PERFORMANCE PET PEEVES – 2008 - 2012
These are some of the things that I see constantly in shows and at Open Mics. While no show or performers will be named, I offer these observations for growth purposes. Sometimes shows teach us what NOT to do!
- I saw a show this week where the person was singing a quiet ballad and somewhere in the middle they burst into these huge notes, which was extremely jarring. If you have indicated to the Tech Director that you are doing a quite ballad, they set your levels for that feel. If you indicate a “power ballad”, they know to set the levels for that. However, in the middle of the show, if you just blast these notes and surprise them, it’s not their fault. They “ride the board” from their Tech Sheets so if you did not do this in your tech rehearsal or tell them you were going to do this, it is totally your fault. Feel the urge to blow out a note? Just push back from the mic a bit...simple!
- When you are doing a show with a partner, when it’s their time to sing, stay attentive in their performance. It’s really rude to look at the audience and wink and wave. You need to be present.
- I have decided that one day I will write a song called, “When Scat Happens to Nice People”... ’nuff said!
- I will KEEP saying this until those of you who do this hear it…singing BIGGER is not necessarily BETTER! A mic amplifies your voice. If you are going to sing big and want to show off your loudness, sing off mic…have at it…it’s painful in a small room on mic. I saw two shows over the past two weeks where the singers were FANTASTIC but some audience members literally had their fingers in their ears to buffer the sound.
- When you dress like a star, you look and then feel like a star! Run a comb through your hair, wear lipstick (gals) and tuck in your shirt (gents)! This is all part of your job and creates an image.
- Test your song out at open mics or rehearsals to make sure that you have all the notes. Gals in my age bracket have to start considering lowering their keys on the songs they have been singing for 20 years because it’s just what you need to do ladies. Guys, the big tenor notes that crack in the same spot each time, need to be “heard” by YOU…it’s time.
- You do not have to put every single song you know into your show. There will be other shows! Also, when claiming a tune to be a "signature tune", this again does not mean that the same song must be sung in every single show that you do. AND do not put more than one or two songs max (preferably none) from your last show into your current show. Let the old show go...move on.
- To anyone who writes or reviews, I respectfully ask as a songwriter that when referring to the work that both the lyrist and the composer be mentioned. If you only like the words or the music say so but when praising or panning, it's the team, not just the lyrist or the singer.!” Read on folks!
- On overstaying your welcome...a Cabaret show, no matter how good, should be 50-60 minutes inclusive of your fake encore, unless the club requires you to do a longer show. Some ask for 1:10-1:15 show and bigger names/stars are afforded longer shows. But, when people start looking at their watches, squirming in their chairs or need to hit the restroom twice during your show, this is not a good thing. Back to the concept of less is more and more is sometimes just more…keep them wanting more or you’re just singing AT them and not TO them.
- On fake encores…do the whole go off and come back on thing or don’t, BUT do not apologize if you choose to do it. I really get annoyed when a person comes back up on stage blaming it on the audience saying, “You knew I was coming back up!” or “It’s a Cabaret “law” that you have to do the encore thing.” No, I didn’t and no, it’s not! A real encore is no extra song on the piano and pulling one out of your…er…hat, yeah hat, because the audience refuses to stop clapping. I have been seeing Cabaret shows for 20 years and I have only witnessed 2 – count ‘em 2 – real encores and they were both for bigger names singers! Barbara Cook was one of them and she sang something a capella and off mic. I can promise you that the sweetest moment you will have on stage is being asked back for a real encore so wait for it but be ready to pull a tune out of your…hat! If you do the on/off thing, good for you (no judgment) but just come up, bow and sing…NO DISCLAIMER PLEASE!
- On a solution to the above?... If you do 15 tunes in a show (about 55-60 minutes with some chat), at song 13 say your thank you’s and announce that you have 2 songs left. At the end of song 14 (your 11:00 number) have the Tech person say your name, bow, acknowledge the band and then stay there and do your last tune.
- Another issue with overstaying your welcome - think of the act that is appearing after you. You’re up at 7 and they’re up at 9:30. You stay on stage until 8:20. The room takes 20-30 minutes to clear and clean. We’re now at 8:45. The 2nd act was to be sound checking from 8:30-9:00 because doors were supposed to open at 9:00. The 2nd act either now has to rush through their sound check so that they do not keep their audience waiting in the hall or lobby or, if they need a full sound check, their show is only going up at about 10:00. Are you out of the dressing room in time for them to get ready? Probably not because you’re smoozing with your guests as they leave. Let’s all just strive to treat people the way we would like to be treated if WE were the 2nd show. Keep those dressing rooms clean too please. (Yes, mom!)
• One person at an Open Mic had such a tremendous R&B voice but they had no mic technique and literally blasted us out of the room. Sometimes loud is just loud. You have a great, big voice but I could not hear you!
• Going along with the “less can be more idea”, sometimes when it comes to creating an arrangement, ALL of your great ideas and harmonies do not have to make it on to the page. Riffing until you cough up a lung or repeating the same melodic theme over and over and over again requires restraint and editing! It’s like the great painter that adds that one last brush stroke and realizes he’s just ruined the painting.
• SHUT UP AND SING! – Particularly if you are doing a one song spot in an Open Mic situation…give us one or two lines to set up your song and let us hear your beautiful voice. ‘Nuff said.
• I saw a show where the singer was incredible, the voice fantastic, the band to die for and I walked out of the show and asked my friend, “Why did I hate that show so much? It was fantastic but I’m leaving feeling angry.” My friend turned to me and said, “Arrogance!” Confidence is great but when it crosses a line of alienating or seemingly being self-congratulatory on stage, it’s off-putting.
• Do you really need that extra instrument? Consider the size of the room and the size (or limitations) of your voice and know that when a horn enters in and makes the audience jump, it’s not a good thing.
• Faux patter exchanges with your Musical Director when you are funny and enough as you are becomes a detriment to the overall show.