Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Blonde Bassist, Feb 17, 2010.

  1. Okay, I want some honest opinions on this.

    The use of miming seems to be much more prominent, and just as frowned upon as it always has been. It seems as though the majority of live television programmes prefer artists to mime, especially when dance routines are involved. A particular performance that has upset people was Cheryl Cole's performance at last night's Brit Awards in London. In a number of performances recently she has been known to be either fully miming, or using a pre-recorded track to sound as though it was live. Coupled with the use of a microphone that is only used in certain places, such as a chorus, or thanking the audience at the end. Her performance (which includes a Jackson inspired "toaster" entrance sequence) can be found here. It might also be useful to note that the singer in the second section is of this performance is also miming, to a different singer's voice. Knowing the singer that sang the track originally I would not be surprised if there was legal action taken, as she was asked whether they could use her track and have someone else mime it. When she said no, but offered to sing it herself, the declined and went ahead with their original plan anyway.

    Now, I'd like to compare this to many other artists over the years who have mimed in live TV performances over the years. A very similar technique was often used by Michael Jackson on many awards ceremony appearances, for instance the 1988 Grammy Awards where Jackson performed a medley of hits, this can be found here.

    Now having worked with singers who perform extensive dance routines as part of their performance, I understand totally the use of miming to a track. I also understand the reasons why television producers might want artists to mime, the best example of this would be the show Top Of The Pops. The show was essentially a run down of the chart positions, usually with a performance by each band. On a related note, what is generally considered the first full music video, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, was created so the band did not have to travel to london to record a Top Of The Pops performance when it went to number 1 in 1975. This might have been mainly because they were on tour at the time and the logistics of getting back to London made it impossible to do, especially when the song was topping the charts for a number of weeks. Roger Taylor has also admitted to hating doing Top of the Pops because they were not allowed to perform live. From a producer's point of view there is also an advantage to an artist miming, for instance with the growing use of auto-tune on records if an artists tuning is not brilliant when in a live setting, or if the singer is unwell and just not physically able to pitch notes correctly, why would you want a substandard version of the song to be seen. From a sales point of view this could possibly be quite harmful. The same goes for when dance routines are used to help sell a song, if the singer is dancing at full pelt, then it is only natural that the vocals might suffer slightly. This is made obvious when an artist does sing live whilst doing a complete dance routine. I'd like to refer again to Michael Jackson and the rehearsal of Wanna Be Starting Something featured in This Is It, which can be found here. This is a perfect example, as it is clear that Jackson is marking the routine, and not singing or dancing at 100% effort. The affect on his voice from having to make such movements can be heard quite clearly , and from a production point of view, if the performance was in the process of selling a record, then maybe miming, or using what some people have referred to as a jam-track would have its advantages.

    From the point of view of a performing musician however, I can sympathise with artists such as Roger Taylor, of Queen, who despised having to mime. Although it may not be a personal slur against you being asked to mime does sometimes seem quite insulting, for obvious reasons. It may be quite sad that you are playing along, but not actually being heard live. To some extent it may even be seen as fraudulent as Joe Public would probably believe you are playing live, and quite often it would be advertised as a 'live performance'.

    I would argue that miming does have a lot of advantages, and can see why some people prefer to mime in performance such as the ones mentioned earlier. But, I can also see the other side of the argument that we, as performers, have trained for many years to be the best we can at our chosen instrument, and we want to show people what we can do.

    I would like to know people's thoughts on this subject, is it right to mime? How would you react if asked to mime or play to a jam-track? Would you prefer to see all these performances with the little mistakes kept in or would you like a flawless rendition of the piece to be performed?

    Especially the sound engineers amongst us, what are your thoughts?

    Thanks for reading,
  2. Hi.

    For everything there's a place, including using a backing track.

    IIRC Iron Maiden did a bit of an unthinkable in the Top Of The Pops back in the day by switching instruments and schlepping the gear around during their "performance".

    Then a gain, Milli Vanilli is something everyone in the music biz will remember for a loooong time.

    Would I do it? Hell yeah, if it serves a purpose. Even if I didn't 100% agree ;).

    Fat chance of that happening to me though :D.