Jono McNeil (The Voice UK and The Masked Singer) reveals the skills and attributes you need to land a vocal coaching job in TV.
The stakes are high on shows like The Voice, The Voice Kids and The Masked Singer, with millions of viewers tuning in every week to see their favourite contestants compete.
It’s within this fast-paced, adrenaline-packed environment that Jono McNeil works as a vocal coach. His job is to help contestants (many of whom have no professional singing experience) give the performance of their lives – week after week.
Singers have just 90 seconds to impress the studio audience (and those watching at home), so they must make every lick and lyric count.
Jono admits that his early days working in television were stressful. “But after a while, I found my flow. There was a moment when it clicked, and I thought, ‘This is really me’. Now I love trying to work out how to draw the best out of someone who hasn’t sung at all in a professional sense, and certainly not in front of TV cameras to an audience of three to seven million people.”
So what skills do you need to work in television? Here, in Jono’s own words (as told on the Singing Teachers Talk podcast), are eight must-have attributes if you want a career as a TV vocal coach.
1 Work under pressure
You need to get a performer’s voice to a place where they are fully functional and able to do what they need to do in a short space of time. That means working with the singer, applying technique and style, and creating arrangements with the musical director.
2 Be a team player
As a vocal coach, you’re sort of the meat in the sandwich. Lots of different people come to talk to you because you’re the access point to the act. You need to be amazing at being in a team and trust that everyone is doing their bit. It’s about understanding you’re a cog in a big machine.
3 Mentoring skills
Your job is to help a singer strike a chord with the public. And it might be someone who’s a diamond in the rough. Sometimes that super polished, technically proficient, highly experienced singer is not as emotive and doesn’t capture someone’s heart in the same sense.
4 Be a ‘soldier’
I often call us vocal coaches ‘the soldiers’. We’re protecting the singers, providing quality control and ensuring they have everything they need. We’re fighting for them in the process and helping them get through the pressure. There’s also a big pastoral care team that is there for them if they need further support.
5 Have an artistic vision
One of the main jobs is giving singers a vision for themselves that is much bigger than they already have. And you’ve got to do that quite quickly – all of this happens at speed.
You need to be able to read a room, read a person and understand what people want. If an act walks into the room and they want something different from what you want for them, that can create distance and tension. It’s much better if they feel they are in a place of comfort and safety and they trust you.
Things are changing all the time, so you’ve got to be fast on your feet. You’ve got to know when to press the red button when something’s a disaster. But you can’t catastrophise; you must also be a problem solver.
8 Have a plan
One phrase I often say to someone before they walk out on stage is ‘Do what we’ve planned’. This is because it’s easy to go rogue with all the adrenaline and excitement around you. It’s important to prepare something that we know will work and then execute it as planned.
Find out more about Jono’s musical career and his TV work in the latest Singing Teachers Talk podcast episode.
Discover how Amelia Carr helps young performers prepare for West End auditions by tuning into this episode of the podcast.