Singing at home in front of a mirror is a great way to gauge how you look and sound, but sooner or later you will need to decide what you want to do with your newfound ability and how best to utilize it.
Smoothing out the rough edges and gaining confidence in front of an audience only comes with experience, which is difficult to achieve when you are just starting out and don’t have any contacts but there are several options available depending on whether you are using backing tracks or work with live musicians.
“But I’ve been doing tons of that already!!” – Well Perhaps!, but unless you have easy access to a full P.A. and studio recording equipment, you will only have a general idea of how your act sounds.
Now is the time to spend a few quid and have a real structured rehearsal. Go through the whole set list in a place where you can use full amplification (vocal & electronic!) and record the result for review later.
Schools, colleges, community centres, halls and some churches, will allow you to use one of their halls for a small fee. Set up a P.A. & any backline see Equipment Requirements for instructions, and have your initial rehearsals. Alternatively, book into a specialised Rehearsal Studio.
Book a Rehearsal Studio
A good quality studio will have a full P.A. system with monitors and tape recording facilities included in the price as standard. Average costs range from £6.00 – £15.00+ per hour and you are usually expected to pre-book a minimum 3 or 4 hour slot. The staff should be experienced enough to show you how to work the equipment and ensure that it is working correctly prior to your arrival. Most places will also have backline equipment and drum kits for hire, with the occasional luxury of a chill-out room and drinks machine.
Practice at least six songs & record your efforts, just bung a tape in & leave it to run so you can relax and sing. Once you are comfortable with your short repertoire try performing them live at an open mic or jam night. If possible take a tape machine, minidisc player or video camera and a mate who will give you an honest opinion and record your performance. Don’t be put off when you review your live performance, many singers hate the sound of their recorded voice, especially when you know you can do better!! Try and remember that these are just the first steps on your path to becoming a singer or performer, each rehearsal whether private or public should be treated as a bit of fun and a learning experience. Examine the things that went well and those that didn’t, see what needs to be corrected, adjusted and then move on to the next ‘rehearsal’ and if it helps remember the best singers/musicians in the world have:
- Given excruciatingly bad performances at some point in their career.
- Forgotten the words, missed their cue and lost the audience.
- Had doubts about their ‘ability’, ‘experience’, ‘talent’, ‘potential’, ‘looks’, ‘image’, ‘repertoire’ or why they bother! (Hey we’re a sensitive bunch!)
- Been turned down at Auditions.
- Been refused Record Deals (The Beatles turned out to be massive!)
- Had rude people talk loudly throughout their performance.
So don’t worry, take it in your stride, for every bad gig you will have an absolutely brilliant one and every doubt should be treated as a challenge – why can’t you do that? What needs to be changed? What Lesson can be learnt from this experience? Give yourself a day to contemplate and despair then put it aside! As you progress your performances will gradually become more consistent and you will gain more confidence in your vocal abilities. This doesn’t mean you’ll never have another doubt or bad night – it happens, but it’s not the end of the world, or your career just a glitch!
When rehearsing for full show book at least two separate dates to run through a whole set list of material, (30 – 50 songs for solo’s, duo’s, cabaret & covers bands & about 15 – 20 for original artists) and review the recorded results. Then you can concentrate on improving the weakest songs before and during the second rehearsal.
Bands of all sizes should come out of the garage and start using a hall or rehearsal studio on a regular basis, until the musicians are confident that ALL the Beginnings, Starts, Stops, Keys, Tempo Changes and Endings are together and you are working together as a team.
Now you are ready to try the finished result in Public. Open nights and opportunities to perform are advertised in our Gig Guide and local newspapers, Time Out, National Press or Trade Newspapers like NME, The Stage or Variety.
Never perform a song you are unfamiliar with at an important Audition, Gig, Recital etc. Remember ‘Murphys Law’ – Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong? So be prepared, make a checklist of everything you need, test equipment, instruments, sheet music, tracks, spares etc., prior to leaving for a performance.
Listings, info, dates and links to the following are available in the Gig Guide. Potential venues complete with tips on who to contact are provided in How to be Heard which also contains advice on getting live gigs.
Floorspots / Support Slots – Open mic Nights
Usually for 1-5 performers, mainly acoustic or semi-acoustic, any style/genre. Participants are usually allowed 1-3 songs (approx 5 – 15 minutes). Most spots are by pre-arrangement with the venue or organiser, but some will allow you to turn up on the night and take a chance on last minute cancellations. Usually provide In House P.A., sound engineer and sometimes a backing band well.top of page
Similar to Floorspots but often with more flexibility. Most allow you to just turn up, sign up & play, although you could be expected to improvise with the house band or musicians the organiser designates. Full bands are sometimes welcomed but check with the organiser first. P.A., Backline & Drum Kit are usually provided, but please note, if you are using other musicians’ equipment you will be expected to pay for any breakages you incur, so have respect for their equipment. Do NOT crank up the amp volumes (they will have been preset by the band to suit the venue), or hammer the kit to pieces or you will not be asked back!!!
Visit the Gig Guide for a list of Jam Nights, Open Mic Nights, Floorspots, Showcases & sites that list similar events.top of page
These Venues are set up mainly for original bands or acts. The majority charge an entrance fee and you will be expected to supply some of the audience by distributing tickets or flyers to your friends and relatives. Normally 3- 6 acts/bands will be selected for each night, which will be chosen by the organiser or venue by pre-arrangement. (some will require tapes, band details, posters or flyers prior to booking).
All should provide a full P.A. System, Monitors and Sound Engineer, you will usually be requested to set up and sound check early. If you are a full band, you will need to use your own backline and kit, whilst solo acts must check that there is a compatible player for their backing tracks.
WARNING – Many of these places will require payment for the use of the P.A. and Engineer, or they may request a deposit, returnable only if you have reached your audience target – average cost to you = £30 to £100!!! So beware, check all details before booking any dates.
Raising money for a good cause can also give you the opportunity to gain experience. Ensure the organisers are prepared to supply you with a stage area or floorspace adequate for your requirements, and if you don’t have your own P.A., ask them to hire one for you, or if there is another band, ask if you can share theirs. Usually unpaid, although you may receive some expenses.
Fetes, Fairs & Carnivals
Staying on the Charity theme, these are great fun, but you must have your own P.A. and a friendly firm to provide a lorry and driver. Speak to the local organiser for details and advice. HOT TIP – Secure Kit, Amps & P.A. with builders nails & wire for movement free gear!
Competitions & Talent Shows
Are a great way to gain experience in front of an audience, but local shows should not be taken too seriously. They usually provide a P.A. System, sometimes an Engineer and Sight Reading In House Band, or Keyboard Player. No wages or expenses but the possibility of winning a prize. Most covers/cabaret/pop showcases will allow the use of backing tracks but do check with the organiser. Classical, Opera & some Theatrical Competitions have much higher standards and the competitions are usually for more advanced vocalists, do check prior to application for their requirements and if possible try to attend performances by previous winners.
Sometimes these competitions are promoted, hosted, organised or attended by entertainment agencies, record labels, management or entertainment bookers. This can give you the opportunity not only to showcase your talent to them but also forge new contacts for future use so make sure you have a business card handy and make a note to follow up all contacts with promotional material. If they like your act/band you may even get bookings from the show!top of page
Normally organised by Agents to present their chosen selection on their books to bookers and clubs. Some of these are a sham & arranged as a cheap nights entertainment to the venue – No wages or expenses paid & often no bookings! Reputable agents will be able to guarantee the presence of local or trade press and introduce you to bookers on the night. P.A. & Engineer often provided, flexibility to use own equipment, check prior to accepting.top of page
Many studios offer recording packages to singers. Using your own backing or tracks provided by the studio you can get a decent demo for a reasonable price.
You will find information and a selection of listings to rehearsal and recording studios available in the Studios section.
Whilst you are doing the rounds of freebie gigs, you may be offered your first paid bookings and will be looking for ways to gain more. You may already have some form of publicity material, but now would be a great time to put together a Publicity and Press Pack.
Presentation & Image
By now you should have seen a range of other musicians/performers and noticed how they present themselves. Perhaps you have conceived an image of your own? If you want to be taken seriously, it is important to have an image that suits your style of music and performance.
Once you have decided on something suitable, keep it separate from the rest of your wardrobe and if possible splash out on an extra outfit to change into on hot sticky gigs. Energetic performers should include a towel and spare outfit in their kit bag (that includes the fella’s!!).
Creating a recognisable identity is essential so Names and Logo’s should be carefully considered, you may be using them for some time! Read about Act & Band Name Registration.
Create a logo or ask an artistic friend, college student to design one for you, use this on all your advertising material and correspondence.
Demos are not necessary for most local pubs/clubs, however, most larger venues and agents will request one before booking you. Choose the best tracks from your rehearsal tapes and either re-record them at another rehearsal or go to a Recording Studio. (Recommended for newcomers).
A good studio will have everything a rehearsal studio has and more, including full recording facilities, effects, sound engineer and possibly separate drum and vocal booths. How you record your tracks depends on your competence and preferred method of working.
Click Here for tips, advice and information on demo’s and recording plus links to recording and video production services.
Don’t send out demos without contacting the management/record company first for an idea of what they are looking for as some only deal with bands or songwriters and many managers will not consider artists who perform ‘covers’ of their favourite artists.
Managers will not do anything for you until you have done a certain amount for yourself, you will be expected to audition or be seen working so make sure that what you put on the demo tape/cd is material you perform well and can reproduce in an audition or at a gig even if its to a backing track.
Read more about Management in the Artist Management section! More great articles with advice from industry professionals are available at Vocalist Articles and the Electric Blues Clubs Music & Musicians Articles.
Publicity and Press Packs
The publicity or press kit is a package of items that provides the reader with an overview of who you are and what you do. It should contain enough information to create an interest in the reader to discover more with ways for them to contact you and details on how they can see you perform.
A Business Card, Photo and CV make up the basics of a typical Press Pack which can be expanded to include other promotional material depending on whose attention you are aiming to attract.
If you have access to a computer, scanner and printer it will be cheap & easy to produce your own Publicity Pack and to help you we have provided a feature on Publicity & Press Packs which includes articles and example cover letters. Be as creative as you like, but remember, eye catching is great, but useless if the CONTACT INFO and DETAILS are hard to read!!
Only send out your Publicity Pack to venues, agents, promoters, managers and bookers after contacting them initially by phone or in person. Unsolicited mail is often ‘binned’ without a hearing and it pays to check the style and calibre of acts booked before approaching the venue for paid dates.
Don’t be discouraged by rejection. The greatest entertainers have their critics and you cannot please everyone all the time.top of page
Self promotion is essential. If you want to gain a following you will need to advertise where you are playing and build a database of fans contact details. Standard press release letters should include a brief description of your act/band and its achievements, contact number, venue address and contact number, gig date & time and the nearest transport available. Including photo’s may encourage local press to do a feature on you!
For more tips and ideas on how to promote your band or act read our articles on Advertising, Merchandising and other the Marketing, Media & Promotion Articles packed with tips, ideas and constructive advice on self-promotion, marketing and attracting media attention from music industry personnel.
GO FOR IT & GOOD LUCK!