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Monday, March 30, 2009

Using A Vocal Harmonizer

Over the last few years, a number of companies have come out with products that produce vocal harmonies and they are all quite amazing.

A vocal harmonizer uses complex technology to read both your voice and your guitar to produce 'spot on' harmonies. One, two, three, or more harmony parts can be achieved.

I've use them and I've watched other performers using them. If used to enhance key parts of a song, say the chorus, audiences are quite impressed.

Like any technical 'gadget,' a vocal harmonizer should be used with restraint. Over-use will result in your performance slipping into the 'cheesy' category, and we don't want that, do we?

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Use A 'Looper' To Gain An 'Edge'

Most major metro areas are overrun with talented solo performers. These musicians often compete for a limited number of paid gigs. Finding a way to gain and 'edge' on the competition is always a challenge.

Whenever I observe a performer using a 'looper,' I notice that the audience seems to be more engaged than normal.

If you haven't looked into the possibilities that a 'looper' presents, you should. It enables you to record guitar/vocals 'on the fly,' and then play over top of the recorded 'loop' during a live-performance.

The most practical uses are to record rhythm for a couple of bars and then play lead over it, and to record percussion that you can then play over.

The 'looper' is technology that can give you the 'edge' over your competition.

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Dump the 'Lead Breaks'

A wise musician pointed out to me that when performing solo, I should, "leave out the lead breaks." I said, 'but, that's how they do it on the record.' To which he replied, 'No, on the record they have a screaming electric lead over the acoustic guitar.' Viva la difference!

Today's audiences have the attention span of a gnat. Don't give them an excuse to drift off and turn their attention away from your performance.

By leaving out the lead break, you'll be able to shorten the song, thus creating more space for additional tunes at the gig.

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Start With A Cover

When you're playing a gig, it's very important to draw the listeners attention to you. Most of today's venues are loaded with distractions, like TVs and video games, that interfere with your performance.

One way to gain the ear of the audience is to open with a cover song..

It's important that the song be mainstream and popular. Don't pick an obscure cover from an unknown band, just because you like it. The purpose of the song is to get the audience to identify with a familiar tune and, hopefully, sing along.

In my experience, once I've got them listening, I can then launch into my original songs. I like to drop in a few more covers throughout the set, just to please the masses.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Mardi Gras Beads

On a recent trip to the French Quarter in the 'Big Easy,' I was reminded of a cool idea my friend, Scott Humphries, told me years ago.

Scott was a successful DJ and he hosted pool parties in conjuction with a local radio station in Charlotte.

Scott told me, 'I buy Mardi Gras beads in bulk. I hand them out for free at the shows. It puts everyone in a festive mood.'

Well, now you too can benefit from Scott's 'great idea.' Toss a bunch of beads out at your next gig and see if it doesn't 'electrify' the crowd.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

"Invite A Friend"

If you've got talented friends, invite them to your gigs. Ask them to 'sit-it' and perform a few songs with you.

They'll be more likely to attend your gig, and they will most likely bring people with them.

Doing this simple thing has many benefits, such as:
  • More people in the audience
  • Introducing someone from the crowd creates a sense of excitement
  • Strengthens bonds with your friends

I rarely perform an entire gig without at least one friend joining me on stage.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Winning Over The Staff

You've sold the management team and you've got your self a gig. With all that you've got to think about, preparation, promotion, execution, etc., it's easy to overlook one very important item, 'winning over the staff.'

Getting the staff to like you is critical if you want to play a venue on an ongoing basis. Management relys heavily on the staff's opinion when deciding whether or not to have a performer return. In many cases, if the staff likes you, you're in. If they don't, you're out.

Here's a few pointers on how to 'win over the staff.'
  • Write down the names of the bartenders and waitstaff
  • At the end of each set, acknowledge the tremendous efforts that the staff has made to insure everyone's well-being
  • Politely ask the crowd to 'take care' of the staff as they close-out their tabs

'Winning over the staff' has paid dividends to me for years.

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