Avoiding Disasters When Singing Live

By Ed Melendez

So you wanna be a singer? I myself am a songwriter at heart, but I found it quite difficult working with a certain vocalist who was unable to express my songs the way I had written them. Unfortunately, this is the case for many songwriters. It became clear that the only way I could get my songs sung how I wanted them to be, was to find a way to sing them myself.

I had taken to songwriting pretty easily and thought singing couldn’t be much harder, but it was. There is a lot required for using one’s voice. You have to have a knowledge of style, pitch, key, melody, inflection, and breathing. So much to master.

I didn’t realize how difficult it could be until my first real opportunity presented itself.

I was 20 years old and in a band, I had started. I enjoyed writing the music but when it came time to have someone sing my songs, I was having no luck. We had a concert scheduled and I opted to take on the task of singing the songs myself. This, of course, would be the first time I had ever attempted such a feat.

Unfortunately, after that evert. I was told to “Stick with playing only the keyboard”. So many things went wrong that were both in and out of my control. I just hadn’t done the work to prepared myself. It was an outside venue. The monitoring system was apparently only for looks (little sarcasm). One of the biggest issues was that I had never actually learned to listen to myself sing live or outside before. Up to that point I had only worked on my vocals by singing in a perfectly isolated environment. I was using the perfect EQ and the perfect mix using my expensive headphones. But singing outside is not like singing in a well-calibrated studio.

I did, however, learn a number of important things from that one event. The first is to learn the importance of simply listening. In fact, it is more important to listen first than anything else. Once you understand your environment you can get a better handle on exactly what you will need to do in order to be your best.

Secondly, do not rely on technology. I have great respect for technology. I have all the latest and greatest gadgets. They are great to have until they work against you. You should be able to condition yourself to not require a monitor mix on stage, or at the very least be able to work with a poor monitoring system. It may sound harsh but if you show up to a gig and the monitor system is not working, you should not blame your monitors or your sound guy. You must be the one in control. And with control comes power. If you are prepared for anything, you will not be the one left freaking out if the sound system you thought you were promised fails. You will be confident that you have already prepared for such a situation. If on the other hand you show up and there is a pro-monitoring system available, then all the better for you.

Know that singing isn’t simply about holding a microphone and knowing lyrics. It is more about being prepared for any situation and still allowing your abilities to outshine any technical glitches and issues that may occur.