How to make a singer sound amazing with accompaniment?
While there are plenty of performance opportunities around the world for musicians today, not all of them pay on the high end of the scale. When venues aren't paying much it makes sense to maximise your share, so splitting €150 (or less) per gig between 5 people - not a good option, €150 between 2 people is much more appealing and if done right this small gig may lead to bigger and better things.
It goes without saying that exposure helps but I definitely do NOT advise anyone to play for free. Today we will be exploring a few options on how you can make your partner in crime sound amazing. Keep in mind that these are simply guidelines and there are always exceptions or you may do something differently and that's ok.
Here are 5 tips to make your vocalist or melodic partner sound amazing:
1. Don't play the melody.
This is one of those simple things, why double the part if it's not necessary? I hear this done all the time with bands, there's a synth bass playing the electric bass line ... Why? It may sound good doubled with the full band but for these smaller gigs, to my ears (in most cases), its overkill. When it's just you and the soloist avoid doubling parts unless it's absolutely necessary, instead, you could be adding some other layers to make the performance more memorable and engaging for the audience.
2. Stay out of their register.
This is similar to playing with a band, in order for the audience to hear each part clearly they need to have a clear distinction between the sounds. When you're playing these smaller gigs, you want to pay attention to the register of each part to ensure that the melody is clear and easily heard. Placing the melody on top is always a good idea to start with, you may wish to play up an octave placing the melody on the bottom to provide a different atmosphere. There are plenty of options, the key is to make sure the important parts are easily heard at all times.
3. Don't play when they sing/play.
This extreme statement from the jazz world is gold! If you want something to be heard clearly make sure it's the only thing being played, effectively giving the audience no excuse for not hearing it. Take this as a guideline rather than something to strictly follow, the idea is to include the most important elements, such as harmony, melody and rhythm, anything else should be added sparingly to enhance the clarity of the performance.
4. Choose your chord voicing(s) wisely.
When performing with singers, you want to give them chord voicings that make it easy for them to find their note without clashing. A perfect example of this is a major 7th chord with the root in the melody, you probably won't want to have the 7th on the top of your voicing as this will clash with the melody note. It's better to substitute the 7th with the 6th or, if you must include the 7th, change your voicing so the 3rd is on top. This also comes from staying out of their register, your chord voicings are vital in making the melody stand out.
5. Pay attention to dynamics.
Dynamics are important! I'm sure your regular day is full of ups and downs, busy times and quiet times. Music is the same, there are delicate sections where everything is quiet just as there are loud sections with lots of noise. Pay attention to the dynamics to give the audience the best experience of your music.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below? What do you do to make vocalists/soloists stand out? What do you do on the smaller gigs that are different to a full band setup?