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My 5 Essentials for a Great Singing Gig

My 5 Essentials for a Great Singing Gig

Some of you are going to disagree and some of you may even taunt me!  But I have to stand by my top 5 choices for the items I will never leave home without.  You see, I sing and play with different bands each week in large and small venues, so I know what works for me when the pressure’s on.

1. Etymotics ER-15 custom earplugs
I can hear the taunts from the cheap seats now, but I steadfastly stand by my use of plugs. I sing in pubs and banquet halls where the stage, if there is one, is tiny and a crash cymbal or a PA speaker can be too close for comfort. They help to make absolutely sure I hear my voice and don’t strain no matter how loud the band gets. The only drawback is that you have to be careful not to play louder as a result; I usually watch that people aren’t leaning over the table to converse and that they’re smiling as they dance. Later in the night, all bets are off and the volume goes up but I can still hear my singing clearly. See www.etymotic.com

2. VoiceTone Harmony-G
This will sound like a shameless plug for our products (you know I work for the company right?) but it’s not. As I’m singing in gigs up to three times a week, Harmony-G ensures that the sound of my voice is “killer” at all times. Singing would feel odd if I didn’t have my Tone button, my preferred FX setting (Echo#3) and the harmonies. I figure that when done right, the whole package of good players, good songs and great vocals add up to a huge cohesive whole. My Harmony-G sits under my left foot while to my right is my guitar effects pedal-board. I’m getting pretty good at punching harmony lines in and out without even looking at it.

3. Glass of Water
It sounds basic but I can’t do without a huge glass of water (no ice) beside my pint of beer at gigs. Howls will be heard from some who think this is unprofessional but where I play, it’s fun and it’s expected. The same goes for drinking beer onstage! When I started my original band, I realized that, as Harmony-G and I were the only singers, I had to make sure I could sing 3 sets of material without losing my voice. With the water/beer combination, I get throat care while playing music and joining in with my friends. I start drinking water in the afternoon so I’m ready at 9 to sing. I’ve only started doing this in the last few years and I wish I’d discovered it sooner – there would have been fewer embarrassed croaks as the night wound on.

4. Lyrics Book
I’m reluctant to admit it, but I do bring my lyrics book to the gig. It’s placed on a stand with a light and I sometimes have to leaf through it while another band member distracts the audience. I always thought this was the height of cheesiness: “It’s just not a rock show with a music stand”, but now here I am doing it! I think I’ll make a New Year’s resolution to put in the extra effort and memorize all my lyrics, though the one most impressed will likely only be me.

5. My Odds & Ends Bag
This bag includes a small flashlight, an all-in-one tool, a short 6’ mic cable from my SM-58 to Harmony-G and an ancient packet of Thayers singers’ lozenges (www.thayers.com)  just in case I’m singing with a cold and my water regimen isn’t enough.

† Tom Lang has been a professional musician since finishing high school and his career has spanned everything from postage stamp-sized stages in the middle of nowhere to playing in headlining tours for up to 40,000 crazy fans. He still performs regularly a few nights a week, singing and playing either guitar, keyboards or fiddle. By day he’s a product manager at TC-Helicon where his experience of singing and using the products provides invaluable feedback on how they work in these environments. Seewww.tomlangmusic.com

  • garymckinney

    Love that Harmony-G but I like the FX 5 setting personally with its doubler on. I don't even need to turn it off when I address the audience unlike the FX 3 setting which once drew the comment that it sounded like I was talking from within the grand canyon — and there was more than one of me too! No, I really love FX 3 setting too, it's just that I need to remember to turn it off when I remind the audience that Emerson Lake & Palmer were indeed British (for some reason the masses think they were an American band) and I feel it's my personal duty to enlighten them in every venue I play.

  • garymckinney

    love the advice and if you don't plug the harmony G then I will but my favorite setting is now 5 instead of 3. In my setting, the harmonies kinda overpower my voice which if nothing else keeps me on key!

  • LuLu

    lyrics book on stage… yes, it is cheesy, and unproffessional.

  • 1) I use Etymotics ER-20, which are much cheaper and a good way to try how it feels like to sing with earplugs. In big venues I don´t, but they are always in my ears in small ones.
    2) Some months ago I won a Voicetone Correct Pedal in one of this site's contests. I had to choose between Harmony G, Create and Correct. I can´t say if my choice was the best, but I can say I am very happy with this pedal. Actually, I don´t place it on the floor, but beside my mixer. It does work on its own and you have to worry nothing about it.
    3) Absolutely agree. I can take about two litters of water during a two hour show, plus at least another of beer before and another one after. After the show, I usually celebrate with a whisky if chanpagne is nor available after having put all the equipment in it cases. The last hour I take nothing at all to make sure I can handle my car safely. I have already buried a friend.
    4) AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!! If you ever do that make sure to deny it. You are reading Paul Auster, or checking your accountancy, but sure, you are not reading your lyrics. Are you?
    5) I use my bag to empty my pockets. You know, if you wear tight jeans, there is always your wallet, your keys, a lighter, and so many things that can make you look like a bag of potatoes.

  • Andrew Day

    re the lyric book.

    Put your lyrics on a lap-top and the crowd will probably think it is part of the music production or efects. I have all mine as Powerpoint preentation slide shows.