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The singer in my band can sing very well. When he is singing by himself playing an acoustic guitar he sounds great. However when put into a situation where he is singing with a full band (ie: studio or rehearsal), his singing is nowhere near as good.

Are there any tricks for him to perform better as a singer when playing with other people?

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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Sounds to me like he's pushing his voice a lot harder to get over the band volume. In an acoustic situation, he's singing in a more relaxed way, but put all the instruments in, at a volume which is probably unnecessary anyway, and the sing becomes more of a shout. By turning up his mic a balance will partially be restored, (but his ears will still tell him to sing as loudly as possible), but surely it's better to get that back by turning the instruments down.Give it a try - there's nothing to lose - except your hearing if that volume is up.

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I agree that the likely issue is the level of the vocals compared to the music. In a rehearsal situation, it's likely too low too. I find that in the studio, the balance between the music and the vocals are very important. If the backing track is too low and the vocals are too high, there will be a resistance to use enough power when singing. It can be an issue of hearing oneself ̣too well too. –  Meaningful Username Jan 27 at 12:23
    
@Meaningful Username - The balance is vital, not just very important, and not only in the studio. There are also a heck of a lot of vocalists out there that don't know how to use mics properly. They check the volume with the mic a couple of inches (or less) from their mouth, and don't seem to understand how vocal volume and mic proximity can be used to enhance the voice production. –  Tim Jan 27 at 13:08
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I agree with Tim. A lot of bands tend to crank up their instruments way too loudly which is unfortunate. Everybody wants to be heard. Vocals are crucial for a vocal based band and the band should really work on mixing.

Things you can do are make sure that the Vocalist can be heard clearly over all of the other instruments, especially the lead guitar and drums! Controlling the sound of drums is difficult especially if there are no mics for the drums. Band placement plays a role in this case. However, the volumes of all of the other instruments is totally controllable. You might also want to consider getting some monitors so that the band members can actually hear themselves. If you're playing with just the speakers that the audience hears it can be pretty hard to hear yourself clearly.

So my suggestions are monitors and turn the vocalist up and the instruments down! As I said before, in a vocal based band, the vocals are crucial. People want to hear and understand the singer.

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See also "Stage volumes at rehearsals..." Mar 25, '13, for what turned out to be a very prolonged discussion, but interesting. –  Tim Jan 22 at 15:13
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Link. –  shambulator Jan 24 at 15:25
    
Thanks, sham. One day I'll learn how to do that. But I'm old... –  Tim Jan 24 at 15:36
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Craig, the other answers all address the possibility that his "singing nowhere near as good" is because he's getting drowned out by the other band members. There's another possiblity as well. If he sings very well by himself, accompanying himself, that doesn't necessarily translate into singing well with other people who are accompanying him. It's a different skill, and needs to be learned. You can't be quite as free with the beat if everyone has to stick together.

So if the problem is that he's straining his voice, then yes, you need to work on the mix. However, if the problem is that everything sounds sloppy, then you all need to work together to get a tighter sound. I don't mean that he has to get rigid to stay on the beat, that doesn't sound good either. But there's a kind of tapping into each others ideas that goes on when a band is really playing well together. Each person has to get to know each other's style, and each person has to value the contribution of every other band member as much as his own. Sometimes that's a problem for prima-donna type lead singers. I know this because I've been one myself before. :)

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"A violin player plays very nice when he is playing by himself. If he is bowing while another player does the fingering, he's not half as good."

"A dancer is dancing the steps of some figure very well by himself. When he is dancing with another..."

A dancing pair is two beings moving with a common center of gravity and a common purpose. It takes a lot of practice to arrive there: the end result is one of both doing their part confidently without being hampered by any apparent consideration for the other getting in the away. In a similar vein, it takes a lot of practice for a band to play as one in a particular configuration.

It will also have taken a lot of time for your singer before his guitar playing and his singing formed one organic unit. Now he has managed to have the whole performance under his single control. Which is exactly what is not his job in a band setting.

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