Singing with other instruments

2 11 2009

It’s always difficult singing with a band or with an orchestra. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be much different from doing your practice with a piano or guitar right? After all, all the notes are the same.

But as I remembered on Sunday, as we backup vocalists stepped up to the mics, it’s VERY different and can throw you quite substantially! As we’re working with a band for this show, for one thing, instead of a beat in your head, there’s an actual drummer. Now his beat may only be different from the one you are keeping in your head by an infinitesemal fraction of a millisecond, but you must remind yourself to stick with him and not your head. Then there’s the sheer noise of the band. It’s a little overwhelming, particularly if the sound system isn’t fully up, so your only partially folded back (so you can hear yourself!). Also, you may be standing directly in front of three saxamaphones (sorry can’t say it properly, Homer Simpson’s fault).

It’s just like the first sitzprobe if your doing a show with an orchestra. This usually happens a couple of weeks before opening night, if you’re lucky, and means a sing through of the music you’ve been diligently learning for the last few months, but now you do it with orchestra. No acting, just music. And it’s pretty much always a shambles, particularly if you haven’t done many sitzprobes before!

Relying on other people and having them rely on you is such an integral part of musical shows.  It’s always a little scary. If you’re doing close harmony singing and someone else (or you!) misses their harmony it can throw everyone else off. Proper harmony singing isn’t just singing your own little tune; I’ve started to think of it a little like weaving – you weave your part in with everyone else’s to make a whole. If someone drops out, there’s a hole in the music, and everyone starts to slide towards it!

Yesterday we had a rehearsal with the band, but without all our mics working. It’s actually pretty impossible to succesfully rehearse that way – as our MD admitted, and we gave up on music after a while and just ran lines and entrances.  If you’re doing ensemble work, the whole ensemble needs to be there for it to properly work – yeah you can do it without people, but then what you are learning is the sound being made without them. So as soon as they step back in you need to re-learn it!

I love ensemble work, and I love solo work. Solo work is about me telling a story, supported by a pianist usually. The pianist supports and follows me (this is why accompaniment is a very real and tricky skill – I’ve been lucky with all the people I’ve worked with so far) to interpret the music my way.  In an ensemble you must listen to everyone else in the group, voice or instrument, and try to come up with the best sound together. In a way, ensemble work can be more difficult than solo stuff.




One response

2 11 2009

Sitzprobe is a funneh word:) I must email people about the show!

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