Yesterday I wrote about the style of the song you will perform with. What other things can cause problems for the musicians individually or the whole band when you are about to do a guest appearance with a house-band?
Maybe you know a certain song where you will shine brilliantly, but it might not be the right choice if the overall result isn’t top notch. A song that seems simple and straight forward to you, is not necessarily easy for everyone. An Icelandic or Faroese folk song that exists only on a sheet of music without bar-lines and proper notation, since it never has been sung in time, is almost impossible for a Danish or American musician to feel comfortable with within ten minutes, since the style and the sound just isn’t what we have grown up with. Or if the foundation for your entire song a fast harp-run, an advanced pedal-steel-country-guitar, or a super advanced programmed drum groove, you might want to consider having an alternate song as a back up, which could sound great the first time thru, played by a regular combo.
A photo from the rehearsals to a TV show – Julie Berthelsen played with me and my band, when she did a “guest performance with a house-band” in the program “Danmarksindsamlingen”
The other day I wrote about the length of a song if you are going to do guest appearance with a house-band – today I’ll write some thoughts considering the style … Should it be country, rock, jazz or classical? Fortunately, there are no definitive answers. Basically, it is only your good taste that determines the type of song you should choose.
The style in combination with the type of band
You will never get a four-piece band to sound like either a symphony orchestra or big band – just like you will never get a four-piece live band to sound exactly like a programmed Lady Gaga production. At least not if you only have little rehearsal time. It’s another story if you have budget and time … then almost everything is possible, with sequencers and stuff, but with a tight schedule and budget you have to consider things thoroughly.
A super Big Band track that you think is cool to sing, can often be rearranged so that the development, intensity and energy is conserved. Themes previously played by a huge sax group, may also work as a simple vibraphone, guitar or piano line. If the musicians aren’t stuck to lots of pre-defined roles, and instead can contribute with personal things, you will often get a great result and get more energy across from the stage.
Some time ago I did a guest appearance with a house-band … or more correctly with a big band … Here I did it the other way around, I arranged some funky tracks from my Funky Flavas album for this jazz line up – great fun!! Soren Reiff with Trelleborg Big band
Guest appearance with a house-band … What should you be aware of?
You probably sing because you love singing. If you sing a lot, you might end up singing in different constellations and for different purposes. Perhaps you might appear as a guest singer with a house-band you do not know. I’ve worked as Musical Director for house-bands on TV and live shows for many years. I think there are several things you should be aware of when you do such a guest performance with a house-band – so here and in some following blog-posts, are some thoughts from a M.D.’s view.
Of course, if you’re on tour promoting you latest single, you don’t have to consider which song to perform with the local house bands. But if you’re going to some sort of audition or examination, or performing as the icing on the cake at a venue with a house-band, there are things you should consider. Whether you sing only to please yourself or others, the result will be better and more memorable the fewer elements that can distract the judges or audience and remove focus from the overall impression and your performance. The more everyone on stage work as a unit, focusing on energy, dynamics and interpretation, the stronger the result will be. Therefore it’s wise to also think about the style, arrangement, duration and so on.
“But if the band is a group of serious and professional musicians, who even had opportunity to prepare your song, shouldn’t everything be possible?” In theory, yes… In practice, not necessarily.
Soren Reiff as Musical director. Hush did a guest appearance with the house-band on the TV-show “Danmarks indsamlingen”
When I returned to the hastily recorded idea of “Saturday Brunch”, a couple of days later, I still liked the chord progression and the theme – so I started arranging the music and programming a demo track of the song.
In a situation like this, 9 out of 10 times I’ll start with the drums. I have a few kits that I always aim for when making neutral sounding demo’s. By “neutral”, I mean that it’s going to sound like a standard drum kit, not too fancy, not too artificial and not dictating a certain style … kind of open for “everything”.