Thursday, February 18, 2016

Building A Showcase Set: Practical Tips Part 2!

     What Kind Of A Ride Are You Taking Us On?

Once you have created a basic sketch of your showcase set sit back and take the time to ask yourself some important questions. 
*What kind of a ride are you taking the audience on? 
*What emotional experiences are you asking them to join you on?
*What do these songs tell the audience about who you are and your identity?
IF it becomes clear that the songs are all similar in tempo you will want to consider switching some of the songs in order to build momentum as things progress through your set. If the subject matter of your songs in very similar this might be the time to consider a well placed cover song to help open up the emotional landscape a little!
You may need to go back and retool your set thinking of the audience and their experience as your focus. Remember the showcase set isn't about YOUR feeling good it's about THEM feeling good!
As uncomfortable as this process might be, you want to include the imagined "industry professional" (who has seen and heard it all) in your thinking! 

But I Don't Know What To Say!
What about talking between songs during a showcase set? 

YES we need to get to know who you are, what you are like, whether you take yourself too seriously, whether you are able to be relaxed about the whole thing etc. 
Be very clear on what you want to cover subject wise, ……..rehearse the "patter"as much as the songs! 

 Know where you are going in your intro's, otherwise the possibility of talking too long, or not being able to talk at all because of nerves can happen to the best of us!
My advice for any artist who is coming up to an important showcase would be to play a dozen shows (open mic, opening the show for pals etc) with your stage patter as your biggest focus! 
The audience will forgive you a lot if your killing it musically but there's no guarantee thats going to happen so I recommend plotting your words as carefully as you do your songs!

Preparation is Everything! Don't Fake This One!
Start your preparations early enough so there is no last minute frenzy to memorize, finalize or reorganize your set.
You want your showcase set built and ready to be rehearsed everyday weeks and weeks in advance of your show.

Practical Tip 1: Don't practice by yourself and think that between you and the mirror you have the whole thing figured out. Take to the open mics, local stages and coffeehouses etc. Use your closest friends and family and perform your showcase set for them and ask for honest feedback. You may not take all the advice but you will certainly have more knowledge about what is working and what isn't.

Practical Tip 2: I recommend folks start technical warm ups for your showcase show starting a month in advance. 
Do the daily practical work of a physical and vocal warm up over and over so that on show day you already have a ritual that works for you. The idea that on show day you will simply do your warm up and that will be enough is ludicrous and dangerous thinking. Make it a habit and your voice will be a well oiled machine by the time you slide into show day!

Everyone Gets Nervous: It's How You Handle It That Counts!
You should know the songs in your set so well that you could perform them upside down in a snow storm and still come off like a powerful relaxed performer. Industry folks know what nerves look like and might be in a forgiving mood but it's the winners in the business that practice like crazy and handle their nerves in a way that allows them to stay present and engaged in communicating their material.  

 A Final Word
You can't be anyplace you are not, so don't fret about not being as fully developed as you would like to be as an artist at the time of your showcase. Your job right now is to make sure you are creating the best possible representation of where you are at at this present moment.
AND no fear your showcase will keep changing so it's not frozen once you've built it. You will be working on it for the rest of your career! Good Luck!!

More things to keep in mind and practical tips coming !

Micah Barnes is a voice, performance and career coach whose Singers Playground workshops and private sessions have helped supported thousands of up and coming artists. For more information please have a look at  Singers Playground or e mail Micah Barnes!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Building A Showcase Set: Some Practical Tips (Part 1)

Giving an audience of industry folks a snapshot of who we are as artists is a daunting task.  However I challenge you to do the hard work of distilling your world down to a short set of 5 or 6 songs. Its a very useful exercise that will teach us a whole lot about what we have to offer our audiences.  
Don't worry about getting it right the first time. The "perfect" showcase set is a rubicks cube that will take time and lots of trial and error to figure out!

Some practicals: start with the most important songs, the top and bottom of your set. Once you know how you are starting and ending it will help you choose /build the rest of the songs in your set.
Opening number. Yes It says "welcome to my party" but it also has to tell us what kind of party we are arriving at! 
Your opening song wants to give us a sense of  where we might be going for the next 20 minutes to half an hour.
It should announce the style of music to follow, but also your identity or personality as clearly as possible.

Your second tune is more important than you think. It must deepen the story. Unless you give us a new angle or a new level of who you are as an artist we will be bored. Industry audiences like to feel like they've seen it all whether they admit that or not. Its a LOT easier for them to be unimpressed than to be excited about a new artist. 
If they think they have "gotten" who you are they will start shmoozing for sure. Once we have a sense of what landscape an artist is going to inhabit we either stay and hang out there or we move on and start "working the room". 
VERY few artists can hold an industry showcase past the first song unless what they do next is surprising, interesting, 
So make sure your second song deepens the story in some way and doesn't just continue along the same road as your opening number.

You want a cover tune in your set.  Meet your audience half way with something we know.  Most of us do not want to "waste time" with a cover song in our showcase set. Trust me on this one, you want  cover song in your set. 
We may not ALL be as in love with your songs as you are SO if you impress us with how you handle a familiar piece of material it will go a long way towards winning us over. 
BUT if you do a cover, take time to make sure it's a GREAT fit for your style and really make your version fresh and your own. You may have to experiment with many many songs before finding the right fit. It will be worth it in the long run!
Where should the cover song sit in your set? Not at the top of bottom, (unless you do something spectacular with the material). Third song may not be a bad place for it. By then the audience may be getting tired of hearing new material and want something familiar.  

The last few songs in your set will want to be the strongest you have. Choose the songs your audiences ask you to perform every show, the songs you know have a little magic in them. If your industry crowd is still listening to you by the last few songs they will want to hear your "big numbers" and will be waiting for them.  
Ending tune is going to be the one you want them to walk away singing. No rules about it being fast or slow etc here. If your fans are telling you about their favourite song.. listen to them and try that song as your ending tune, see how it works in that place. 

Encore. Yes you will need an encore. The chances of an industry crowd giving you an encore are very small but if you are killing it and they are rousing for one more, it's your chance for the winners lap! Give them something really fun, or deep, or powerful that you know will have them celebrating you as their new discovery!

More things to keep in mind and practical tips coming !

Micah Barnes is a voice, performance and career coach whose Singers Playground workshops and private sessions have helped supported thousands of up and coming artists. For more information please have a look at  Singers Playground or e mail Micah Barnes!