A little while ago, I played for a singer who performed a rather popular song. That is usually no big news, because many singers love to sing songs that the public already knows, but what should you do when a singer is “literally off key?” This particular singer was an accomplished vocalist, but she couldn’t find the pitch of the song and was no where close to being in tune. During my career, I have encountered “many” performers who were “way off” the key of the song. For those who have not had a lot of experience in singing, they often “blame the band” for changing their key or for playing it wrong. The truth of the matter is that even the greatest of singers can have difficulty hearing themselves if the sound is not adequate. Most professional concerts will have “monitors” onstage so that the artists can hear themselves singing. A monitor is usually a little wooden box looking thing that transmits the sound back to the performers onstage. They are used “only” for the performers to hear themselves. Depending on the professionalism of the sound man (and the quality of your sound check) that problem “should” be rectified if all went well. However, “things happen” and there is no guarantee that you will be able to hear yourself when performing a show. So if a singer is off key, how should he or she handle it? You may have seen this a couple of times at professional concerts, but when a vocalist wants to hear their vocals a certain way, they will look out towards the sound man (or to the monitor technician) and ask for more volume or more reverb (or anything related to how they hear). A sound man is “extremely” important because he controls what the audience “actually hears.” You could be the most awesome performer on the planet, but if your sound man is not on top of his game then your entire show could be ruined. EVERY professional artist should have a good relationship with his or her sound man. Singer Anita Baker used to fire sound men left and right, because she would have bigger expectations for what she felt they were supposed to provide. Her reputation for dealing with sound men has not been very good. The sound men cannot make magic, and they can’t make you a better singer. However, if your relationship with your sound man is a great one then it will help to enhance your show. The voice is a delicate instrument. It can go out on you if you scream and holler too much. Vocal training can help you “learn” the strengths and weaknesses of your voice, and help you to give strong performances without going hoarse in the process. When someone sings off key it is important to let him or her know (in a nice way, please) that the singing was a little off pitch. If the singer thinks that he or she is singing the song great then the next audience may not be as “lenient.” Most times when you are singing a song, if your notes don’t “feel” right to you then chances are they’re “NOT” right. Small things such as your closeness to the microphone, the softness of your tone and other things can be adjusted to give you better control over your singing. Criticism can be helpful as long as you are not too sensitive to it. We ALL have to learn as we grow. If you are a vocalist, then I hope you find this information helpful. Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and I wish the absolute best to you and yours.
Verdine White (on the right… bassist for Earth Wind and Fire) and Brett Jolly