to have the “whole package”, right down to your style choices, but it’s good to have a sense of who you are or who you want to be as an artist.
Of course, the most important thing is to not sound too generic. Embrace your own voice and don’t try to mimic other singers.
Find your identity
Your image should complement your music and make you stand out in a positive way too.
Even singers and artists that don’t appear to have a visual ‘image’ in the traditional sense still have an identity, so try to find something special about you that people can appreciate but can also relate to.
More on act image and synchronisation here.
#5 Engage with the lyrics
Pick a song that you can relate to and learn the meaning of the songs you are singing in order to add some emotional depth to your performance.
Singing with true feeling and emotion is what makes you look authentic in both your singing and your movement on stage. It is authenticity which helps you to connect with your audience and is likely to impress the singing competition judges.
If you’re looking to write your own lyrics, here are some invaluable tips.
How do you prepare for singing?
#6 Practice singing regularly
Practising how to sing well is essential for developing yourself into an amazing singer.
There’s no perfect way to practice singing, but here are some things to consider when you want to practice:
Where should I practice?
You can practice anywhere that works for you. Your practice space can be anywhere in your home where you can be alone and concentrate. Ideally, leave the space set up so that everything is ready each day for practising. This practice space doesn’t have to be huge, just big enough for you to feel like you have enough physical and mental space.
When should I practice?
It’s good to schedule a specific time and duration for practising each day. If you get into the habit of practising at the same time every day, you won’t need as much willpower to go and do it each time because it’ll become part of your routine. Decide if you prefer practising in the morning, afternoon, or evening and try to stick to that time. If your house gets busy at a certain time of day, avoid that time because you won’t be able to focus.
How long should I practice for?
The length of the practice session depends on your level of experience. Someone who is new to singing can benefit from practising 15 to 20 minutes a day. Gradually increase this time to around 30 to 60 minutes per day once your voice can handle it – don’t increase this time scope too much too quickly. Remember, quality practice is always better than quantity. Focusing for 20 minutes of productive practice is better than unfocused practice for 60 minutes.
What else do I need to practice?
If you’ll be singing along to a recording or a karaoke-style music track in the competition, make sure you have a device to play the backing on.A keyboard, guitar or any other instrument that you’ll be playing as you sing will be important if you want to get used to playing that instrument at the same time. A tuning fork or pitch pipe might also be good if you’re looking to make sure you’re singing in tune.
How to practice for music competitions
#7 Practice performing live
Know the songs you are singing inside out and practice your performance prior to the event to reduce nerves and stage fright.
Getting out there and performing is the best way to practice; there will be open mic nights near you that welcome new acts.
Once you start playing in front of audiences that have heard you multiple times, ask them what they liked and what they didn’t like- it’ll help you hone in on what you can improve on.
What to wear to a singing competition
#8 Plan your outfit well in advance of the singing competition
Decide, in advance, what you are going to wear and how you are going to look: make sure you look the part as this adds to your authenticity. The way you look and dress should fit perfectly with the song you are singing in the contest.
Before you choose your competition outfit, study other artists similar to you and how they dress.
Good outfits for singing contests are often ones that reflect you as an individual, your music or both. Something that’s suave or appealing is a great starting point, but nothing too over the top (unless that’s the image you’re trying to portray.)
Alternatively, the best singing contest outfit might just be the one that you feel most comfortable in.
Start off wearing something that you’d perform in at an open mic and see how you feel from there.
We have more tips on what you can wear to open mic nights here.
What should you do the night before a singing competition?
The day before an audition or live competition performance:
#9 Take some time out
The day before the singing competition, keep your training and practice to a minimum; if you must have a couple of final rehearsals, focus solely on technique.
Do you have what it takes to win?
Aim to be so well prepared, beforehand, that you can spend the day doing something relaxing and enjoyable.
#10 Be organised in all things
Get everything ready so you feel confident and, dare I say, enjoy the day itself!
Have your travel route planned, food and drinks prepared, your outfit laid out and any paperwork — lyrics, sheet music, documentation — packed.
#11 Get some rest the day before the singing competition
Get plenty of rest and a good night’s sleep: singing is a workout after all.
Your mind will also be in the right place after plenty of sleep – get an early night the evening before and aim for 8 hours.
How to prepare on the morning of the singing competition
#12 Wake with plenty of time
In preparation of the singing competition, on the morning before, get up at a decent time to avoid any unnecessary rushing and allow plenty of time to arrive, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area or venue.
It’s worth checking if there is space or opportunity for a warm–up on arrival. If not, ensure your main warm–up is done ahead of time.
#13 Eat a light meal before the singing contest
Make sure you eat a light meal before performing but leave a gap of at least an hour beforehand to avoid any digestion issues that could affect your singing.
If you eat too much or too little it can make you feel uneasy and even more nervous during your performance. Try to aim for the amount that you’d normally eat throughout the day.
#14 Avoid eating salty foods
Salty foods are known for drying out your mouth which is the last thing that you’d want in the middle of a performance in a music competition.
Avoid eating salty foods (like crisps) unless you eat them more than a few hours before the performance.
How to prepare upon arrival at the singing competition venue
#15 Stay ‘cool’ and enjoy the event!
Be cool, calm and professional. Do your best to stay relaxed and focused on your objective.
Visualising yourself doing amazingly before you go on stage can also help you sound and appear more confident, which is a common trait that judges look for when deciding if they like you or not.
Aim to be so well prepared, beforehand, that you can spend the day doing something relaxing and enjoyable.
#16 Be professional
Always aim to be professional and confident towards anyone you meet at the competition. It will make you more relaxed and you’ll subconsciously believe in yourself a little more.
You might also meet some industry people there – if you come across confidently to them, they’ll be more likely to remember you, which can only be a good thing!
How to prepare your voice for singing
#17 Warm up your voice
Practice vocal exercises around half an hour before singing to avoid rushing and get the best out of your voice during the singing performance.
Also, run through a few sections of the song you’re performing – you’ll have the song fresh in your mind and ready to go.
What do singers drink before they sing?
#18 Drink plenty of water
Aim to drink warm or room temperature water as it will hydrate your vocal cords, making them suppler and less liable to injury.
Cold water is okay, but it can cause your throat muscles to tense up. When the muscles get cold, they contract, making it slightly trickier to sing perfectly.
How to perform in a singing audition
#19 Make eye contact with the judges and audience
Remember, first impressions are key. When you’re singing on stage or in an audition room, sing it like you’re singing to the judges personally (or of course the audience), it’ll make them feel more connected to you.
The judges will appreciate this as it shows that you’re also more connected to the song and can deliver it well.
#20 Keep good posture and body language
Having good posture will help the airflow when you’re singing. Your body movements can also help you convey your ‘act’ during the performance.
Natural arm movements are good to show that you have a connection to the music and can deliver it with conviction. Make sure they aren’t forced though, which leads us on to our 21st and final point…
#21 Be yourself!
The judges and audience will know if you aren’t being yourself – even the best personality acting can only get you so far through a music competition.
If you want to get feedback for you performing how you would normally, or if you want to win the competition, simply be yourself!
Bonus: What music competitions are there?
We’ve made a list of the top 4 music competitions you can enter. Here they are:
Britain’s Got Talent
Not only a singing competition, Britain’s Got Talent has always been known for the wide variety of acts that it has on the show.
One of the most famous auditions in history came from Susan Boyle in 2009 where she sang the Classical song “I Dreamed a Dream” and wowed the judges with her voice.
The X Factor
This is the competition that’s looking for a special artist that truly has The X Factor.
What is The X Factor? Well, it’s usually something unique that manifests itself in an artist – something on top of just having the talent and a good voice.
The competition has helped catapult artists like Louisa Johnson, James Arthur, and Little Mix into worldwide stardom.
The brilliant thing about The Voice has always been the blind auditions in the first round.
The judges can’t see the person their listening to so it makes them really hone in and focus on how the singer can convey the song through only their voice.
If you truly want to be judged on your voice, this is the competition for you.
Open Mic UK
Our very own Open Mic UK is, of course, a great competition to enter!
You can perform your music in front of industry professionals and gain invaluable feedback.
Artists such as Birdy, Courtney Hadwin and Lucy Spraggan have been involved with our competition, but do you have what it takes to win?
Have you ever performed in a singing competition? What advice would you give to others preparing for a singing competition? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.