Singer-Keyboardists face some unique challenges in performance – Chris Kennedy offers solutions.
Straining To Reach Your Mic
As a singing keyboard player you will almost certainly need an adjustable mic stand with a long boom arm – especially if you are sitting down. Whether you chose to place the stand to one side of your keyboard or in front of you, it can be particularly useful to pick one with a telescopic design so that you can only extend it as much as you need to. Most manufacturers have a wide range of different models designed for various applications that you might not always find on the shelf in your local music store; so it’s often worth having a look online or speaking to someone in the store to advise you on what options are available.
Mic Stand Droop
One other potential problem a lot of singing pianist will face is a drooping mic stand. As you are likely to be using your mic stand at a greater angle than a guitarist would, the weight of the mic requires a sturdier stand – so it’s probably best not just to buy the cheapest mic stand you can and opt for one that is more robust if you want your mic to stay in place throughout your performance. I tend to opt for mic stands that are targeted at use for drum overheads as they are often designed with a stronger locking mechanism for the boom when it is extended at a 90 degree angle.
Finding MIDI Based Vocal Effects
There are so many great effects units on the market for singers – however there a substantially more that incorporate additional features that are aimed at guitarists and not keyboard players. Ideally, if you want additional vocal effects, such as harmony generation, you’ll ideally want to buy one that has a MIDI input that can be used to send the notes you are playing to it in order for the effects to work the best. Some devices that have inputs for keyboards include TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive 3 (and VoiceLive 2) and Roland’s VP-7.
Singing With A Bent Back
Typically, the best posture for singing involves standing up and the best posture for playing a keyboard involves sitting down. That said, much of the advice for correct posture for pianists, such as keeping a straight back and not sitting slumped, also apply to getting the best out of your singing voice too. It is also important to try to lift your chin up and not look at your fingers too much in order to keep your neck in the ideal singing position. Read The Case of the Craned Neck Singer-Pianist.
Hidden On Stage
Performing from a seated position can make it a bit trickier to be as visible on stage than it is for a guitarist – especially if you have other band members who are standing up. Also, if you face straight on to your audience, a lot of your body is blocked by your keyboard stand (or piano – if you’re lucky enough to be playing a real one!). To get around this, pianists in groups will often perform at a slight angle to the audience so that they are not obscured as much but can still maintain eye contact as much as possible.
Being Limited By Mono
Singer-guitarists can usually get away with using one mono speaker system, however keyboards sound better in stereo. This is particularly a problem with piano sounds as the sound from the left and right channels are not perfectly phase matched, and ultimately the only the solution is to use a stereo setup. There are a few stereo keyboard amps on the market, however if you are using a PA system (which you’ll want to to get the best vocal sound) this will mean you will need two speakers – although, another bonus is that you’ll be able to hear all your vocal effects in stereo too!
A Music Stand In Your Face
Although it is generally advisable from a performance perspective for all singers to learn the song they are performing and not rely on a music stand, the issue is possibly more of a concern for keyboard players. One key aspect of any musical performance is making a connection with your audience and looking at the music and not them will not help you achieve this especially as the position of most music stands on keyboards will obscure a lot your body and mean you will be looking down and not straight ahead.
Chris Kennedy is the principal product reviewer for voicecouncil.com. Chris is a musician in the United Kingdom – you can see more about his work at www.chriskennedymusic.co.uk You can also see more articles by Chris here.