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.
Thoughts about the length of the song
For performances such as auditions or graduation concerts, you will often have a very rigorous rehearsal schedule. Maybe something like 10 minutes for each singer – this is the only way everybody gets some rehearsal time thru the course of a long day. A house-band is often asked if they can skip the 10 minute break they hopefully might have every hour, so some of the artists can get a little extra rehearsal time. But if the musicians do not have time to get something to drink or to eat, or whatever the short breaks are used for, the concentration disappears. When the concentration disappears, it is usually not “here and now” the negative effect happens, but later during the day – maybe during the concert – perhaps during your song. Not something you dream of.
On other type of productions, such as major TV shows, you will also find a very tight schedule. Sometimes it might look like you’ll have much better time at such shows, but … Often the time slot for your rehearsal will also include camera rehearsal, sound check and maybe also lighting adjustment on you and the choir. All in all, other things than just practicing the music, so it can easily lead to a few rushed passes of the song, and then a lot of ”wasted” time with other things, and that’s it.
Therefore the length of the song is important. If you choose a 5 minute song and you spend just a minute to greet the guys you are going to perform with, and a minute to check the sound and monitor-level of your microphone, there will only be time to rehearse the song once. And if you have just one little thing after the first play-thru that you want to change or maybe discuss with the Musical Director, you will only have the opportunity to practice that part of the song again and not the whole song. If the song has tons of details that requires attention from the musicians, they would also have loved to have had the opportunity to run thru it once more.
If the song is approximately 3-3.5 minutes, there is time to greet everybody, play it through, talk about minor adjustments, perhaps part-practicing a little part of the song, and finally play it all over again. Given 10-minute rehearsals with 2 run-thru’s, the song will without doubt receive a much better overall performance in the evening. It’s better with a shorter brilliantly performed song, than a longer more chaotic performance.
In the following posts I’ll talk about style, arrangement of the song and several other things a guest performer not necessarily give a lot of thoughts – hope you’ll stay tuned.
All the very best
I’ve continued this topic here