Unconventional Performance Prep

It’s time to make chaos your singing partner –says Mister Tim

In a performance you are in a heightened mental state that can make you hyper-aware of thousands of things you normally tune out.

The environment, lighting, and acoustics are different, not to mention that you’re singing for an audience.

Even More Distractions…

But there are a THOUSAND other things that can distract you from your performance.

In a concert hall you can hear things in the audience: candy wrappers crinkling, kids crying, coughs and whispers.

You are concerned with staying in your light, or the stage manager hanging just offstage in your peripheral vision, or with the exit sign glowing in the back of the hall.

In a club or less formal performance space there are countless distractions.

The lady in the back who is gesturing wildly in conversation with her friends. The wait staff walking around.

You might have a great view of a TV (very common if you ever play a bar!), out a window, or down the hall so you can see everyone who goes in and out of the bathroom.

You might have hecklers or less-than-respectful people right in front of you. You might have super-excited fans cheering and dancing.

All these things make for distractions and can throw you off your game.

Practicing With Distraction

Take heart! There are some fun ways you can prepare yourself to deal with performance distractions.

Sing on the street! Plenty of distraction, you can sing the same thing over and over as people move past, and you are almost guaranteed anonymity!

Sing at a more casual event before your big performance: open mic night, house party, or for your songwriter group or a group of friends.

Anything to get a run of your music in front of an audience.

It is nice to have a safe controlled environment to rehearse, especially when you are learning new material, but can you break out of that somehow?

A Busy Rehearsal Room

When I’m rehearsing groups at my house I let my kids wander in and out (as long as they’re not too crazy).

The movement and noise of people breaks my singers out of their rehearsal cocoon and puts them in a frame of mind that more closely resembles a performance situation.

You can look out a window, leave a door open, or go sing outside in a park or in the mountains (where you can still be secluded but have a different environment).

By all means don’t intentionally create chaos in your rehearsal time, but don’t expect your performances to be hermetically sealed. You will have to deal with uncertainty and distraction.

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Trever Carico – Whenever We’re Alone cover

Nice to hear genuine country! Good sound, good style, and you seem to have a strong personality to back up your choice of genre. Nice delivery of the song. The biggest issue I hear is pitch: consistent pitch driving each note, the pitch in the shape of the melody, and specific pitches (usually the higher notes) that aren’t quite reaching the center. Chilling on a couch I don’t think is doing you any favors. Some straight-ahead vocal exercises will help you to connect the flow of notes to your words. I recommend spending some time on this site reading articles and past video reviews: tons of great ideas, exercises, and techniques!

Beatriz Pineda – Wicked Game (cover)

Haunting. A rare video performance that engages intimately with subtlety and grace. You maintain the same level of intensity the whole song. It’s an effective mood, balancing a soft sound with intensity. Four minutes is a long time without a change of feel. What can you do to contrast? Can you alter the dynamics? You don’t have to go all out, maybe just hint at a different sound, but by minute 3 you need to vary the performance somehow or it stagnates. Good stuff, keep developing your craft!

Cate Bentley – Lost and Found (cover)

Stellar vocal work going on here. I GOL’d (Grinned Out Loud) at your light tone on both the lowest and highest notes. Genuine sweetness. You’re good enough that you need to start being hyper-critical of your own performances. Eliminate the pop into the mic. Identify the lines that are not spot-on in pitch. Dig into the performance: am I infusing every line with the most appropriate emotion? Am I going through the motions on any notes or lines or words or phrases? If so, how do I engage my mind or body to make them better? Can I color notes or phrases with dynamic shadings or rhythmic alterations to more fully access the power of what I’m saying? Any weakness, any detail that’s not perfect, I will find it and I will fix it.

-Mister Tim

Mister Tim is a published composer, award-winning recording artist,and in-demand performer, teacher & performance coach. In addition to an active performing and touring schedule with his his solo vocal live-looping/beatbox shows, Mister Tim sings with Boulder, CO-based Celtic Rock band Delilah’s Revenge and 2012 BOSS Loop Station World Championship finalist Vox Machina, manages the… READ MORE

  • Hartley

    I used to rehearse new and old repertoire in front of the TV with the sound turned down so I could practice with visual distractions, until I’d learned the guitar and vocal parts, and then with the TV sound turned up too.

    In both scenarios I’d try to play the guitar part, sing the words and understand what was going on on the screen… and listen when the sound was up. It helped me learn the songs instinctively so I could focus on one of all four things and still manage to perform the songs beginning to end.

    Nowadays nothing puts me off me when playing a gig. I’ve had fights start in bars right in front of the PA, friends try to talk to me, people ask for requests mid song, all manner of distractions including football on the big screen and a pub full of music lovers and football fans, 3000 people filing into an auditorium while I’m the warm up act…. It seems to wash over me now.

    The only thing that gets me now is …and sorry to be honest and slightly gross but … I always use a fan in gigs and at home I try to rehearse in a different room to the dogs…. since they banned smoking in pubs and bars the smells are worse… I say no more…

    anyway… rehearsing with distractions can be a bonus at times…

  • MisterTim

    Smells! Hilarious. And totally true.

    Great ideas above, and you mention more of the countless potential distractions in different venues. Very important for a performer to keep playing in the face of distraction because there are some people listening, and they want a great performance! Thanks Hartley!