Singer Rant

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by PauFerro, Jun 22, 2017.

  1. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Well, for a couple years I've been trying to work with singers. this was to add jazz vocals to our group at first, and then to add danceable R&B, Rock and Pop songs next. Had one, and he was an instrumentalist first and singer second, so no one booked him. Next!

    Then I started working with this really hot looking torch singer in the jazz genre. She did a phenomenal job at a jazz festival. Then I brought her on with a band dedicated to her vocals along with our own instrumentals. She would show up after everything was set up, sing her parts, and go home. She didn't know what key she was supposed to be in, and we'd have to work that out for her. She would contribute nothing in terms of charts. Then she sent me a list of songs for the band to learn for "her show". None of it charted - I would've had to figure it all out by ear with the band, and it wasn't exactly simple and wasn't at all well known. No gigs on the horizon.....She sent me a lead that we both decided we didn't want. This was due to low pay and a narcissistic client I passed it on to someone. She got really mad at me and chewed me out about it. She then joined the band of the guy to whom I gave the lead, they did a couple poorly paid gigs, and then she quit that band. The BL told me it was all about her so it didn't work out. NEXT!

    Then I tried adding a different singer. She had charts, knew the key of the songs she needed, and had a broad repertoire, but didn't want to learn any new songs when clients required a certain style of music, or an expansion of her jazz repertoire. Told me originally she wanted to learn blues, but it was clear from rehearsal all she wanted to do was her own repertoire. The band looked over her repertoire and with her buy-in, learned a lot of her songs, but she nixed 3 of them even though we'd prepared them for her, two before we even played them in rehearsal. I had a well-paid gig where she'd have to learn some dance music, but she decided she didn't want to play anything but jazz. And would learn only danceable modern hits if she liked the song and really wants to do it. She is still on for a few vocal tunes at jazz gigs, but not for the long term. NEXT!

    I am on my next singer for an hour of danceable music in about 5 weeks. I sure hope it works out. By the time I'm done I'll have 3 of the 4 singers available for their personal style of music, and lots and lots of restrictions and constraints -- I guess I'll slot them into gigs as I need them, a lot like subs....

    Anyone else finding singers are the toughest slot to fill in a band? And the hardest to work with in terms of repertoire?
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  2. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    You wouldn't believe how much time was wasted picking up material for the singer in my last group, that she would just ditch after we gigged the tune once or twice. They were good songs too. Also, unless SHE wanted to do the song, no one had any say in what new material was picked up but her. I wouldn't mind it if she took on the music director role, but she just wanted to sit on the sidelines while we worked out the whole arrangement ourselves. Then, as i said, 75% of it gets dropped and never played again.

    I'm lucky to currently be in a group with a pretty pro singer that is always prepared, and makes a commitment and sticks to it. A dream to work with and just makes it easy for everyone else.
  3. When i was a young singer, there were some items that contributed to being less than adequate :)
    Inexperience No 1
    no empathy
    I could sing better back then cause i was younger -but didnt really know how and never knew how to warm up. Probably still dont perfectly.
    Anyhow, playing bass made me a better singer :)
  4. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Good singers are very hard to come by. Took a good minute for my band to find some decent singers. Our female singer is very good and is really cool about learning new songs. The male singer is a handful. His voice is halfway shot. He can't sing anything in upper baritone and his personality is hyper. Mic technique needs refining (he's constantly yelling in the mic instead of using natural voice). He's got good stage presence and he's all we have at the moment. I do feel if the band is going to progress, he's gonna have to be replaced at some point. He's got other issues.
  5. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    In terms of personal issues, I don't find vocalists to be any different than other musicians. I have known guitarists, bassist, drummers, horn players, etc. that fail to learn the material, help with load-in/load out, use charts, etc. Anyone can be finicky about the material, not just vocalists. I find that I prefer singers that also play an instrument, because they tend to have a better understanding of music theory and musicianship.

    Where vocalists differ is that their voice is their instrument, and it's the only one they will have. Their timbre and range will affect the songs covered, and often there's not much you can do to change it. I can always use a different instrument to get different ranges and timbres, but not so with a voice. I can play 95% of pop songs on the bass and I'm not a spectacular bassist. It would take a spectacular, once in a lifetime vocalist to cover the amount of material that an average bass player can do.

    Range is important to keep in mind, because it's often the limiting factor. Even though a voice is unparalleled in phrasing, it's one of the worst in range. Even the cheapest Casio keyboard has more range than the most talented of singers. In terms of range, some very talented folks are like a guitar with 4 octaves of range. Others are like 1 string basses with only 7 frets. I have a 2 octave range with falsetto, which means that I only have 24 notes to choose from, with about 12 that are right in my wheelhouse, about 6-8 that are just OK, and 4-6 in pitch but poor in timbre. On my 4 string bass, I have 36 good sounding notes to choose from. And like any instrument, the key you choose limits the notes you can use and limit the range. F# is the key that I get 2 octaves from. If the key is moved to A, then I lose my 3 lowest notes and there's 3 notes in the 2nd octave I can't hit. So in that key, I only have 18 notes to choose from. Even a move of 1 step can make a difference. If a song was moved from F# to G, I would technically lose 2 notes, but in practical sense I would lose more. By losing the 2nd octave, my top note becomes the Maj7 which is commonly a passing tone. I can't resolve to the 2nd octave, so I'll have to drop to the 1st octave or fifth, which would alter the melody. If there's a passage that goes 6,7,Octave, in F# I can hit it at the 2nd octave. But, if it's in G, I'll have to drop it an octave down because I can't hit the higher G like I can the higher F#. But, it doesn't mean that I like all songs in F#. Some songs, I'll prefer in a different key because I can keep most of my wheelhouse notes throughout the song.

    The other thing is timbre. Some singers are like violins; they have beautiful voices, but don't fit in every genre of music. Some are like theremins; weird and trippy but suitable in certain situations. A select few are like synths that can produce a variety of tones. And like instruments, timbre will affect what you can play. You can play Yakety Sax with a trombone or a banjo, but it will take on a different vibe than it would with a sax. You can play Metallica solos with a flute or oboe, but it would sit in the mix differently than a distorted guitar. I could nail the notes and phrasing of a Sam Smith or Barry White song with enough practice in a key that works for me, but it's not physically possible for my voice to sound anything like either one of them.
  6. FirewalZ


    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    +1 I have had many similar encounters and even worse. I am a singer as well but usually keep a low profile about it and stick to harmonies. If the lead singer syndrome gets real bad, I sometimes have to step up and put things back in perspective by showing them that I can sing just as good as they can....and play an instrument:) They usually settle down.
    Ekulati likes this.
  7. Josh Kneisel

    Josh Kneisel

    Jun 17, 2016
    I don't understand why singers think they are all that necessary. Most jazz without vocals is better (IMO) anyway since it means the instrumentalists have more freedom. Meh...singers.... who needs em? I have never been happier than I am playing in a trio with no vocals or guitars.
  8. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    a GOOD lead singer who also is easy to work with is like a unicorn - hard to find.
    SoCal80s and LowNloud1 like this.
  9. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    More on the rant. I sent a list of songs given by our singer with danceable hits. Sent it out to the band, and then she says "I should probably look at the songs the band picked to determine which ones are suitable". Whaaaat? I just asked you to send me the feasible songs -- that's why I sent them out to the group....our past singer, did the same thing -- sent us the list, the band picked, and then before rehearsal and before we'd even played them she nixxed two songs we'd already learned instrumentally only. Before she even heard us play them.

    Can someone help me understand the logic behind this? It seems really arbitrary...
  10. HandsFree

    HandsFree Guest

    Dec 23, 2015
    I recognize everything said here. Still I do understand that lead singing is different from being a bassist. If I don't like a specific song or style I can still play it and anticipate the next song that I'm going to enjoy more.

    I've worked with many singers and even the most flexible had songs they just couldn't do. Not because they were technically unable, but because it was too 'unfitting' for them or their voice. The trick is to understand when it's just diva behaviour and when it's honest discomfort.
    But I think it's unfair to expect the same flexibility from singers as you expect from the rest of the band. They are the ones that have to step to the front and the audience is watching them first. I understand how that requires more confidence then I need for standing in the back with my bass.
  11. Keeping it simple - singing is like tuning your bass, it's mainly muscle control/muscle memory both in tightening and loosening your vocal chords for each and every note for pitch but also your chest for breath control for timbre, attack, vibrato ect. When a vocalist hits a note they're going on muscle memory of how much to tighten they're vocal chords to hit that particular note.

    Every singer will have areas of their range that are comfortable and some that aren't, and also their voice "muscle" is use to and comfortable moving between the note intervals they've worked with and practiced
    and have muscle memory for. Give them a different interval they've never done or even sometimes one they have done but in a different key and it's anything from uncomfortable to actually hurting until they get it dialled in.

    Doesn't mean they shouldn't try and push themselves to improve : )

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  12. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    What I don't get is why they gave me a list of songs they already do in other groups, we prepare them, and before we even play them they nix them. It's not like we asked them to recommend songs they can't do. And the musicians are good, so that's not an issue...why do they do stuff like that? Just temperamental and have a whim?
  13. when singers are being conceived the Almighty adds 1 drop Essence of Control Freak and 2 drops of Loopy to the mix.
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  14. HandsFree

    HandsFree Guest

    Dec 23, 2015
    No I don't understand that either. Did you ask what's going on? Because having a band prepare songs that you choose for you and then refuse to sing them (if that's what happened) is not normal behaviour, even for singers.
    RSBBass likes this.
  15. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Pau it sounds like you might be better suited finding a true professional for this particular project. Possibly a trained vocalist/musician that has similar expectations as you do with respect to the business end. That might require higher pay.

    What you've described in the leads you've gotten for vocalists seems like par for the course, specifically for us weekend warrior types. @jive1 explained it perfectly with respect to how inflexible singers can be due to their instrument. It's also been my experience that musicians who have been doing pop/rock cover stuff for a long time have a very limited skill set. They might be fantastic at what they do, but unwilling to step outside of their comfort zone. I find this to be especially true with singers, again for the reasons jive1 mentioned.

    You might have a steep hill to climb finding the right fit, with the right attitude.
  16. LowNloud1

    LowNloud1 Commercial User

    Jun 11, 2012
    Wilmington NC
    I am a hobbyist making stone picks that I sell but mostly give away. They made me do this anyways.
    A lot of Divas out there....
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  17. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    But remember, the part I'm objecting to is when they send me their list of songs. You would think those songs are vetted for their instrument already -- they are HER songs. She had full discretion to pick any songs she wanted. So why nix songs after she sends me her vetted list, and the band picks from them. And before she'd even heard the band? So, the inflexible instrument argument doesn't hold water in this case

    The latest singer I'm working with might be the best I can hope for. She gigs a lot, and came from New York where she gigged professionally. She does everything from Jazz, to linda Rondstadt, to Maroon 5. She knows her keys, but she has no charts, and pulled the "I don't want to do this song" stunt after she gave us a list to pick from, we picked, and then without even hearing the band nixed again. Heck, the songs we picked were IN HER REPERTOIRE she sent us. Unacceptable in my view.

    it came out the reason she nixed a couple was "she hadn't sung them in a while". Which tells me she was simply trying to reduce her personal prep time. Selfish in my view -- if that was an issue, she should have removed the songs from her repertoire BEFORE she sent them to me. And i've seen singers nix songs after we've prepared them too, and before we even played them even when they were on the singer's list.

    I had a long talk yesterday and told her that I decide what the songs are after seeking input from everyone. She sent her list, the band picked, so we have to move forward with the songs we have picked so far after I reviewed everyone's suggestions.

    I explained my reasoning for it, and also said this is NOT an artistic venture -- the goal is to meet client needs and the need for practicality when using subs etcetera.

    And with the short window we have to get ready for this gig, we need to keep it simple. I also said I need to seek input from everyone because with my last singer, the singer sent a song list with suitable songs, and when the band prepared them, they balked at how old they were. First band-wide objection I've had in 4 years. That the current band liked the songs from her repertoire. So we all have to make sacrifices for the good of the project.

    She agreed to to stick with the studio version of the songs and we ended up on the same page. We didn't reverse the song list.

    Let's hope there are no further surprises and this set the precedent for how we move forward quickly and with quality in the future.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
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  18. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    I'm glad you set out the expectations in that way. As a pro singer, I understand where yours is coming from, but she had to come to grips with the fact that it is business.

    I'm sure she's concerned about putting her best foot forward and the band putting the best feet forward--it isn't always (or even often) for selfish reasons.
    Ekulati likes this.
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Vocalists/front-persons tend to be tough:

    1. By their very nature, they tend to have egos.
    2. Sometimes they are not "musicians" and have not gone through what other musicians have in dealing with groups of people.
    3. They don't understand that most musicians look at gigs as playing for free, getting paid to haul their gear. They think if they show up with their microphone, it is the same thing as a drummer showing up with a car filled with their kit.

    Nature of the beast. Explain to them that they are members of the band, and are treated that way.
  20. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I think we're agreeing, you're just putting it into a long form. What a lot of us here are trying to say nicely is that lead singers (especially weekend warriors) turn out to be flakes quite often. Flakes with egos. There's a reason they can't keep a gig. All of the cockamamie behavior you've experienced with them probably has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them being flakey, egotistical, etc.

    The times I've learned a bunch of material, then showed up for a rehearsal where the BL decides to scrap the plan for whatever is going on his head that day.....well those dudes always turn out to be head cases - 100% of the time.

    That is why I suggested that maybe you target real professionals, given the business like approach you take. You provide the set material, let them pick what keys work for them, and then pick a date for them to audition.
    PauFerro likes this.