Friday, October 10, 2008

Singing Barman

Singing Barman is a great musical game - it has a well-defined structure, and is a real crowd pleaser. If you have one very strong singer willing to carry the scene as the bartender, you'll have a hit every time.

The basic premise is this: All but one of the players have problems that need solving (offers from the audience, from the MC, whatever). The bartender, as bartenders do, can pretty much solve any problem. One at a time, the players approach the bar, present their problem, the barman suggests a solution, and off the player goes.

Of course, it's a musical game, so both the problem, and the solution, are sung. Often the music follows a 12-bar blues format; I've also heard the game referred to as Blues Barman. Most musos can handle the 12-bar blues in their sleep, and most actors have heard enough 12-bar blues to get the timing right. That said, it doesn't have to be 12-bar blues; if you get the feel right, any blues will do.

There are a few things I often do in a Singing Barman to provide a bit of light and shade, and stop the scene from just being one big massive 12-bar blues.

First up - when the players are presenting a problem, I'll play a blues in a minor key, or in a really dirty way, and often it's just a little bit mopey. The character has a problem, they're unhappy, and the music should reflect that. When the barman starts to sing their bit, the music transitions to a major key, and the pace might pick up a little bit. The barman is happy! He's providing a solution! Yay! I think it's important to have a bit of light and shade between the problem-singing and the solution-singing.

I'm ashamed to say it, but I take a leaf from Australian/American/... Idol and use gratuitous key changes to keep the music a bit fresh. After player one's problem is sorted, while they're filing off the stage (hopefully to a bit of applause and laughter), I'll key change up a tone, and switch back to a minor key for the next player. And again for the third one.

Hopefully by the time the third player has hit the stage, the rather talented singer playing the barman is kicking it up a notch, going a bit over the top energy wise as one might do in a blues song towards the end anyway. So the music's picking up the pace, the key is going up, and the barman nails a big finish! And scene.

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