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  1. #1
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    Default Want to find a good vocalist?

    It would seem that turning up a good singer would be relatively hard, but I have not found that to be the case. Over the years, I have encountered a number of excellent vocalists through groups that I have worked with. However, I have had far better luck with running an audition call in the local "arts" paper - the alternative weeklies, as they were once known.

    I have a standing ad that I can place with a phone call to my "advertising rep", a pleasant young man with a lot of piercings. It reads:

    "Wanted:Musicians & Vocalists. Perform with a Vegas style show band that works throughout the Gulf Coast area. (Saxophonists, trombone players, trumpet players, rhythm players, vocalists) needed. All musicians must be able to read music! Call 832 630 8546 for audition information, dates and times."

    (The text in the parentheses is altered as needed, depending on what I am looking for at the time.)

    If you run the ad in a large city like Houston for a month, you will net in such a crop of vocalists (and musicians) as you have never seen. For, while the ability to sing is widespread, the opportunities to sing are few and far between.

    Once you verbally screen out the "Well, I don't really read music, but I pick it up quick..." sidemen from the mix, you invite the remainder (vocalists and musicians) around to a rehearsal and see what they can do. I give them a list of standard tunes and keys, ask them what they have done in the past, and then run the tune with one of our current vocalists to give them the road map.

    (We also lay in extra coffee and donuts. The way that some of them eat, you would think that they were there for the food.)

    After each takes a pass at about three or four tunes, you can almost always pick out who will work, and who will not. It is a bit tiresome to hear Fever so many times in one day, but the end result is worth the effort.

    With the horn players, it's even easier as you can tell who can read well and who can't within the space of a single chart.

    At the end of the process, I offer comments concerning the performances. Some take this well, others don't. Usually, the sidemen and vocalists know how they've done before I say a word. I always try to be positive as possible, but honesty here is always the best policy.

    (Once, a woman who was just not up to our level was politely told that she wouldn't fit. She sent me an email later maintaining that she was not a lush, and that I shouldn't believe what I had heard. (I had heard nothing - she just couldn't sing a lick.))

    At that point, I explain how we operate, how the shares are drawn up, and what's expected of them. The ones who accept are brought in - sometimes to replace someone who's moving on, sometimes to start anew.

    And, occasionally you get lucky. I've found a vocalist who is an excellent guitar player in all styles - he's been with us for years. Ditto a trombone player. And, some of my "mainline" vocalists are quick to handle auxiliary percussion as well - my "Sinatra guy" plays Latin percussion as well; timbales and congas.

    I'd be interested in hearing how others fill their vocalist slots. No ribald humor, please...

  2. #2
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    Default

    When I get home from work I'll regale you with my first attempt to place a vocalist in the Dissonance. But this video does it pretty good.

    The quality of vocal applicants and surprises: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN9DJ7hf22M
    Last edited by Gandalfe; 09-01-2011 at 05:21 PM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by SOTSDO View Post
    It would seem that turning up a good singer would be relatively hard, but I have not found that to be the case. Over the years, I have encountered a number of excellent vocalists through groups that I have worked with. However, I have had far better luck with running an audition call in the local "arts" paper - the alternative weeklies, as they were once known.
    I've also found that, if you live near a college that has a music program, putting up flyers around the school isn't a bad idea.

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Latest article: October 6, 2013, "The Eye (Brows) Have It."

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    I my voice continues in its current trend, steadily deeper and more hoarse, I will be competitive in the Leonard Cohen category; Leonard Cohen in his older days that is.

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    ... of course, one alternative to finding a good vocalist is becoming one, yourself .

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Latest article: October 6, 2013, "The Eye (Brows) Have It."

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    Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
    ... of course, one alternative to finding a good vocalist is becoming one, yourself .
    The wings are on the pig, but the flight issue is still a problem.
    Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.

    The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to broken.

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    Along those lines, I heard a $famous_musician once say something to the effect of, "Your voice is your voice. You can't change how you sound." That's not exactly correct. As an example, my college saxophone instructor sounded like just about anyone -- until he demonstrated that he was an operatic tenor.

    All this being said, I think that some folks probably couldn't be converted into a good singer. I also think that you can have all the talent in the world, but without a good instructor, you're probably not going to use that talent properly.

    Yes, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Saxpics.

    Check out my photoblog! Latest article: October 6, 2013, "The Eye (Brows) Have It."

  8. #8
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    Default And...

    ...here too there is more than a little technique. As I maintain in my "playing, performing, entertaining" conceit, most of us could (with some minimal coaching and a bit of practice) operate here at the "playing" level - after all, my booming voice has never had second one of training and I can still pull off Love Shack to Louis Prima levels of tonality and phrasing.

    However, getting the nuance needed to deliver a good "performance" is something that I developed only after not a small amount of practice, including rehearsal with the ladies (and the recording) to get the timing right and all.

    Finally, can it be said that I am "entertaining" when we do it? Well, it always seems to be well enough received, what with all of the vocal clowning around that the male part (which, truth be told, is spoken save only three or four strategic sections that need to be done "in pitch") played against the largely straight arrow (and almost all sung) female vocals. As it's a "novelty number", it's got a limited place to fill, and I think (after reviewing our work on a video recording) that I (along with the three ladies, of course) deliver a truly "entertaining" take on the thing.

    (Before we got Love Shack arranged, neither my wife nor I had ever heard of the B52s. Yet, whenever she told any of her (older, woman) friends that we were getting it done as something "new", they would always immediately start singing the damn'd thing. Talk about your sheltered life; that's what we two old people have lived...)

    So, someone not versed in the black arts of vocalizing can "get by", and do so well enough to be considered a success. Unfortunately, that's only one tune (out of some six hundred that we are practiced up and ready to perform with a week's notice).

    And, while I can work through Mac The Knife and (Everybody Is A Star) In Hollywood (one of the top two or three disco tunes ever performed, yet no other group does it) and other "Village People" chorus stuff well enough, I'll never come close to being a true vocalist on any of the three levels. I've got too much to do, and not enough time (even when retired) to do it in.

    So, do I consider myself a fully trained vocalist? By no stretch of the imagination...

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