Monday, December 8, 2008

Extra Savoir-Faire

In my experience, there are often players who require a fair bit of support from the musician; perhaps they're not strong singers, or perhaps they are just happy to work within the structure of the music. On the other hand, there are a few players that are great singers, have great rhythm and timing, and great musical confidence... they just get it. How can you support them more effectively to make the show as good as it can be?

These confident singers would probably be fine without any music. They don't necessarily require the musician's support, and they're going to push off in their own direction given half the chance. If you're supporting them, go along for the ride! Let them drive, and really concentrate on following their lead and going where they go.

Often with an experienced singer, I'll let them start a musical game without any music. For games like Song, many players will have a personal preference about letting the muso start first, or going first. I love it when a player wants to start first. I find it challenging and exhilarating to find the key they're in, find an accompaniment style that suits what they're doing, and finding a chord progression that fits as well. To me that's a lot more fun than picking a key and a style and a progression and letting the players catch up. I also like that, instead of starting with one of your standard styles (another jazz song, another bouncy march song), you end up with something more original because you've had to make it fit the singers.

When you have a singer that has both confidence and musical ability, you can really start to work together effectively. Because they require a little less support, you can go off and do instrumental fills or break rules, and they'll have the confidence and ability to stay the course. You can tell that I rate a singer when I give them a key change during a song. The good singers will cope with that, the not-as-good singers get lost and just lose the key for a little bit.

There are a handful of players I work with here that I just seem to mind-meld with when we perform songs together. I can't explain why, but one will just know that the other is going there or about to stop or about to change the mood. It's probably just being in tune with the singer, watching their body language and how they're moving around the stage, listening to the lyrics, hearing the melody progressions they're setting up. It's also their familiarity with me, where I tend to go, how I tend to signal upcoming changes. Perhaps once a month we end up doing a song that is a mind-meld experience. That two-minute song, and the experience of creating something like that, keeps me buzzing for days. I'd happily perform 10 shows just to get one of those experiences.


Dan said...

So it's a good thing that I didn't realise you gave me a key change last night? Sweet!

Girl Clumsy said...

I love the way with you Kris I can start with a softly, softly approach... then do the big song build-up, and you'll just follow me up - or lead me up - and start bashing away at the keys.

Sorry I don't know the technical term for it, but it's always fun to give the song that extra dimension!

Kris said...

Dan: 7 key changes for you, and I even changed you to Swahili and back and you didn't skip a beat ;) Seriously, I like that I'm getting to know you guys a bit better singing-wise.

Nat: All those reality TV judges call it "light and shade"... OK, I'm sure there's a proper term, but who knows. I enjoy listening to the singer and being changed by things during the song. I have way more fun doing that, than just motoring away and keeping the same feel for the whole piece.

I like the term "bashing away" too. Makes it sound like I'm playing the keyboard with a big foam hammer. (Which I've done.)

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