Making Your Singer Happy

It's just another in my series of self-explanatory articles.

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There are other articles with the same naming convention that have me as the author. You should probably read those first. If you don't and comment something completely stupid, I cannot be held liable for the verbal thrashings you may get. Um, ok. First, I must acknowledge a few users for their (ahem) *interest* in me doing an article about making your singer happy. These are: theogonia777, concho_valen, guitarplaya161, and PureMagic in no particular order. Gentlemen, you've just inherited yourselves a trainwreck. <----Release the wise kraken!----> 1) Your singer is NOT Steven Tyler (unless you are Aerosmith): This means a couple of things. Firstly, don't try to duplicate his sound because you can't. He's old and still sounds like he did in his 20s. He's not human. And thus, you must let your singer do his own versions of any screaming Aerosmith song... unless you want him to appear as even more of a douchebag than what he already is. Secondly, Steven Tyler screams. Hard. All the time. Most singers past age 25 can't scream on more than a couple songs without losing their voice. So the point of this, moreover, is that you shouldn't expect your singer to scream all night. There's about a 99.9999999% chance he just can't. Well, unless you are Aerosmith. And he is Steven Tyler. 2) Give him musical "clues": Considering how clueless your singer probably is already, it is a good idea for the loudest instrument (usually the drums or guitar) to give him musical clues when playing difficult pieces. A particular cymbal splash or fill here or there will most likely be able to cue any singer whose IQ is above 12. Below that however, and you may need to use different types of cues as he may not understand the musical ones. I hear switching the mic ground on particularly soft-sung songs tends to work well.... as long as he has on shoes and you guys aren't playing on concrete in the rain... and your roadie can throw the switch at the right spots. (NOTE: This makes a good light show in the dark) 3) Give right-of-way for a predetermined runway on stage: The singer usually moves. He usually moves a lot compared to the other musicians. There is no need to get in his way. It will only cause injury. And with him being a singer and all, he may not even recognize the need to deviate from his rectitude until it is already too late. Basically, what we have here is the "dog pen" concept: just give him a place to run and let him go. This will be your best bet. 4) Don't needlessly piss your singer off: Hey, anger and a mic never yielded anything good. And if he doesn't happen to know you by name, he should at LEAST be able to get your instrument right when he nails you over the mic for being a douche. 5) If he's a good singer, let him give cues: Considering good singers are VERY rare and that you will probably win the lottery.... twice.... before you come within 500 feet of a good singer, you probably won't have to worry about this. Just let the keyboardist give the signals. And if the singer actually WANTS to give them, just nod and play along. He'll never know. 6) Don't hide things in the smoke: This pretty much goes for anyone on stage. But considering the singer usually moves around the most, understand that he may not see objects low to the stage. You can either move the smoke machine, use a fan to divert it from his general direction, clear the way in his *runway*, or just bring a video camera and post the disaster on YouTube. 7) Watch your sticks and guitar necks: Ever seen a singer sandwiched between a lefty and a righty guitarist? Me neither. But it happens. And when he gets hurt, you can be sure the consequences in #4 will ensue. Unless your roadie flips the ground switch and the singer's bare footed on a concrete stage... in the rain. 8) Don't change keys just because it's easier for you to play: Understand that the singer has no fret markings. Nor does he have an instrument he can simply modify.... well, unless his father is a surgeon. But I digress. A singer's range, just as his IQ, may be limited. He may have great tone, but lack the high notes. So let him name his key... if he can. 9) Don't pick songs with 73 verses... like Dylan's "Hurricane": You will be lucky if your singer remembers your name much less all the verses to 100 songs. So unless you want him to SOUND like a bumbling idiot as well, just don't do it. 10) Use large print when making lyric sheets: So if your singer has figured out that he can read... lyric sheets instead of memorizing the 73 verses in "Hurricane," don't print them out in small font. Ever seen a singer with bifocals? I rest my case. Thanks for reading.

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    ExOblivione
    Andragon wrote: Ah Jesus ****in Christ! I hate it when people diss singers/frontmen just because they may not play another instrument. Some are asses and others are brilliant. Now I don't know if this "article" is supposed to be a (weak) joke, but it's pretty pointless.
    I do believe that by not reading the first few paragraphs, having a sense of humor, and common sense enough to see a joke, you have, good sir, made an ass of yourself.
    dc13
    i'm new to making music with "other" people are singers really this dumb lol
    YES
    guitarplaya161
    awesome article! lol you mentioned me ^_^ and i agree with the tone of the article....my singer isn't the greatest...and we cant find a good one >___>
    Andragon
    Ah Jesus ****in Christ! I hate it when people diss singers/frontmen just because they may not play another instrument. Some are asses and others are brilliant. Now I don't know if this "article" is supposed to be a (weak) joke, but it's pretty pointless.
    derpdragon
    I've never met a good singer in the 2 years I've played guitar. I've met plenty of reasonable singer though, but that mostly because they played a instrument. I think thats what almost all singers are missing, they don't bother to learn even a little bit of a instrument, so they have almost no real musical ear.
    Jonthecomposer
    @Andragon Oh, c'mon. It's meant as a TOTAL JOKE. Don't be such a humor nazi. Loosen up and laugh. I laugh at bass player jokes and I am a bass player. Besides, I like ALL good musicians. And personally speaking, I rip on guitarists the most.
    Fender Dane.
    If I were to take this article completly serious, which I of course I don't - I must assume that all singers are retarded screaming children running aimless around the stage tripping over every piece of equipment and being impaled by a guitar headstock every once in a while. Nice article, I giggled.
    540_guitar
    I havent really found what I needed, because it would have to be kill him if hes a douchebag. I can tell from the view of our band, good singer, who works really hard on the songs is as rare as a sight-reading guitarist. Although he may be good, sometimes you just feel like taking a knife and stab him because he turns into a king of the world singer. I hate thath more that bad irritating noodling guitarist.
    Weaponxclaws
    Very good article, sir. I love reading all your articles whether they be about theory, lyrics, or keeping bandmates happy. I, myself, play all the instruments and cover vocal duties myself. I literally write and record everything myself: keys, guitar, bass, drums, singing/screaming. I still find humour in these even though I work by myself but I have been in a few side projects that went no further than "learn a cover song. Oh, we suck at it, let's just eat Ramen or switch instruments around." Ah, high school... Thanks, Jon!
    Jonthecomposer
    @Weaponxclaws: You're welcome! Great compliment coming from another multi-instrumentalist. I learned to play and record everything myself too just because there were not enough people around who were musically well-equipped enough to record what I wanted. I'm not saying I am great by any means, but you just can't teach a style or a concept at a recording session! And the instruments that I can't play well or that are too loud, I've learned to program in MIDI. But for the record, I ONLY consider myself serious at bass playing
    Weaponxclaws
    @jonthecomposer no shame in that. I used to program MIDI drums, bass, strings (keys), and everything just because I didn't have the gear to record my own instruments but now I do. I consider myself serious at all of them but I go through phases where I get really good at one and lack another. For example, whenever I get my drum chops up to peak, then my guitar playing slows a bit but my bass playing improves. No idea why really...
    Jonthecomposer
    @Weaponxclaws: I hear ya. But I live in a trailer park. So, unless I buy a sealed iron box and play the drums inside of it, MIDI drums are my only option! lol
    mrddrm
    Now, now, Jeremy does love Fords for some reason. But Richard Hammond all the way! Hahaha.
    Jonthecomposer
    @540_guitar: OMG! You feel my pain! lol @mrddrm: Other than the total disregard Jeremy has for all things American, I LOVE that show. And they talk about REAL performance - the type that goes around corners Well, and then there is the music that comes out of the tailpipe....
    Jonthecomposer
    @Fender Dane Thanks. @540_guitar No worries. ANY musician can be a diva if they want to be. Funny you mentioned that, though. The last band I was in had BOTH "king of the world" singer and "irritating" guitarist. lol
    540_guitar
    @Jonthecomposer Yeah its typical. Im a guitarist myself and I simply hate the most common way other guitarist act. They know very few theory stuff, dont really know the notes on the guitar so youre always down to "5th string 9th fret....no not that the other one"...yet when you stop playing they start with some cover like Nothing Else Matters etc. just few bars over and over...the singers dont do this as the once Ive met were to lazy to learn some lyrics...these things just open a knife in my pocket if you know what I mean :-D
    mrddrm
    Hahaha, this style was very reminiscent of Top Gear when they talk about the Stig. It made me laugh, though I felt it was less informed compared to the other articles you've written.
    Axe_Burner
    "A singer's range, just as his IQ, may be limited" That's totally my old singer. I let him talk me into forming a band with him and only then realized the guy couldn't write lyrics to save his life, sing his way out of a paper bag, or avoid making an ass of himself in public. Live and learn, and audition people first the next time!
    SFosterS
    I really enjoyed all these articles you wrote... just starting to do covers with friends for the first time (yes im an excited noob lol) I found these funny and informative, playing keys and guitar with no bass player I think I see why I seem inclined to stay so low on the organ end and leave the piano in the highs... lots for me to think about.. Thanks man!
    HendrixClaptonP
    Very good! I would also add though that as annoying and frustrating as mnay sionges can be, it is important for the band to remember not to over=power the singer, or particularly in the case of guitarists not to play lead under the singing (unless its in the song), we hate singers cutting accross our parts, so don't cut across theres! Also singers should pick songs that suit ther voice and that they can sing, not ONES the LIKE! Just cause they like it don't mean they can sing it. Finally in my opinion a good singer needs to study how to read a crowd, direct a band, and how to FRONT A BAND, stagecraft is their job really as much as vocals are.
    theogonia777
    joeythedrummer wrote: Definitely the most entertaining of the series! Great job, dude!
    couldn't have said it better. and i got mentioned it didn't seem like you were too serious about this one, but from experience this is fairly accurate. one thing you didn't mention though was that singers hate when you play long instrumental passages.
    TacoSaladMan
    Awesome articles!!! Every one of these is just gold, and this is the best one yet for sure. Great job man.
    The Kush
    As a singer, I enjoyed this article (and all the other ones) thoroughly.
    JohnnyApplecore
    Valid points in all of these articles. A lot seem to be common sense, but not too many people have that... Very well done, sir.
    PureMagic
    yeah it was alright...but really, I still haven't met a singer that's been a complete jackass,maybe because all the bands around me are formed by my friends,or people I know...and I'm definitely not a jackass,if you thought I blended in and become one...Anyway,here I have something to add.A singer doesn't run a marathon on stage,in fact of all the bands I've seen I could tell most singers barely move rather than own the stage.I see that most of you are disgusted even by the term singer.A singer is not "the boss" in the band,he should contribute with his own instrument,his voice,just as the guitarist,drummer and hell,everyone playing an instrument in the band.And whoever has the most musical experience should give advice,but not tell everyone what to do in the band.And as HendrixClaptonP said,many singers should pick songs that suit the voice,otherwise the singing will turn into a cacophony that can make your ears bleed.And finally,why is it always I hear that singers get pissed off easily...damn,if I play a show and my singer bumps into me,while I play a solo and I mess something up,I'm gonna be the one that's pissed off.
    von gelb
    About # 8: If you're a good band, listen to what your singer can do and choose the right key. Most of our songs are played in the key the singer can do best.
    TheDissident
    This gives me a serious urge to go out and buy a lottery ticket.... I haven't gotten near a good singer, maybe my luck's looking up. another solid article sir
    The Clansman2
    LMAO Wow, I'm a singer myself, but I don't really qualify for this lol But this does work for many singers these days ;P Just to say, I sing good with a wide range in high and low notes, I can go through rasp and none without a problem, etc. And for IQ, I'm in high school, but I'm already taking a class for my english university credit lol
    KlinikaNekros
    @Danjo's Guitar I've had the same in all the singers I went through,except the one I im with now.She's awesome. I remember the lyrics from any song I know on guitar by heart and I usually just do backing vocals.That while I also have to remember the lead parts. I just find it weird that most of the singers I've met can't remember lyrics,not even from their favorite songs.
    HendrixClaptonP
    PureMagic wrote: yeah it was alright...but really, I still haven't met a singer that's been a complete jackass,maybe because all the bands around me are formed by my friends,or people I know...and I'm definitely not a jackass,if you thought I blended in and become one...Anyway,here I have something to add.A singer doesn't run a marathon on stage,in fact of all the bands I've seen I could tell most singers barely move rather than own the stage.I see that most of you are disgusted even by the term singer.A singer is not "the boss" in the band,he should contribute with his own instrument,his voice,just as the guitarist,drummer and hell,everyone playing an instrument in the band.And whoever has the most musical experience should give advice,but not tell everyone what to do in the band.And as HendrixClaptonP said,many singers should pick songs that suit the voice,otherwise the singing will turn into a cacophony that can make your ears bleed.And finally,why is it always I hear that singers get pissed off easily...damn,if I play a show and my singer bumps into me,while I play a solo and I mess something up,I'm gonna be the one that's pissed off.
    I think you hasve been lucky, some singers are great to work with, many can be difficult,or simply in-considerae, e.g. not thinking about the band or the song, and assuming that because they can sing a jazz melody with 10 chord changes and 3 key changes a band should pick it up by eare with no charts at a jam night lol. I agree with you though, singers make an important contribution, one that needs to be respected, but i think many of us have had to work with singersd who are difficutl, egotistical or self centred, and it has coloured our views! Great commment though!
    Danjo's Guitar
    Haha, great article. I would definitely agree with all of these, except number 3. If our singer moved at all, I would be extremely surprised and happy. He has been known to hide behind the mic stand, and at most he's taken maybe one step during our three or four song sets. He is the weak link in our band on stage, and while rehearsing, as he has learned 4 of our songs in an entire year of practice. (And I helped him with lyrics, a lot.) And we are definitely faced with the problem from number 5, there are no good singers in this town, so we just have to put up with what we can get.
    Jonthecomposer
    LOL. I warned you! Thanks, guys. Most of what you said is EXACTLY what I was going for. And I tried to make it a bit different to keep things interesting. @PureMagic Great points. And I agree with them for the most part. Just for the record, I DON'T think most singers are complete jackasses. Nor do a lot of singers run marathons when singing. These were just things to bolster the humor. @von gelb Yes. My point exactly