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The Last Minute Singer

You can be ready to sing for the president of Kazakhstan at a moment’s notice –says Hannah Northedge

In the midst of a full on day of vocal coaching, the phone rang.

It was an agency needing to know immediately if I was available with an eight-piece band the next day for a corporate booking at the exclusive Claridge’s hotel in London!

I was told that the President of Kazakhstan might be in attendance.

I said yes without even considering how I was going to find seven musicians in time because I do like challenge! (also art deco is a passion of mine, so playing at Claridge’s was a dream for me.)

The reason I felt confident in saying yes to this last minute challenge was that I anticipate that bookings can arrive at any time so remain prepared for them.

Here are my three top tips to help you feel ready for last minute bookings:

Keep Your Voice in Top Condition
Do regular technical vocal workouts to keep your voice in optimum health focussing on retaining vocal stamina, agility and control. One of my favourites is to “siren” quietly on a hum or a vowel sliding from my lowest to highest notes and back down again to retain balance across my range. Don’t be demotivated by lack of bookings. You might not be afforded the time to “build up” to your next performance. You never know when you might be called upon to sing in your mix or belt registers, sustain notes or sing demanding melisma lines.

Know the Repertoire
Develop your list of stock function band / wedding songs; continually work on these, memorising the lyrics. Examine other band websites to find the most commonly performed songs and keep them on a rotation practice list. There have been occasions when I wish I had practiced these songs more often to save frantic listening and lyric printing panics the day or hours before the gig!

Be Prepared for Last Minute Changes
Find out as much as you can about the requirements of the client and venue – and where you will be setting up to perform. If you are singing with your band, give the musicians as much detail as possible about the music required and music charts if necessary and if you are “depping” for another band, find out as much as possible about their style and what they expect of you. Be prepared to go with the flow on the night in the event that the schedule changes.

PS – I should have had more songs by Sting in my repertoire as the President of Kazakhstan asked us to play some. None of the band knew the same songs that I knew and I didn’t think an a cappella rendition of Roxanne would be appropriate!

Hannah Northedge is a pop and jazz singer, vocal coach and director of www.voicecity.co.uk. She’s sung at Ronnie Scott’s, Wireless Festival and Abbey Road Studios. This year she’ll conduct a choir in a film called “POSH”. She has coached X Factor finalists and judged Live and Unsigned.

Last Minute Musicians specialise in tailoring musicians to events in the UK and Northern Ireland. They can accommodate last minute changes in a schedule and provide music of all styles from function bands, violinists to bagpipers! If you’re a musician looking for high quality bookings – get in touch! www.lastminutemusicians.com

  • ukulele Londoner

    Great article, thanks for the tips!

  • Paul

    Nicely written article

  • VoiceCity Vocal Coaching Londo

    Thanks Paul. I really enjoyed writing it and recalling that particular gig!

  • VoiceCity Vocal Coaching Londo

    Thank you! Glad you found it useful.

  • Eric Wright

    That was a really great article! Although I am not a really great singer yet, I consider myself lucky when the local middle school asks me to perform at the end of school assembly! It was a blast with my voicelive touch!