There are many reasons why people choose to sing to an audience. Allowing others to share in something you really enjoy can be one of the most worthwhile experiences. We hope the next few paragraphs make useful reading, and perhaps help in your new singing career or experience.
Choosing the right song
Singing along to our favourite track on the radio can have quite a different effect once it is performed minus the original vocals. I'm sure many of us have experienced the karaoke disasters performed by those who thought they could sing a particular song? The major difference here is that karaoke is usually for fun, and it doesn't really matter if you're good or bad as you're not usually paid for your performance. Indeed, some people enjoy listening to an off-key singer during a karaoke performance. In reality, clubs, pubs, auditions or any fee-paying gigs are not as forgiving.
Try to have a good mix, including many of the older 'classics'. Music has a much faster turnaround today, therefore many of the chart tracks in recent years have less potential to be recognised by a mixed age audience.
An important tip...make sure the song is right for you. Ask family and friends to be honest in their opinion about the songs you choose. These are typical members of your future audience. The most successful artists are the ones who aim to be different, and hand-pick varied quality music covering a number of music genres, rather than attempting to sing a number of different songs every week, irrespective of the quality of the track or the likelihood that the track will still be known or appreciated in a couple of years. Try and stand out from the crowd - the likelihood is that you will receive more bookings, from a wide variety of different venues.
Quality of backing tracks is essential to a successful career - remember that a song may be used hundreds of times during your work. It's amazing that some people will spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on their PA speakers, mixer and microphones, yet download karaoke tracks from the internet. Many of these tracks have already been copied from one format to another (each time losing quality along the way). Some also purchase hastily produced backing tracks from re-sellers because they are a few pennies each (the quantity over quality trap).
Choose your tracks carefully - using a poor quality track with your nice PA system is the equivalent of putting a piece of mouldy cheese into an expensive fridge, and expecting the cheese to come out fresher. The best PA system in the world will only accentuate the faults within the track (background noise/badly mixed instruments etc.). It cannot make it sound 'better'. Your good tracks will obviously sound better with a good PA system, although your bad tracks will probably sound worse. It really is as simple as that, bad sound in = bad sound out.
Try to have a good mix to your repertoire. Performances are usually 2 x 45 minutes or 3 x 30 minutes. Within this time you should attempt to provide a mixture of material covering a number of eras and tempos. If you have enough material, try to be selective to suit your audience rather than using a general running order. Sometimes even the most stubborn crowds can become compassionate once they hear a few familiar tunes.
Singing and dancingSinging and dancing to up-tempo tracks is generally considered as one of the most difficult things to achieve to perfection on stage. Due to vocal techniques and breathing requirements, it is important to realise that there is usually a tradeoff between the two. You may want to be the complete entertainer but there are very few vocalists who can sustain the quality of singing to their desired level whilst dancing. It's great to show the audience that you're multi-talented, however it is essential that you understand when one aspect may be detracting from the other. Try to find a compromise between the two and you won't go far wrong.
Microphone and techniqueOne of the most important pieces of equipment you will purchase, the microphone, basically comes in two varieties. Corded (with lead) and radio-microphone (cordless). Generally, you will achieve far better quality from a corded microphone than from a radio microphone of equivalent price. Radio microphones are great for those who dislike a wire trailing around the stage, and for those who wish to involve audience participation, however if vocal quality and price is paramount, the corded microphone is usually the better buy. Microphones are the link between you and your audience (although we mustn't forget the speakers).
The choice of songs performed during your performance should dictate the way in which to use the microphone. There is an old tried and trusted method of leaving the microphone in its' stand for the 'ballad' or sentimental numbers. This seems to add subtlety and sincerity to a performance. This technique has been used successfully for many years, therefore there's no reason to suspect that it should not be used today.
The microphone should be held gently between your fingers, with the fingers slightly spread apart. Try not to 'cup' the microphone, as this can significantly increase the likelihood of feedback through the speakers. Take the microphone away from your mouth when you reach loud high notes to avoid the vocals sounding too overpowering. By varying the distance of the microphone from your mouth, you will find this an extremely useful way of keeping even volume levels between the very soft/very loud passages. Try to avoid singing over the top of the microphone, unless intended, as a portion of the vocal sound will be lost when relayed through the speakers.
Criticism - how should it affect you?Music is an industry in which many people voice their opinions - and, to use sports people or actors as a comparison, we all have our personal favourite's What one person likes another can loathe. This can be good or bad depending on how criticism is viewed. How many times have we had discussions with friends or colleagues about the quality of a singer or song? Sometimes it is about the type of music that we do not like, other times it can be the vocalist or band. These are factors within the entertainment industry based on human preference - which is why we all choose different houses, cars, partners and so on.
The important thing is to learn when criticism is useful, and when it is merely an opinion. There may be times when you are singing at an audition, competition, pub or club, and nobody seems to take notice. When a person wants to be entertained their expectations can be entirely different than those people sat on the next table to them. It is essential that you learn to accept these experiences without feeling that you have underachieved. If you have performed elsewhere and the crowd have been pleased or you have received a re booking, you must be doing something right! Even the world's top vocalists have an army of people that would rather be elsewhere than spend a night at one of their concerts.
Stage PresentationAn important part of your performance whether for audition or occupation is the ability to communicate effectively and comfortably with the audience. This may involve a simple introduction before the your first number. There is no hard and fast rule regarding what you should say, however you should find with experience that you soon develop your own rapport which makes you and your audience feel a little more comfortable.
If possible, try to avoid routinely introducing each track with the artist name and song title - add a little more normal conversation and this should help the audience to feel at ease. The sooner that the audience recognise that you are at ease with the situation, the more comfortable they will feel.
Depending on your venue, there are certain dress codes and presentation which are deemed acceptable. Many public houses are quite happy for you to perform without a change of outfit for the complete performance, however most cabaret clubs expect a change of outfit per set (or spot). Although your performance may be suited to a more modern era, and perhaps looks quite suitable for performance in jeans and T-shirt, there a still a number of customers, concert secretaries and committee members that would deem this dress code inappropriate for a cabaret performance. This is not to say that they are right or wrong, however, as we mentioned earlier acceptance within the music industry is often based on people's expectations and preferences.
A re-booking can hinge as much on presentation as vocal talent. An important thing to remember is that when you receive a booking you are undertaking a form of employment, and may at times be expected to dress in a way which you do not feel most comfortable. This is quite a similar situation to a male office worker who is required to wear a shirt and tie. If in doubt, always contact the venue first. This not only raises the chance of a re booking, it also shows a willingness to please.
We hope this brief information has been of some use, and will soon be featuring more articles concerning equipment purchase and other relevant features. Good luck with your future performances, and most of all...enjoy.