A Singer’s Guide to Surviving in a Band
Surviving in a band as a singer can be quite daunting as our musical training can be quite different to that of an instrumentalist. Many singers don’t often have the experience of working alongside other musicians. When I started working with a band, I was overwhelmed and felt rather insecure about my musical practice. Here are some practical tips I learnt first hand about surviving in a band as a singer, and how to make the most of a band situation whilst learning as much as you can.
Yep. I said it. First things first: applaud failure. Get things wrong. Don’t be afraid of this, because mistakes are how we learn. I was working in a group where I would get so nervous about making mistakes I would actually make more! At that point one of the other band members would react negatively and it would make the whole situation worse. The rehearsal room is the place to make mistakes. Seriously, next time you fail, applaud yourself because you had the guts to try! DO NOT ever make a person feel bad about their failure – they’re learning too. This is something you should be telling other group members. It’s good to make mistakes in rehearsal because if you iron out the kinks early you won’t be making mistakes on stage.
Learn Your Theory
It’s no secret that many singers lack music theory knowledge. If you have been getting singing lessons for a while and you have not covered theory, this is quite common. It is not always required of singers but if you want to work in groups or get professional it’s highly recommended. Here at Sono Music, we encourage our vocal clients to learn theory. It’s fantastic to have and will help big time to expand your music career. It’ll really help you out with surviving in a band as a singer. Knowing about key signatures, key changes, transposition, song structure, pitch, melody, harmonies and rhythm will make your life so much easier. These are things you can also learn in our new band lessons.
Listen to the Other parts
Okay, so you’ve started rehearsing, but you feel like you’re singing is all over the place. You don’t know when to come in and you don’t know what you’re doing. If this sounds like you, then you probably need to start really listening to all the other parts in your group. Learn how to count, so you know when your part comes in. You could even practise listening to the instrumental parts around you to see what they’re doing and use that as a timing guide. If you’re really worried about timing, ask the musicians you’re working with to cue you on when to come in. Have your lyrics printed out or memorised and make notes of timing. Practise songs over and over until you feel confident about your part and your place within the group.
Transpose if Necessary
Never be afraid to ask to transpose if necessary. This is part of surviving in a band as a singer. You want a song to suit your voice and sit in your tessitura, not the other way around. Transposing is changing the key of a song to sit higher or lower, which will help make that song suit your vocal range. Our voices are like fingerprints – everyone’s voice is unique to them and is not always going to suit the same range as Britney Spears. Good musicians will be able to transpose with ease, but if you’re all starting out then print out the new chords for your fellow musicians.
Gear & Equipment
Musicians love their equipment and for good reason – it allows them to have freedom musically. If you’re serious about music, you need to have your own microphone and know how to use it. So for the love of God go get a decent mic. It’s literally the cheapest out of all the band instruments, you have no excuse not to buy your own microphone. Learn how to plug your mic into a mixing desk all by yourself. Know how to get rid of feedback and how much gain you need and don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions otherwise you’ll never learn the ropes. This will go a long way to help with surviving in a band. Learn what equipment the rest of the band uses, so you can understand their musical parts and talk to them about it. Ask what a pedal board is, a head and cab, the different parts of the drum kit. If you’re booking shows for your band, you will need to know this stuff.
Be Punctual & Prepared
There are a number of things to do to prepare for a rehearsal, including practising at home, making a rehearsal schedule and arriving early. Arrive 5-10 minutes beforehand so you have time to set up and look over your music and feel totally ready for your rehearsal. You can even make a mini schedule for your rehearsal in this time. Make a list and start with the songs that need the most work and finish on the ones that just need polishing. When doing home practice, ensure you have recently listened to the song and know your lyrics. Once you’re at the rehearsal space, load in your equipment and if you’ve set up already, help out the other musicians. You’re going to get credit for this and they’ll most likely answer all of your music questions.
Okay, so I ask my band literally everything. I straight up tell them that I’m always learning and sometimes I feel way behind them in my music theory. Most musicians will happily answer all of your questions questions and who knows, maybe they can learn something off of you about singing and techniques. If anyone in your group makes you feel small about lack of musical knowledge, should you really be working alongside that person?
At the end of the day, it’s a learning experience. No matter how prepared you are you’re going to make mistakes. But as I said earlier, mistakes are a blessing in disguise. Learn from them! And if you prepare properly for rehearsals and treat your band members with respect, they’ll do the same for you.