Updated: Nov 28
You may have worked as a band singer. If you have, you already know these three things. If you have never worked as a band singer, or if you have worked as a band singer but you’ve only worked with high-level players, read on. You need to know.
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Sometimes we voice experts are like Washington politicians: we think our world is the whole world.
The truth is that the majority of paying gigs in any city - bar, restaurant, hotel, and private gigs - are not being played by people with college degrees in music.
When a microphone-music singer comes to you, it’s for a reason.
He has a new opportunity.
She’s been fronting the band and she’s worried about her voice.
His band has gone from playing one gig a week to three gigs a week.
They need to be able to sing the songs they’re writing.
Knowing a few realities about your band-singer clients can:
Encourage meaningful exchanges
Allow you to be your most effective
Encourage the singer to study with you long enough for you to help them.
Maybe your student aspires to perform in a band, but hasn’t yet. You can help them prepare them for the world they’re working to be a part of.
Maybe they’re already gigging. In that case you can help them appropriately. You can be the pro they can trust to help them with their voice.
Secret No. 1: THEY LIKE THE WAY THEY SING.
When a young singer starts studying voice, they often lack specific goals. They sang in choir, or in church, and were told they had a nice voice. Or their parents wanted them to study something and voice seemed like the thing.
So they come to you as an open book. You begin the process with an assumption that you’re helping them develop their voice, and build a specific set of skills. Typically, a set of skills that is appropriate to classical and/or music theater.
When a band singer or singer/songwriter comes to you, they’re there with a different mindset. Age has little to do with it. That singer is coming to you because they want something from their voice that they are unable to create. They have a problem they’ve been unable to solve themselves.
In this case your approach has to be different.
You have to communicate to them that you want to help them solve their problem(s) not change the way they sing. Because, except for their perceived problem, they think their singing is fine.
A couple of things about that...
The way they sing may not be fine
It may be out of tune, they may be straining, or super breathy, or any number of things that are fine in small doses (in microphone styles) but are really not what anyone wants as a default sound. You’ll get around to introducing them to alternative ways to sing later. But they typically don’t experience their singing as problematic. They just have a problem.
It’s likely they think their problem is unique to them.
Yup. Even when their challenges are the typical stuff. If you assure them that their problem is one that is shared by other singers, and that you have a program for that, that will go a long way in building their trust.
Secret No. 2: THEY ASSUME THEY HAVE AGENCY OVER THEIR SINGING
In the world of theatrical and classical singing, decisions about sound, artistry, technique, and performance are typically shared decisions. The singer shares these decisions with voice teachers, directors, conductors, and often with the requirements of the genre itself.
This is generally not true in microphone singing. With some exceptions - a tribute band, for instance - the singer gets to decide what their singing sounds like. Your client is taking their musical cues from other artists, not from the requirements of a certain genre. If you want to be someone who is helping them realize their musical expression, then you need to be able to empower them to express themselves as they want to.
Secret No. 3: WRITTEN MUSIC...MAYBE, MAYBE NOT
There’s no definitive answer to this issue, but I want to call your attention to it.
Many voice teachers feel very strongly about teaching their students the skills of written music. There’s a lot to be said for having these skills. Personally, I’m grateful to have those skills. I find them empowering. However, I learned them in an environment where learning them was not optional and I had ample time and opportunity to practice those skills. This will probably not be true of your band singer or singer/songwriter.
You need to know if your student really wants to learn the skills of reading and understanding written music. If they don’t, they won’t. They won’t practice, they won’t learn, and you may be costing yourself some of their trust.
As band singers, it’s highly unlikely that they’re in an environment that requires these skills. In their world, music is seldom written down. If there’s anything written down, it’s chord symbols that are written above lyrics. Musicians learn by ear. They remember things by inventing their own personal shorthand.
What they need to know
Your band singer needs to know what a key is and how it affects them. They need to know what song form is and how to communicate it. They need to know how chords work so that they can understand how to sing a harmony part. In other words, they need to know the skills and language that is pertinent in a band rehearsal or in the writing of a song.
If your singer is young and inexperienced, you can be the person they trust to help them learn to front a band. If your singer is already working and has vocal limitations standing between them and what they really want from their singing, you can be the person to help free their voice.
Meredith Colby, October 2021
Meredith Colby is available for private voice and
vocal coaching, as well as classes, seminars
and workshops. Click here to get more information.
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Colorful and an easy read, this little book-cicle will tell you what you need to know about your singers of popular styles!
#meredithcolby blog post and video about #voicelessons, #vocalcoaching, and #teachingvoice. The subject is about making #voicelessons appropriate for #singers of #CCM, #popularstyles, #bandsingers, #songwriters and calling out the typical #disconnect between #vocalcoaches and #voicestudents. Meredith is a #voicecoach, a #vocalcoach, and a #voiceteacher from #chicago. She helps #voiceteachers and #vocalcoaches teach for #popularstyles and #microphonestyles by teaching privately, supplying helpful content, and offering a #certificationclass in #neurovocalmethod.