Learning about stage presence is one thing. But in order to practice what you know about stage presence, you have to sing on stage for real!
One of the biggest challenges for new singers (who are not also instrumentalists in bands) is to find singing performance opportunities.
It's the chicken-and-egg problem: without singing experience you aren't good enough to win an audition to get into a band or performance situation; but without getting into a band or other performance opportunity, you don't have the stage experience to win an audition!
Here are a bunch of ideas for how to get singing performance experience. Now you have no excuses...
- Karaoke. Yes, I know it can be cheesy. But it's everywhere, it's cheap, it's easy to prepare for, there's no barrier to entry, and it's generally a very supportive audience.
- Open mic nights. Great for getting used to singing with a live band, and for getting seen. Many bands started as a result of people meeting each other at open mic nights.
- Peruse Craigslist for bands looking for lead or backup singers. (Being a backup singer is a great place to start if you have no prior live band experience. You'll learn a lot even as a backup singer.)
- Post on Craigslist. One of my students got into a band immediately after posting a well-thought-out "Vocalist Available" ad for herself on Craigslist. Be sure to include a photo of yourself!
- Start or join an a cappella group. Tim Jones of comedy a cappella group Moosebutter, back from a few years performing in Las Vegas, is forming several different a cappella groups of different levels, from an all-levels community group to a professional a cappella group. Contact me if you'd like more info, or start your own group in your own area! A cappella is great because then you don't have to rely on musicians to back you up! And if you don't think a cappella can rock, check out Boulder's FACE (soon to be competing on NBC's "The Sing-Off") and the House Jacks from San Francisco.
- Student recitals. If you are taking lessons with a voice coach or at a music school, there are probably performance opportunities through there. They may not be the rock-star performance situations you ultimately envision yourself in, but they're valuable stage time nonetheless.
- Karaoke band. In Denver there is a band called Guitar Villians, which is basically live karaoke. They have a fixed set of songs you can choose from. Of course, hiring a live band is not cheap. You might check out the singer competitions they have at Herman's Hideaway.
- Start a duo. Team up with a pianist, develop a repertoire, and start playing in restaurants and bars.
- Start a band. Easiest if you are a teen or twentysomething, before your peers have real jobs, kids, and mortgages. Not that it can't be done later; I did. But you need to be prepared to pay professional musicians. But the great thing about starting a band is that it puts you in the driver's seat.
- Hire a band. For those with deep pockets: if you're willing to pay for a professional band's rehearsal time, even a novice could start a rock trio and play standard covers in bars.
- Try out for a role in a musical theater production. If that's your style.
- Join a choir. There are lots of community choirs - some are open to all ages and levels, others require auditions.
- Have a karaoke party. Invite people to bring whatever backing tracks they want. Even if you don't have a karaoke machine, people can still buy backing tracks from iTunes and other places, and you can just play them through your home stereo.
- Prepare yourself to sub in a party band. Even if you don't win an audition to be a party band's new lead singer, they may find themselves in a tight spot one day if their lead singer gets sick. If you prepare a standard party repertoire, you'll be ready to step in if and when a last-minute opportunity arises. (Yes, this does happen. It happened once for me, and almost happened a second time a few months later.)
- Make a live music video. Design a stage area somewhere - your basement, your garage - and videotape yourself performing to backing tracks. When you're ready, call some musician friends and have them come over and play the song(s) live with you performing up front. Videotape that and put it up on YouTube and on your own web site to help you connect with bands looking for singers.
- Learn an instrument. If you don't play any instruments, guitar is a great one to start with because an acoustic guitar is very portable and is enough accompaniment. This opens the door for you to write your own music and get hired for small gigs.
- Play on the street. If you do play guitar - or, once you have learned a few chords - go out somewhere like Pearl Street in Boulder and practice playing in front of people.
I challenge you to think of at least five more ways to get performance experience.
Now, you have NO EXCUSES. Get yourself as much experience as possible, now, and you'll be better prepared for when your dream opportunity comes your way!
A couple of the ideas on this page were provided by Michelle Bourke, a singer / songwriter / music producer in Australia with, incidentally, a gorgeous voice. You can hear some of her clips here: www.soundclick.com/germpatterson
(c) 2009 Adrienne Osborn