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What They Don’t Teach in Vocal Lessons

Let’s give your pipes some legs…

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Just as appearances matter in interviews, stage presence is the key to being taken seriously in the music game. For every rock star, open mic regular and self-identified choir nerd, here’s five tips for taking the spotlight that I learned on stage…

1. Learn How to Adjust a Mic Stand

Bending over to reach the shortened stand isn’t cute; pros have seen it a million times and it marks that you’re inexperienced. Further, it can seriously hurt your voice if you habitually sing from a hunched stance.

Yes, stands are full of unique joints and a hundred knobs that stick. Just remember: Righty-tighty, Lefty-loosey. If you or a friend don’t have a mic stand, I recommend getting your hands on one at any local music store to get a feel for it.

2. Adjust the Stand YOURSELF When you get on Stage

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It’s important to set the tone that you know what you’re doing because confidence matters. As a performer in an indie-rock band, I often noticed that if I didn’t adjust the stand and play a cool riff right when I got on stage, the sound engineer would respond; They would bee-line right past the (male) bass player and (male) drummer straight to inform me (tiny female) how a microphone works, where to stand, etc. You are better than that! Do not let others assume any less of you for something so simple as a break in confidence.

3. “Make Out” with the Mic

You heard me! Seriously, though: Bass tones are lost the farther you get from a microphone, leaving the singer with a thin, tinny quality. Get comfortable singing right into the mic from only an inch or two away and the sound engineer will adjust levels accordingly. This is also a display of confidence on stage, informing the audience that this is your home turf, and you know it.

As an added bonus, being close to the mic increases the likelihood that your head will block any feedback being picked up in the microphone.

4. Practice Not Being Able to Hear Yourself

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People aren’t perfect, and God knows that the sound systems we set up and the venues we choose aren’t either. If you are unable to hear yourself on stage, it may catch you off-guard, causing you to throw out your voice to compensate for the volume or simply look panicked. You will still have to sing the set like a pro, so it’s good to be able to trust in yourself that you’ll hit the right notes. I recommend practicing with ear plugs in (which may actually help you hear the pitches if you get used to it), or without using a vocal monitor (which ideally helps you hear when you are performing, but all too often they are absent).

5. Stay Humble

If you’re reading this, you care enough to probably have some chops; let your voice speak for itself. No band needs another diva, and no a cappella ensemble is looking for another soloist. It is such a shame when the ego outshines the voice. Music is so often an art that is about a team experience, a collective working towards a common goal, and it can be so rewarding when that reality is respected and intentionally practiced.

Never forget the hours that other musicians and engineers have put into their craft, and the spotlights that they, too, well deserve. Finally, a “thank you” never hurts, either.

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If you act like you know what you’re doing, you can do anything you want- except neurosurgery.- Sharon Stone

Thanks for reading! Happy singing your hearts out!

-Haley