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Common Challenges For Singers Who Play Keys

Common Challenges For Singers Who Play Keys
We asked 3 gigging singers to reveal the tricky issues around being their own accompanist.

Having a musical instrument can be like having a pet – you need to consider cost, care and logistics!

1. The Breath-Support Challenge

I don’t get the same muscle / breathing support for singing when my arms are occupied in front of me. When I’m standing up and singing without a keyboard, I can feel free and strong, but keys playing has gotten so complicated since I’ve started using loops and samples.

What helps me is good posture, or even standing up to play so I get to use my core strength muscles a little more. I split my gigs between intimate gigs with just vocal and piano and upbeat gigs where I play less and move more. For me, it’s just doing what is most comfortable and appropriate for the music.

Rebecca Shearing, a Scottish star on the rise, described as the next Lana Del Ray.

2. Transporting Gear!

The biggest issue I face is transporting my gear to gigs. I’m not the strongest person and I have to navigate London’s public transport with a 10 kg electric piano!

I always ask myself: How far is the venue from the station? What’s the pay? How much would a cab cost? Is it worth it for the amount of gear I need to drag around? Sometimes, this inconvenience can take the fun out of gigging. I love all my pedals and cables but I just don’t have enough arms to carry everything.

Although I love the versatility of recording and editing keys in the studio, it can take a while to get used to different types of software and hardware and how they recognize chords and extensions. This is something that can’t be taught – you need to apply yourself. The VoiceLive has made a huge improvement to gigging. Since I know I’m always going to get a great sound on my vocals, it’s one less thing to worry about!

Josie Charlwood is a proud independent artist making waves in the UK singer-songwriter scene.

3. The Right Mic Stand

For a long time, I couldn’t find a suitable microphone stand. All of my previous stands struggled to keep the required angle during my performance. They slip out of place, making you very uncomfortable.

I chose a German brand – K&M which stays in place for an unlimited amount of time.

Nastya Maslova, one woman power house from Russia who wows her audience with luscious loops.

Read more:

7 Solutions for Keyboard Singers

  • keith

    great article, and great points….the biggest issue I have with being a keyboardist/vocalist, is my attention span gets spread out and I neither sing nor play as well as when I’m doing both. One small thing I do is to keep my keyboard playing very simple, sometimes holding only one bass note and simple two-note/triad chords and long sustains if the song permits (this works great in a band situation where the keys become sparse, don’t crowd the sonic field, and let the other instruments shine). I suspect folks are listening far more to the voice than the keys. Come solo time I can fully dig into the keys and fill out the song instrumentally.

  • Kathy Coneys Alexander

    Great points to bring in to the discussion. I experience the same thing in terms of splitting my attention span between voice and keys. You must know your level as a keyboard player, and then arrange your keyboard parts to sit WELL below your skill level. You must plan to spend almost no energy or concentration on your piano playing so you can connect with your audience when singing. Great point about “digging in” in the solo section. I personally don’t have good enough skills to be a great keyboard solo-er, but I can see how great it must be for you to express yourself through the keys when not singing.