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Singing in a Live Performance Setting - Soundman Issues

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Enigma1881
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I thought I would share a few thoughts/perceptions on my experiences with singing in a live performance setting. Ultimately, that's what probably most everyone here aspires to do at some point. I did a search and did not see a thread on this topic, and I believe it is an important one for people who will be moving into the live performance situation, so here goes...

1. I'll start with this - 'over-singing' (having to push too hard or 'muscle it out' continuously to sing over the music) is one of the worst things you can do. Too much too often will result in a blown or ragged voice and bad singing.

2. With a live band, it's often hard to make out the vocals very well versus the instruments, particularly as it concerns volume. When it's more within your control (e.g., you are practicing or gigging with your own band), try to get lower onstage volume with the instruments so that the monitor mix will sound better/more balanced and it's not a case of the vocals having to compete with high instrument volumes. (Even the great Steve Perry mentioned this issue in interviews about his experiences with Journey).

3. Having a bad vocal sound fed back is a detriment not only to a singer's confidence but also to his or her freedom of expression. It sounds obvious, but when it happens in a live situation and you try to work through it there is sometimes a tendency to blame oneself (e.g., "I'm having an off night") rather than to identify the cause of the deflated performance as a case of poor sound reinforcement./monitors. This can lead to a case of pushing more and more and thus can create a vicious circle wherein trying harder and harder leads to a progressive deterioration of performance quality.

4. In light of #1, #2, and #3, it is quite often the case that the monitors need adjusting and so enters the role of the soundman. My experience is that many soundmen are often difficult to work with (unless the group has its own 'dedicated' soundman who always runs sound for the group). It is not unusual, for example, that the soundman does not understand that what he hears 'out front' is not necessarily what the singer hears onstage, and that what is a good setting for one singer monitor-wise or in the front-of-house mix is not necessarily appropriate for another one with a different voice (e.g., in a night of playing a club where the same person is running sound for several different bands in the lineup; in an open mic situation).

In addition to this, many (certainly not all) soundmen seem to think that you should 'leave the soundboard to them' and 'just sing, man', kind of like 'you worry about your job and I'll worry about mine'. That kinda sounds logical and fair, except that the quality of the vocal reproduction when amplified instruments are involved depends significantly on the volume/quality of the overall band sound. Moreover, it is not unusual that soundmen are protective/overly sensitive of what they believe to be 'their turf' and reject or question your requests on how to improve the vocal sound both 'out front' (e.g., hey, can I get more delay?) and in the monitors. It actually becomes an ego-driven thing sometimes. Some soundmen are themselves musicians who've traded in their performance aspirations for being a sound technician, and that often means that they are not that happy to see someone else receiving attention or praise on the performance end of things.

Therefore, I would recommend the following:

a. be respectful of the soundman so as to avoid 'stepping on toes', at least for the current gig/performance

b. ask rather than tell, at least at first

c. be mindful that what you say to the soundman over the mic will be heard by everyone; try to frame what you say in a way that will not make him or her look bad in front of the audience

d. if you are in an open mic type situation, don't expect too much - the soundman is probably not making much that night and is less inclined to help you dial in a sound

e. consider using your own soundman in a band situation

Anyway, those are just some of my views based on experiences with bands and open mic situations.

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I saw Baxter's advice, as well. And he is probably right. Because my other suggestion was to carry a Louisville Slugger.

I started a thread to thank you, Bob, for linking in Baxter vids. It died a quick death with the criticism that one does not get to see Baxter singing a song.

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I saw Baxter's advice, as well. And he is probably right. Because my other suggestion was to carry a Louisville Slugger.

I started a thread to thank you, Bob, for linking in Baxter vids. It died a quick death with the criticism that one does not get to see Baxter singing a song.

Baxter has sound advice whether he can sing or not makes no difference.

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Baxter has sound advice whether he can sing or not makes no difference.

He can sing. The promo song that leads into his videos is him.

And the sample song in one of his tutorials is him. You just don't get to see him singing it "live" in studio. Which is, evidently, a reason to doubt his advice.

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I started a thread to thank you, Bob, for linking in Baxter vids. It died a quick death with the criticism that one does not get to see Baxter singing a song.

:lol:

I'm sorry, it's just the truth...

That does not mean he doesn't know what he's talking about. I'd gladly consult him to learn some good exercises to build my voice. Especially since his geographical location is quite close to myself. There's a good chance I will do business with him sometime in my life. He has established great credibility on the front of teaching vocalization. He successfully demonstrates, on his youtube channel, some of the most difficult vocal exercises I've heard. He can certainly teach you how to build and coordinate your voice, which will, indirectly, help you sing better. On top of that, anyone can tell from his verbal arguments that he really knows what he's talking about.

But when he talks about singing, and then doesn't sing...you just can't help but wonder, why doesn't he share his singing with us?

To be fair, he's not the only one. I can think of another very popular vocal teacher who does not show any video of him singing in his middle-high range, even though he has apparently performed songs in that range. Why not? There just has to be a reason for that. If you sounded good in your high range, wouldn't you show it off, especially since you are a vocal teacher?

Admittedly I am being a little too harsh and judgmental here. But this is something that people will, and should, take into account when choosing a vocal method, if they want to be under the direction of a teacher who specializes in not only in vocal technique, but the art and sport of singing.

Some just want to build their voice from a technical standpoint, and then apply it to the art in whatever way they see fit, without any stylistic or performance guidance from their teacher. That is fine I guess. I just don't prefer that approach.

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He can sing. The promo song that leads into his videos is him.

And the sample song in one of his tutorials is him. You just don't get to see him singing it "live" in studio. Which is, evidently, a reason to doubt his advice.

How do you know it is him? If it is, I guess I was a little mistaken. It's not a lot of singing but it's singing.

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These are very well thought out points. Thank you!

As someone who plays both sides of the mixer there is one that I would add. Perhaps it's a bit controversial, but here goes...

The sound that many bands are looking for (both FOH and monitors) has very little to do with acoustic accuracy, clarity, dynamic range, balance, etc. And honestly, I can't argue with that, because these alone do not foretell a great show.

I try to give each band what they want in as ego-less a manner possible. I try to be open to learning AND teaching.

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These are very well thought out points. Thank you!

As someone who plays both sides of the mixer there is one that I would add. Perhaps it's a bit controversial, but here goes...

The sound that many bands are looking for (both FOH and monitors) has very little to do with acoustic accuracy, clarity, dynamic range, balance, etc. And honestly, I can't argue with that, because these alone do not foretell a great show.

I try to give each band what they want in as ego-less a manner possible. I try to be open to learning AND teaching.

And cash donations (ala Mark Baxter) ....

:lol:

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Mark Baxter's a Brilliant Coach. He KNOWS his sh*t and he can sing. There are other coaches out there who really can't sing, but they do offer some useful stuff.

That's good to know he can really sing. I'm going to assume you've taken a private lesson with him?

It's hard to find him singing on his youtube channel, it's mostly just vocalizing, but I wouldn't have a hard time believing he's great at singing too.

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Well, if that's the criteria, let's start naming off instructors with live performances in front of general audiences in public. It's not a contentious request. I just want to see your point to a logical and tangible conclusion. And there are singing teachers who have worked pro, live and on albums for commercial release.

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