How many ladies have ever dreamed of being Disney princesses, or leading ladies in an animated musical? How about guys? Ever wanted to be a Disney prince or singing sidekick? Well, first, please understand that taking this workshop won’t guarantee you anything, but it will help educate you into what’s involved when singing as a character, any character, really! You don’t even have to sound like a famous pop star or opera singer or a Tony award-winning performer. However, you do need to be able to carry a tune which for some people is easier said than done. Reading music is a HUGE plus as well or having some familiarity with it. But in a couple of cases having a good ear is enough.
Ned Lott has worked with the best in the business on films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and even more award-winning movies, shows and games. So by taking his workshop, you’re in the greatest care. I’ve also worked with Ned one-on-one in person and via Skype, and I’ll be learning from him more and more.
The only homework before the class is finding a song of your choice from an animated film, TV show or musical, and being prepared to sing it from beginning to end with karaoke music.
All of us were a bit nervous of course since not everyone had the ability to sing with proper vocal care or experience, but Ned encouraged us to give it our best shot, directing with guided patience and allowing more than one opportunity to sing as part of a chorus. Some of the fun included singing some difficult yet fun music pieces from a little known anime film by Studio Ghibli. The hard part was not having any music to follow on paper, just the lyrics. As a result we had to listen to the short songs played in the movie multiple times to memorize the rhythm, the key they were sung in, and even matching our voices with lip flips. There were occasions when only the guys sung together, then only the girls sung together and finally all of us sung together.
With so many students the class had to be divided up. I joined 7 others attending on the second day, while the rest would attend on the third day. First we were each assigned one 15-second song from a learning game for kids. One after the other, Ned sent us into the studio to sing individually into the microphone. Like the day before, we only received lyric sheets to look at and no music notation. This meant hearing the original song over and over, singing with it a few times and then singing only with the music track and no vocal.
After that it was time for us to sing our chosen solos that we picked a week before the workshop. Ned provided superb direction during this process and allowed several opportunities to sing the whole song using his suggestions for staying in character.
A few highlights were hearing a young man sing as Miss Piggy, another good singer performing as Kermit the Frog, and a lovely lady sounding five years old and holding a high note for more than a minute!
You also learn how and why some songs weren’t always sung by the voice actor who spoke the dialogue in various film/Tv programs. A great example is Jeremy Irons who voices one of my favorite villains, Scar from The Lion King. Irons only sang a few lines from the song “Be Prepared”, but the majority was sung by a super-talented voice actor named Jim Cummings. Jim also created Ed’s hyena laughter an is known for voicing more than 500 projects in film, Tv and games: http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0191906/filmotype/actor?ref_=m_nmfm_1
Ned also explained how difficult it can be to not only find a voice actor who can sing, but also cast voice actors in other countries who can sound identical to the original vocalists. An example is the song “How Far I’ll go” from Disney’s Moana sung in 24 different languages by various singers from other countries.
Ned asked all of us to show up as a group for one more hour near the end of the workshop so that we could all partake in the last exercise. We took two songs from Disney’s Moana and divided the lyrics line by line. So the guys were paired as a group, then the girls. All the guys stood next to each other by the microphones and sung one solo line at a time, then the girls. At the end we heard both songs with each line being sung by different person.
All in all, it’s a workshop experience you won’t find anywhere else. I’ve taken more than plenty commercial, animation, audiobook, promo, and video game voice over workshops and Ned Lott’s is the only one so far dedicated to singing in character.
There’s no need to sound as perfect as Jodie Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid), or Idina Menzel (Elsa from Frozen), or necessarily mimicking other voice actors and vocalists from famous projects. It helps a lot to be able to mimic them, but it’s really about having fun, discovering your artistic abilities in voice over as well as music, making the song YOUR performance and not like the original, and finding whether it’s something you feel comfortable exploring as a performer. If it isn’t, no worries! Again, it’s not for everyone and that’s ok. Keep in mind, at least, that the more unique talents you have, the more likely you’ll stand out from others.
At the beginning of the workshop, I fantasized about being a Disney princess, but I left deciding that I’d rather be a Disney villain!