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iipeacefrog

From the living room to the stage

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My band, Mannequins By Day performs with two backup singers whom are limited in experience and technical training but have overall pretty good pitch and technique.

Due to time constraints, we usually do a separate vocal practice from the rest of the band. These vocal practices have been more or less acoustic and generally are pretty pitch on.

By recording our live set, I've found that the backup singers pitch is mostly very off when they are on a mic and monitor set up. Essentially, the acoustic practice isn't translating to the stage. We have solid monitoring, so that's not the issue. I think it's a combination of show energy and not being comfortable with a mic.

Any tips to help get these singers sounding as good as they do in the living room on stage?

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live practice with band. The voice sounds different when singing through a microphone and the feedback(acoustical properties) through the speakers mixes the sound of the instruments with the sound of the voices. When live you are hearing the voices from the monitors AND from the reverberation of the room itself. In other words, whatever the individuals focus on to keep them on pitch may come through the monitors sounding different than in a living room with no interference. 

If one voice listens to another voice to get the pitch clues.....if the first voice is off....everyone goes off pitch.

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I am saying the PA will alter the sound and the ability to focus on what a person uses to gauge their own pitch.

If you are in the living room with an acoustic guitar and the other singers sitting next to you, you can hear each individual and the blend. If you are in a live situation you are hearing the different guitars, the drums the din of the crowd and the sound bouncing off the walls and coming back to you all mixed together. You might not even be able to hear and distinguish your own voice in the mix.

Not to mention the fact that you hear yourself differently when listening to your voice while singing than you do when hearing it on tape. When singing with the pa you hear a mixture of the sound you hear while singing and the sound you hear listening to your voice from an outside source. It does not sound like the voice you are used to. Add to that the effects like reverb , echo, and equalizer , even the boxy sound of some monitors and the "Blend" of the voices can make it difficult to perceive your own voice in the mixture of sound.

Several things can throw off your reference. 

Have you ever tried to talk on a phone when there is an echo of your voice? You speak and a millisecond later you hear the sound. I hate it when that happens....I keep stumbling over my words because I start to talk and I Hear the words I already spoke......Singing with reverb or echo is the same kind of thing....It takes getting used to.

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There are a couple of other points to mention.

Do you or any of the backup singers play an instrument while performing?

If you play an instrument you have that instrument to get your reference pitch from. Maybe you are standing next to the rhythm guitar player and can hear him/her fairly well. Perhaps the backup singers are standing next to the drums and cannot hear the guitars.

Do you have set positions when performing? Like the lead singer always standing near the middle of the stage with guitar player on the left, Bass player on the right, drums middle stage in back of lead singer, Back up singers standing together or one on one side of the lead singer and the other on the other side?.......Or are the members of the band constantly changing positions depending on the space available at the time? All of these things make a difference in what you actually hear while performing.  Try switching members around and see if it makes a difference. Of course you still need the whole band together to find  positioning that works best.

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On 8/6/2018 at 6:22 AM, MDEW said:

I am saying the PA will alter the sound and the ability to focus on what a person uses to gauge their own pitch.

If you are in the living room with an acoustic guitar and the other singers sitting next to you, you can hear each individual and the blend. If you are in a live situation you are hearing the different guitars, the drums the din of the crowd and the sound bouncing off the walls and coming back to you all mixed together. You might not even be able to hear and distinguish your own voice in the mix.

Not to mention the fact that you hear yourself differently when listening to your voice while singing than you do when hearing it on tape. When singing with the pa you hear a mixture of the sound you hear while singing and the sound you hear listening to your voice from an outside source. It does not sound like the voice you are used to. Add to that the effects like reverb , echo, and equalizer , even the boxy sound of some monitors and the "Blend" of the voices can make it difficult to perceive your own voice in the mixture of sound.

Several things can throw off your reference. 

Have you ever tried to talk on a phone when there is an echo of your voice? You speak and a millisecond later you hear the sound. I hate it when that happens....I keep stumbling over my words because I start to talk and I Hear the words I already spoke......Singing with reverb or echo is the same kind of thing....It takes getting used to.

OK I understand what you are saying now MDEW, but this should not effect the singer pitch while on stage as they should of built up enough muscular memory doing it at home

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Just now, Nordic Being said:

OK I understand what you are saying now MDEW, but this should not effect the singer pitch while on stage as they should of built up enough muscular memory doing it at home

Pitch is still reliant on what you hear. 

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it is and it is only another thing to think about that could go wrong before you gig, do you think hearing your self through a PA system would make you sound flater or sharper?

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Just now, Nordic Being said:

it is and it is only another thing to think about that could go wrong before you gig, do you think hearing your self through a PA system would make you sound flater or sharper?

What you use to gauge your pitch by could sound sharper or flatter to you. At the very least it will sound different. 

How many band members are there? What are the instruments and how are they arranged? How big is the room you are performing in? If you get your pitch cue from the guitar and you are on one side of the stage and the guitar is on the other side of the stage....You may not be hearing the guitar from the source but after the sound returns from the walls of the room. When that is the case the sound you are adjusting to is flat compared to someone who is standing in front of the guitars amplifier.

On 8/5/2018 at 12:16 PM, iipeacefrog said:

I think it's a combination of show energy and not being comfortable with a mic.

Any tips to help get these singers sounding as good as they do in the living room on stage?

No matter what the actual cause.....rehearsal in a full band live environment is the answer.  At the very least you can track down the problem and do the appropriate.adjustments. Small room acoustics are far different than open hall filled with people....or in some cases empty halls.

Whether it is energy dynamics on the part of inexperienced singers or a proximity problem(not hearing the music from the source) or not being used to hearing your voice from the PA, muscle memory needs to be adjusted for those also.

Even if you are doing a separate vocal practice without the full band....use microphones and Stand as you would when performing live. Get the singers used to hearing your voices through the pa system. The sound is different when you hear it from an outside source than it does with only your ears.

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Yeah that's more or less what we are planning on doing. It's tricky because of schedules, but we are going to do what we can to practice all together. I'll keep you posted on how that goes. 

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