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IAMA Finalist Jeff Gutt becomes new lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots

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by Jessica Brandon

Jeff Gutt, a finalist at the 9th Annual IAMA was a runner-up on X-Factor USA. He has just been confirmed as the new lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots

Jeff Gutt, a finalist at the 9th Annual IAMA was a runner-up on X-Factor USA. He has just been confirmed as the new lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots

The IAMA finalist has just made headlines to debut as the veteran rock group’s front man.

Jeff Gutt, a finalist at the 9th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) was a runner-up on X-Factor USA. He has just been confirmed as the new lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots.

Filling the front man slot for Stone Temple Pilots in 2017 is a daunting task. The group, which scaled the heights of mega-rock stardom in the 1990s through the aughts, has seen its fair share of internal strife — particularly the firing of front man Scott Weiland in 2013 and replacing him with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington — turned public tragedy when the former passed away in Dec. 2015, less than a month after the latter returned to his flagship band.

Stone Temple Pilots is known worldwide when their song “Plush” hit #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks Charts in 1993 and became a world-wide household name to rock fans everywhere.

After searching for a new lead singer with an online audition process, the band faced more tragedy this past July when Bennington committed suicide, leaving the future of Pilots even more in question. It helps explain the air of secrecy surrounding Pilots’ return to the stage last night (Nov. 14) at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour, when surviving members Dean DeLeo (guitar), his brother Robert (bass/backing vocals) and Eric Kretz (drums) unveiled their new singer in front of a crowd of industry insiders and dedicated fans eager to see the addition to the iconic band. (Adding to exclusivity: the club forcing attendees to put their phones in locked bags for the entirety of the show, though cameramen were on hand to capture the debut.)

Stone Temple Pilots took the stage around 9:15 p.m., with each longtime member emerging one by one. The new singer made the final entrance, the crowd reacting with understandable remove: Jeff Gutt, best known for competing on seasons two and three of X Factor and a hearty rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” sauntered onto the legendary stage, seemingly aware that he might be unknown. With his formerly black swoop of hair styled into a spiky bleached coif, the Detroit native wore sunglasses and a nametag across his chest, branded “Hi, My Name is Jeff” that he removed a few songs in.

For the most part, banter was kept through a minimum throughout, even when fellow Detroit rocker Wayne Kramer of MC5 came out to shred an extended guitar solo on the group’s classic “Kick Out the Jams.” Tonight, Stone Temple Pilots let the music mostly speak for itself. It was a tour through their catalog, from hits like “Interstate Love Song” and “Plush” to “Vasoline” and “Down,” which opened the show. The only time the energy wavered throughout the hourlong set came when Gutt announced new Stone Temple Pilots single “Meadow,” meriting a lukewarm response that turned to intrigue once the band ripped into the attacking track.

Between songs, one concertgoer remarked, “It must be shitty to fill in not just for Scott’s shoes, but for Chester’s shoes, too.” That didn’t seem to be of concern to Gutt, who seemed fully aware of the pressures and appreciative of the opportunity, grinning throughout (and at one point singling out his son, who flew in from Detroit to watch his dad from the balcony). He inhabited the spirit of the singers that came before him, his powerful voice toggling between soft moan to powerful roar, his fluid dancing recalling Weiland’s serpentine movements. It was clear that inhabiting the role of Pilots’ front man wasn’t intended to detract from its legacy, but merely to add to it — nothing could fill the big shoes left empty, and he seemed respectful of that.

The rest of the band, meanwhile, lived up to the expectations they’ve set throughout the decades, as tight as any aging rock group with masterful command of their instruments. The notion that they’ve become something of a glorified tribute band to themselves didn’t seem to hold weight as the night came to a close — this new incarnation may have deep roots, but it certainly felt fresh.

For those who couldn’t make the show, the concert is set to air on Friday (Nov. 17) at 5 p.m. ET on Sirius XM’s Howard 101 and Lithium channels.

(Source: Billboard Magazine)

IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) has discovered entrants for the past 14 years that have gone on to get signed and hit the Bllboard Charts. Its past winners include: Meghan Trainor, whose debut single hit #1 on the Billboard Charts and sold over 15 million copies worldwide, her debut album debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts and she won a Grammy for Best New Artist. For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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Musician Expert Advice: How Performance Calamities Can Help You Shine

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Musician Expert Advice: How Performance Calamities Can Help You Shine

by Teri Danz

How Performance Calamities Can Help A Musician Shine

How performance calamities can help a Musician shine

Every performer faces challenges, but it is how you deal with them that make the difference. From an audience perspective, performing can look easy when you’re skilled at it. What they don’t see is what every performer knows, and that is, it’s not. It takes practice, patience, training and experience to “look” like it is effortless (or for it to truly “be” effortless). Plus, a great performer develops a “can do” professional attitude to make the best of any situation and make it work in the moment.

Here are some tips that will help you make some sweet “lemonade” from any sour occurrence during a performance.

  1. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. Many performers and bands have a difficult

time (and consequently a bad attitude) if the venue isn’t full, the sound isn’t great, etc. Your audience, no matter how big or small (even if it’s just the bar staff), wants to be engaged and like you. Pretend you’re in a huge arena (it’s good practice) and give them a reason to root for you.

  1. If you’re the front person/lead singer, you set the tone. The front person’s main job is to engage the audience (unless you’re Oasis’ Liam Gallagher—but that’s another story), communicate the song and command the stage. Of course, there are many more tasks (like sing well or dance!), but the band takes its cues from the lead singer in terms of energy and handling situations that arise. Hint: Don’t ever criticize or admonish your audience or audience members. This can go south quickly. It is better to ask someone ahead of time, like the club or a manager, to handle rude behavior or loud talking, etc.
  1. Be in the moment. Remember that music, in general, and singing, in particular, are “right now” propositions. Being present in the moment is key to making “lemonade” from challenging, difficult and embarrassing situations.
  1. Not perfect, but genuine and real. Audiences want to see you—not you as “perfect”—but you as an artist they can relate to. How you get to a moving performance is by letting go of having to be great and perfect. This means that your training, technique and experience holds you through it and allows you to take your performance to the highest level.
  1. Stay in the song. The song is your emotional context—especially for singers. If you are truly in the song, that is your focus. Interruptions, technical difficulties, band difficulties, audience activities (coming in—going out) handled well are a passing thing. Handled badly, it only makes things worse. You are there to give your best performance, and the key to that is in the song. It is in that context only that the artist truly shines.
  1. Transform the moment. I saw U2 perform at the Oakland Coliseum back during their Joshua Tree tour, and I was sitting way in the back. I remember something happened to The Edge’s guitar, but Bono and the band never stopped. In fact, Bono engaged the audience by asking them to sing with him. The entire place rang with their voices. So huge, in fact, it became an experience (not just a performance). By accepting what happened and responding by embracing the audience, Bono and the band created something magical. In that moment, I knew I wanted to do that—move people through music.
  1. Embrace the audience as your friend. Talk in-between songs and introduce yourself to them. Be open and share your experience. If a mishap occurs—you trip or knock something over on stage, your guitarist breaks a string, etc.—it’s okay to motion or talk to the audience, crack a joke and so on. The audience is not your enemy.
  1. Go with the flow. This means take the whole experience as it comes. Here’s an example. My band once played a club that was having major technical difficulties as we arrived. We, and all the other acts, were delayed, having to wait for them to get it working and hope that the audience would wait, too. When we finally started setting up, our bassist told me that he needed to leave due to another gig. Talk about a curve ball! Playing without a bass player is not what I had envisioned and had no clue how to handle. I could have fought with him, insisted he stay or refused to pay him—but I didn’t. I thought, “Okay, if that’s the way we need to perform, so be it; we’ll make it work!” I offered to pay him and let him go. Remarkably, he decided to stay, and the set went great. Lemonade!
  1. Be professional and respectful. A professional attitude can make the difference between a huge scene and a small adjustment.  It’s okay to stand your ground on some things, if it makes a difference in your performance, but make sure you are calm and professional.
  1. See performing as an adventure. Performing is a choice and a gift. It always changes. With challenges come big rewards, if you can meet them with an open attitude. For inspiration, think of Prince’s performance in the pouring rain at the Super Bowl. He defied the “lemons,” rose to the occasion, and gave the performance of his life!

[Permission Reprint by Music Connection magazine]

TERI DANZ, Ed.M., is “America’s Vocal Coach” and a club hit recording artist. She specializes in pop vocal technique, performance coaching and vocal producing; with a focus on vocal resonance and technique, range and presentation. Named one of the Top Vocal Coaches in Backstage magazine (6-25-15), Danz was also a Backstage 2014 Reader’s Choice Finalist. Her writings include the book, Vocal Essentials For The Pop Singer: Take Your Singing from Good to Great (Hal Leonard Inc.), and articles for Electronic Musician,Music Connection, EQ, Roland and Boss Users Group Magazines, Guitar Player and many more. Danz also publishes The Singer’s Newsletter (free to subscribers) with monthly tips and sponsors, Casio, Sennheiser and The Modern Vocalist World. An accom- plished singer/songwriter, her act has PRO Endorsements by Sennheiser and Graph Tech. See teridanz.com.

For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

 

 

 

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How a Vocal Producer Can Spark Your Next Recording

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By Jeannie Deva

Warren Hunt, Producer; Rena Lovelis, Singer; Jeannie Deva, Vocal Producer in a recording studio

Warren Hunt, Producer; Rena Lovelis, Singer; Jeannie Deva, Vocal Producer in a recording studio

When I mention “record producer” or “recording engineer” to just about anyone in the music business, I usually get an understanding nod. If, however, I say “vocal producer,” more often than not, I see looks of uncertainty about who that is and what they do.

What is it about the vocals that would necessitate a vocal producer? A guitarist doesn’t need a guitar producer, so what about the vocals is different? 

Starting in the mid 1980’s, my involvement with producing recorded vocals began as a response to singers coming to me complaining of difficulties in the studio. They were blowing-out and not giving the performance their producer was trying to get from them and recording sessions were arduously dragging on well beyond projected budgets. Over the years my involvement advanced into a more encompassing role––that of vocal producer. 

In this article I’ll share with you tips and advice from my own experience working with singers in the studio as well as those of several of my colleagues who are Multiplatinum, Grammy-winning engineers, producers and A&R reps. In the end I hope you will gain an understanding of how a vocal producer might help you record hit songs and when it would be appropriate to involve one in your project.  

Let’s start from the beginning. What’s so special about the vocals? What is it about studio singing that would require a specialist? 

Vocals Sell the Song
“It’s the singer, not the song,” sang Mick Jagger way back when. Well, okay––the song DOES matter, but I think you get the point: The singer is the focal point of any recording. No matter how great the rest of your band, the audience usually recognizes you by the sound of your singer.

On your recording, the sound, style, personality and performance of the vocal must be of utmost quality. If so, it will capture attention and interest, building your audience and making hit songs possible for you. In fact, if the singer really knows his/her craft and the recording captures it properly, it’s even possible to transform a “ho-hum” song into something fresh and memorable: such is the potential of an expressive, musical and passionate singer

Studio Singing
Singing in the studio is an art unto itself. As anyone who has both live stage performance and recording experience knows, studio vocal recording is vastly different. To start with, the voice is an acoustic instrument. It is “played” based on how the singer hears herself. There’s a sonic loop between ears and mind that is intuitively used by the singer to monitor the muscle actions of their voice. The many components involved in studio recording can and will influence not only how you sing––affecting your vocal performance—but how you end up sounding on playback. In addition, the choices of gear and various “tricks of the trade,” can greatly influence the sound quality of the vocal recording.

Singer or Setup?
Sometimes the singer is just not ready to go into the studio and lay down an amazing vocal performance; they need more pre-production on the songs and possibly more vocal technique and exercise to develop their voice and sing more freely. But just as often, during my years of coaching and producing singers in studios around the world, I’ve witnessed many producers and engineers who thought the singer was subpar when the actual source of the difficulty was poor choice of gear and inappropriate studio set-up.

In one of the first recording sessions I was brought into, the vocalist was having a great deal of difficulty singing the high notes on pitch and without strain. The producer kept whispering to me that the singer had a big pitch problem. After a few takes that were pretty bad, I went into the vocal booth, put on the headphones and asked for the track to begin playing. As I tried singing into the mic, I found that the EQ cut off the treble part of the sound spectrum. This made singing the higher notes impossible! I directed a change in the headphone EQ so as to “open” the treble and instantly the singer had no pitch problems.

The Two Sides of Vocal Recording
There are two sides to vocal recording: the singer’s performance and the technical production. The choice of recording gear and technical set-up joins the two sides together. If you add musical arrangement, instrumentation and post-production that are all conceived to support the singer and the song message––voilà! You have a final result that can be truly exciting.

To help the singer capture the most outstanding vocal performance possible, each element of the vocal signal chain or pathway must be uniquely chosen and matched to the specific attributes of the singer. This signal path typically includes: type of mic and headphones, type of preamp and setting, make and model of compressor (some are smoother and less obtrusive than others), the EQ, the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, a type of recording software such as Logic or Pro Tools). Even the type of cables, such as those made by Blue or Monster, can make a difference in the sound.

Prior to entering the studio, singers have enough to deal with just practicing and developing their song performances without also having to get trained in the technology of vocal recording and studio gear. And once in the studio, the undistracted focus should be on their singular role and achievement of vocal performance. So, who ya gonna call?

Enter the Vocal Producer–The Recording Artist’s Secret Weapon
A good vocal producer knows the difference between a great vocal performance—one that truly sells the song—versus one that could be better and specifically how it could be better so as to help the singer make it great. Understanding rhythm, phrasing, harmony, note choice and music structure would be part of this skill. By the time the session is over, the vocal producer makes sure there is enough selection of performance takes to create the perfect vocal compilation in the editing and mixing. Toward the end, while the session is underway, every second of each vocal pass is accounted for by the vocal producer ensuring everything will add up to a stunning vocal performance.

To achieve trust and maintain teamwork with the singer, a vocal producer needs good communication skills and has to know how to give constructive criticism and positive reinforcement that is honest. As the multi-Grammy-winning vocal producer Kuk Harrell says, “It’s never, ‘Man you screwed up.’ I can tell Jennifer [Lopez] she’s not singing it the right way without telling her that she’s not singing it the right way.”

In speaking with my colleagues, I’ve found that the description of the vocal producer’s role has variations. Some vocal producers also wear the hat of engineer concurrent with giving directions and guidance to the singer. But a vocal producer does not need to be an engineer.

Some producers simultaneously wear three hats: producer, engineer and vocal producer. However, especially with less experienced engineers/producers who don’t have training as a singer or vocal coach, I’ve observed that trying to do those jobs at the same time can compromise the production of the final vocal. And there are many vocal producers who, like me, prefer to focus all of our attention on the singer and so work in tandem with an engineer and the producer of the overall recording project.

Regardless of our differences, on one thing we all agree: A vocal producer is there to elicit the emotion, style, believability and best performance from the singer during studio recording.

The Importance of a Second Set of Ears
AGT finalist of 2013, singer and award-winning songwriter Deanna DellaCioppa knows both sides of studio vocal production. She has been the vocal producer for sessions with such notables as Sophia Grace (60 million YouTube views) and Paula Abdul. Deanna has extensive studio experience singing background vocals for artists such as Celine Dion and, most recently, multiple backing vocals for Justin Bieber’s song “Prayer.”

We can be our own worst critic,” she told me. “I do not enjoy vocal producing [my own performance] while I’m in the booth for this reason; having a second set of ears outside the booth helps tremendously. As the singer I only want to focus on giving a solid, emotion-filled vocal. I do not want to focus on keeping track of which takes were best, what harmony I should use or the overall vocal arrangement.”

Khaliq Glover (aka Khaliq-O-Vision), producer, Grammy-winning engineer (Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Prince) and mixing specialist shared this with me: “Making a record that communicates and connects with an audience that can’t see you face-to-face is a skill that takes time to develop and it usually needs external guidance. You have to nail a combination of feeling, being on pitch, being on rhythm, having dynamics, having great tone and breathing in the right place. That’s a lot, and it can mess with your head unless you have somebody who can help you keep your eye on the prize and not let you get down on yourself.

The vocal producer,” he continues, “is there to guide and extract the performance from the singer, which also includes the quality of their voice during various sections of the song. Understanding the difference can go a long way towards capturing an awesome performance. Connection to the lyrics is probably the biggest key to a great performance and a great vocal producer will always make sure that the singer is actually feeling what they are singing so that the emotion comes through.”

The Session Vocal Coach
If the producer is not also an experienced session singer or trained voice teacher, as I am, involving a vocal coach in your recording sessions could be a wise move. I’ve heard any number of faulty directions given to singers by producers that include what to do physically to get a certain vocal sound. As the producer was not a trained voice teacher or coach, many of these directions were in fact making singing more difficult.

A vocal coach who knows how the voice works and is armed with techniques to help the singer use their voice freely without blow-out can make a huge difference in the studio. While a vocal producer will give directions pertaining to performance and style, the vocal coach helps the singer know how to do that. I recently worked on a project at Capitol Records with Warren Huart (Multiplatinum producer/vocal producer, mixer, engineer and A&R consultant for Capitol Records) and this is what he had to say: “The best vocal coaches I have worked with have helped to put the artist at ease and warm up their voice without straining them. If an artist has already established a long-term successful relationship with a vocal coach, it can be a great benefit to have them present, especially at the start of a vocal session.”

A session vocal coach or a vocal producer who is additionally a vocal technique expert will be able to help the singer nail the performance while assisting the singer to troubleshoot any vocal or equipment problems that would hinder a free and expressive vocal performance.

Here’s a story to illustrate: Recently a singer studying voice technique with me arrived complaining about a recording session she’d had the previous night. The producer was trying to get her to sing the pre-choruses in a breathy voice but kept telling her that in doing so, her volume was too low. To remedy the lower volume, he told her to “push” her voice out while singing breathy.

The result was that her voice soon blew out, they didn’t get what he wanted for the pre-chorus and in her lesson the next day I had to rehabilitate her voice. Breathy singing is a subdued sound and it cannot be done loudly without straining the voice. If I had been present in the studio, I would have tracked the breathy pre-choruses separately from the rest of the song so that the recording levels could be raised. In the lesson I showed her how to cup her mouth with her hands so that her breathy sound would be amplified by the microphone. Using that technique in the next day’s session, she gave her producer the sound and feel he was looking for without having to “push” and blow out her voice.

In the Studio
• Set-up: The first thing your vocal producer will do together with the engineer is set up the session. Determining the correct match of mic for you can take about 20 minutes of trying out several to determine the one that brings out the best in your voice. When multiple songs are part of the project, the same mic will normally be used for continuity of sound throughout the album or EP. Once the mic has been matched and the headphone mix is comfortable for you to sing easily, the actual session starts.

Coordinate with the Producer: It is important that everyone is on the same page. “You must all have the same vision for the song,” says Deanna DellaCioppa. “If you (producer, vocal producer and singer/rapper) do not share the same vision for the end result, this is a huge problem. The producer generally has final say over the final product, so it is the vocal producer’s job to be sure that is captured from the singer.”

Go for Performance: The entire focus of the singer should be on the performance, not on technique. Any vocal “glitches” can always be fixed in one of three ways: 1. Digital editing such as using auto tuner software. 2. A compilation track for the lead vocal created later (selecting the best sections of different “takes”) 3. ”Punching” (to re-record that phrase or section).

Full Takes or Sections?: As many of us do, Warren Huart decides on his session approach based on the singer and the song: “Some singers can perform songs best in single, full takes. Some songs and/or singers require recording the song in sections. You have to be open to trying different things to find the best approach for the situation and not just using one methodology.”  As I mentioned earlier, when a song has big contrasts in volume, I prefer to record them separately. This allows the engineer to set the input volume correctly for each section so that the singer can use the appropriately contrasting vocal approaches

The Final Track: Once the vocal producer is certain that several choices of great performances have been tracked for each part of the song, the singer’s job is done and the editing and compilation begins. The ears and objectivity of a good vocal producer are invaluable in searching through all the vocal takes just recorded, fixing notes as needed and piecing together sections to make up the final track.

Last Steps: With the vocal compilation track completed, mixing and then mastering are the important final steps. As long as the tracking has been done right, you’ll have all the ingredients needed for your mixing engineer and producer to create the magic. But that’s a subject for another day.

Who Uses Vocal Producers?
Kuk Harrell is the vocal producer for artists such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez. Warren Huart has vocal produced artists such as: Isaac Slade (the Fray), James Blunt, Marc Broussard, Tori Kelly and Ace Frehley (formerly of Kiss). But you don’t have to be an artist signed to a record label to use a vocal producer. It depends upon whether you want to achieve a level of quality that a record label would consider good enough to represent, distribute and broadcast.

Aubrey Whitfield, a British producer, mix engineer and founder of London-based indie label 2ube Records, explains something I’ve heard echoed by other labels: “If you approach me and you have a release-ready record that doesn’t need re-recording, then that’s going to catch my attention. Why? …. We won’t have to re-record you. So think smartly and produce something that competes with current Top 40 releases and you’ll be halfway there.”

For lesser budget projects still striving to have the edge of radio-ready songs, you might consider tracking your instruments in your home or project studio. Then track your vocals with a vocal producer in a pro-studio and complete the recording with a mixing/mastering specialist.

The Business of Hiring
Vocal producers and session vocal coaches are hired in any number of different ways. They are hired by artists, labels, managers and even publishers to work by the hour, at a flat rate per song or for the entire project. “Every project is different; there is no [standard] cost,” Warren Huart shared with me. “Also, I generally receive points on album sales. Points fluctuate depending on whether you are working on just the vocal or the whole track plus the vocals.”

Producer points are a percentage of royalties received for working on a commercially sold album. A point would be equal to one percent of the retail or wholesale price of an album. One or two points would be typical, but superstar producers such as Kuk Harrell can demand higher percentages. Indeed, a 2012 New York Times article included: “Having the certainty of Mr. Harrell’s ear comes with a price: several thousand dollars per song and, more significant, a cut of the royalties.”

Since production can also get into co-writing, arranging, etc. and this goes beyond points and enters into publishing rights, anything can be negotiated into a contract. Just make sure you enlist a qualified entertainment attorney if contracts are involved.

(Article reprinted by permission of Music Connection Magazine)

About the Author

JEANNIE DEVA is a Grammy member, the originator of The Deva Method®, Complete Voice Technique for Stage and Studio™, a published author, a graduate in composition and arranging from Berklee College of Music and a recording studio vocal producer/vocal coach endorsed by engineers and producers of, among others, Aerosmith, Elton John, Bette Midler, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. Based in Los Angeles, she also coaches online worldwide and travels on location. For info: JeannieDeva.com, @JeannieDeva

For More information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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13 Tips: How to Prepare for a Live Vocal Performance

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How to Prepare for a Live Vocal Performance

13 Tips from Celebrity Voice and Performance Coach, Jeannie Deva

 

 

12 Tips: How to Prepare for a Live Vocal Performance

Tips: How to Prepare for a Live Vocal Performance

An impressive performance appears effortless to the degree that the artist has put effort into the preparation of every detail.

 

It is a given that you’ll learn your songs musically and lyrically before you perform them, but don’t neglect to practice the performance of your show.

 

A show is a multi-media presentation. How it is performed should include visual and other sensory perceptions for your audience.

 

As a project voice and performance coach I’ve helped an array of talent, from rising stars to Grammy winning recording artists, prepare for live shows and studio recordings. The following 13 tips are essential guidelines for your impressive performance preparation checklist.

 

Plan Your Performance Set List

 

1) Know your venue: Creating a set list for a small intimate coffee house requires different planning than for a stadium concert. The dynamics and energy potential is vastly different between the two. Before you create your set list find out as much as you can about the venue and its vibe.

 

2) Know your set length: Clock the playing time of each of your songs. Then determine how many songs you can play within the required set length. Factor in additional time for up to one minute of applause between each song, any dialogue with the audience, stage adjustments or instrument changes and any other segues. It’s a bit of a mathematical estimation that improves as you get more experience doing it. Also plan an extra song or two for encores or just in case they ask you to play longer.

 

3) Know any equipment and size limitations of the venue: You may have been booked to perform in clubs with a different electrical voltage than your equipment or other types of unforeseen limitations. A band I coached once mixed tracks from their iPad in with their live band sound. When they arrived to play one of the gigs on their tour, the venue was not equipped to connect iPad to the sound system. Needless to say, the stress and pressure of having to figure out what to play and how to play it made for an unpleasant evening for the band and unprofessional show for the audience. Make a list of your needs and check with your booking contacts so that you solve equipment and facility issues before you arrive at the venue.

 

4) Know your audience: Depending upon how many shows you have done and how long you have had fans, you hopefully will know what songs in your repertoire get the best responses. Plan to use your most popular songs as the emotional peaks of your set to create dynamic motion in your show. If you’re opening for another band, familiarize yourself with their music. Then design your set to both complement and contrast with their music in such a way as to possibly win over their fans. This is a great way to expand your fan base.

 

5) Determine your opening and ending numbers: Think of your opening and closing songs like bookends. A set should start with a song that grabs the attention of your audience and end with a song that either rouses or calms them to the energy level you want them to have when they leave the venue. Then arrange the rest of the set to navigate your audience through planned emotional transformations – from one bookend to another – based upon the tempo, key changes, subject matter and instrumentation of your songs.

 

 

12 Tips: How to Prepare for a Live Vocal Performance

Tips: How to Prepare for a Live Vocal Performance

6) Vary your vocal range: Even though your songs keys may be different, it’s common for a singer’s melodies to center in the strongest area of their vocal range. If this is true of your music, you may want to find a way of varying this with a song that brings the voice lower or higher or in some way gives the listener a sonic contrast which will help maintain their interest.

 

Practice the Performance of Your Set

 

7) Practice technical as well as performance skills: Attention to the technical aspects of a song is of course part of how you develop it. Improving any needed vocal technique to sing a song well is or course important, but so is honing performance skill.

 

Once you know a song begin singing it as though you were doing so in front of your audience. The more you practice as though singing to the audience the more your song will come to life. Often your phrasing and vocal tone will improve as will your emotional consistency when you practice singing to someone. This is because singing is communicating and that is done TO someone. Practicing as though you’re ON stage and singing TO people – your voice will naturally become more expressive. Doing this will influence your phrasing and tone because these are now aligned to their purpose of expressing something to someone. This kind of practice bridges the gap between rehearsal and performance.

 

8) Practice your set in set order: Once you’ve achieved comfort singing each song in your set, it’s important to rehearse in set order. While doing so look for and make adjustments as needed: Ensure you like the energy and emotional flow and sequence of your selected song order; explore your dynamics within each song and from one song to the next; decide between which songs that you’ll speak to your audience. If your set contains equipment changes and utilizes backup singers, group songs in such a way to ensure that any stage changes don’t dampen the momentum of your show.

 

9) Video your rehearsals: Use video to validate your improvement and highlight what needs more work. Analyze your practice videos objectively for the purpose of improving — not to beat yourself up. If something needs more technical attention such as singing higher notes on pitch or better phrasing, go back to working on these issues before further practicing the performance of the song.

 

10) Practice entrances and exits: Also practice how you’re going to walk on stage. At the end of the set, practice how you might walk off stage. Other things to consider: Are you going to have the band start playing and then enter? Are you going to exit while the band is still playing and then reappear for the final applause?

 

11) Practice band/ensemble staging and interaction: Performing is as much visual as it is audio. All aspects when aligned add to the magic and power of your show. This begins in the rehearsal room and then comes fully to life on stage.

 

12) Practice talking to your audience: There are times to talk and times to let your music do the talking for you. If you’re comfortable talking to audiences, I still suggest making decisions on where in your set you’ll do so and decide on a theme. Instead of leading in each song with “I wrote this song…” try saying a few lines about the theme of the next song and then go right into it. Remember, even if you’re expert at talking spontaneously to your audience, talking between numbers changes the energy of your show. If you want to maintain high energy, when you do speak, say less and play more.

 

13) Schedule low pressure gigs: If you’re starting out and want to become a professional level performer, consider booking some low pressure gigs to begin working on your presentation. Musicians rarely if ever make it to the big leagues without a lot of playing out. As you perform, you’ll raise your level of expertise, reinforce your strengths and discover those areas in which you need further development. Live performance keeps your rehearsals and personal practice focused on what really needs improvement. Remedy any shortcomings, get better, gig out again and step by step you’ll become a top professional.

 

Cheering you on to success!

Jeannie Deva

 

Jeannie Deva is a celebrity voice and performance coach, Grammy member, author and recording studio vocal specialist who has worked with and been endorsed by engineers and producers of Aerosmith, Elton John, Bette Midler, Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones. Seen on E! Entertainment and TV Guide Channels, Jeannie has been interviewed as a celebrity guest on talk shows in the US, Europe and Venezuela. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed “Contemporary Vocalist” series and “Deva Method Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs” CD and her eBook: “Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances.” Jeannie teaches privately in Los Angeles as well as online worldwide. For more information on services, products for singers and her popular singer’s blog, visit: www.JeannieDeva.com

For more information of the 11th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com/entry.html

 

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Judith Owen On The Ebb & Flow of Old-School Songwriting

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by Jon Regen

 

Judith Owen, hit songwriter

Judith Owen, hit songwriter

“It’s never been enough for me to just be a musician singing at the piano introducing my songs,” British singer-songwriter Judith Owen tells me via Skype from a tour stop overseas. “I always wanted to be an entertainer who was gifted at connecting with an audience. It’s taken me a long time to hone every possible aspect of my art. And on this record, everything just came together

 

That record is her latest release, “Ebb & Flow”, which finds the multi-faceted artist in the company of legendary sidemen like bassist Lee Sklar, drummer Russ Kunkel, and guitarist Waddy Wachtel. On a set of introspective originals and convincing covers (including the James Taylor classic “Hey Mister”) Owen proves she has honed her craft wisely. And while the album pays fitting tribute to forbears like Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Carole King, it auspiciously announces Owen’s arrival onto the A list of singers and songwriters everywhere.

 

Tell us about the genesis of your new album, which seems like a salute to the heyday of the singer-songwriter.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a massive fan of 1970s “American troubadour” music. That’s what I grew up listening to, and what my family played in the car on holiday trips. We’d all be singing along to songs by James Taylor and Carole King. It was a very influential time for me, listening to artists like Joni Mitchell and Elton John, who made music that was interior, emotional, and breathtakingly beautiful.

In 2012, I’d been living in Britain for a couple of years because my father had been terribly ill with cancer. After he died, I asked myself, “What is it that I want to do the most?” I wanted to do something special that celebrated his life, but also something that connected me to that kid in the car singing her lungs out to those songs. I thought of how I had spent years emulating the sound of those classic records, wanting to work with the musicians who played on them. So I said to myself, “Why don’t I just go out and ask them?” I set out to make the record I always wanted to make, because I was finally ready to make it.

 

Did you have all the songs written before heading into the studio?

Oh, I had everything. I’d been writing the whole time my father was ill. A couple of them came to me right after he died, that’s for sure. But I write all the time and I write about what I know. Within a couple months of him dying, I was in the studio in Los Angeles with these amazing musicians, trying some of the new songs out. And it was just remarkable. It was the most effortless, “hand in glove” musical experience I ever had in my life.

 

 

 

Hearing you in the company of Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, and Waddy Wachtel made me realize why the albums they played on sounded so good.

Exactly. These guys had a huge part in making those classic songs and records by James Taylor, Carole King, and countless other artists sound the way they did. Do not underestimate how much they contributed to them! So I went into the studio thinking, “Worst case scenario is, I tried.” I was prepared for that. But what actually happened is that their eyes lit up, because what they heard in my songs was the music they cut their teeth on years ago. It was music they’d grown up playing, and the kind of music they rarely get the chance to play anymore.

 

On “I Would Give Anything” the silence seems as important as the music itself. There’s a spot at the end of the chorus where a chord doesn’t resolve to the tonic. It just hangs on what sounds like a sus chord.

Right, there’s no resolution. It’s like the experience I talk about in the song itself. So it was a thrill to work with people who understand that not playing is part of the art, as opposed to filling up every single second. All of us who write know how precious silence is in music. It’s the jewel, and you don’t just fill it up for the sake of doing so. For me, it’s about putting emotional intelligence behind every note that you play.

 

Ebb & Flow sounds great production-wise, as well. How was it recorded?

I went so “old school” it was ridiculous. It was exciting, because these musicians hadn’t all been together in a studio for 15 to 20 years. I co-produced it along with David Z., who has done a lot of work with Prince. I wanted someone who wasn’t into bells and whistles—someone who recorded with flat EQ and didn’t want to work any “wizardry” on any of the tracks. We booked Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, where so many of those revered records were made. And we played together in the round—I would play a song for them and they’d all make little notations and ideas. Russ would be thinking about rhythms, Lee would be charting it out, and Waddy would be working out how to play inversions within each of my chords. All three of them were constantly thinking about making the song shine. So we’d go through each song, and then record it completely live in one or two takes.

 

Did you record to tape?

No, I didn’t, actually. I usually do record to tape. We messed around with it at Sunset Sound, but we ended up recording to Pro Tools. It sounds like it was recorded to tape because we mixed it with David Biancho, who’s another old-school kind of guy. He mixed the record through all of his analog gear. Then, Bernie Grundman mastered the record, and of course, he mastered every single album I grew up loving.

 

The only way you could be more period correct is if you offered the album on eight track tape!

Well, I can tell you that it’s now available on vinyl, and I’m thrilled about that. From the artwork that I did myself to the way the album was recorded, everything on this project was about being authentic and honoring that time, because it was the time I wished I’d been in.

 

What was it about covering James Taylor’s “Hey Mister” that intrigued you?

It’s funny. When I told Russ Kunkel, who played with James Taylor, that I wanted to cover one of Taylor’s songs, Russ immediately said, “It’s got to be ‘Hey Mister,’ because you know about depression.” That’s been my war, and the fight I had before I had to fight with the bloody music industry. It was a fight with myself. I’ve been as ill as a person can be with it, and that’s been my battle. I’m thrilled to say it’s no longer an ongoing battle. I came to America because I wanted to be well more than anything in this world. So here I am, after getting better over the years and doing a show on London’s west end about depression, and then I get to make this record with this amazing bunch of musicians. So when Russ told me I had to cover “Hey Mister,” it was because James wrote that song at the height of his success—but when he couldn’t feel a damned thing because he was so depressed. I rewrote it from the point of view of someone who isn’t depressed anymore and wants to live. So what you hear in it now is defiance and determination.

 

Who played Hammond organ on “Hey Mister”?

That’s Jeffrey Young. His playing is gorgeous, and he played organ on every single song except “About Love,” which features Chris Caswell.

 

What piano players were you listening to when you were coming up?

Early Elton John—God knows, that man dug in like no one else. The guys in my band tell me that when the heard Elton play with his trio at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, they said, “it sounded like a f***ing orchestra!” His playing is still humongous to this day.

 

What other piano players have inspired you over the years?

When I grew up, my Dad was an opera singer, but in our house jazz was king. So we were listening to Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, and Oscar Peterson. The piano to me was profound right from the get-go. But when I heard early Elton John, with all of his Americana influences like Leon Russell, I was knocked out. Then I heard Randy Newman with all the inversions he uses in his playing, and it was so good it broke my heart.

 

Do you plan to tour the album with this band?

It was hard to get all of them together for a tour, because Russ is out with Lyle Lovett and Waddy plays with Stevie Nicks. So many of the shows will be just Lee and myself, with some special guests. But that’s okay with me, because this whole project really came about because I got to do a show with Lee Sklar a while back. It was just the two of us, and it was spectacular. Playing my songs duo with Lee imparts a sense of intimacy that you just don’t get with a full band. The next time out, I’ll play with the full band.

 

What advice do you have for singers and songwriters who hope to have a career like yours?

It’s very hard to hear this when you’re young, but it’s the truth and something that’s encapsulated in my song “One in a Million,” which is, this is not a race. You can’t go through life comparing or judging yourself based upon how other people are doing. Sometimes life is hard and it isn’t always fair, and music is certainly one of the toughest industries you could ever be in. But if you get to do what you love most as your occupation in life, you are indeed the most fortunate human being in the world.

 

[Reprinted with permission by Keyboard magazine]

Judith Owen is a Welsh singer-songwriter. Her first North American album, Emotions on a Postcard, was released in 1996, and has since been followed by five additional releases. She is co-founder of Courgette Records with her husband, Harry Shearer, and her manager, Bambi Moe. Her 10th studio release, “Ebb & Flow”, evokes the spirit of the halcyon days of the great 1970s troubadours. This new opus, released on April 7, 2014 (UK) and May 6, 2014 (USA & Canada), features an amazing trio (became known as “The Section” in the 70’s): Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums and Waddy Wachtel on guitar. She is currently touring in U.S. with this first-class band.

For more information on the 11th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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