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Long ago in a small town in east TN called Union County, I became interested in playing music. My first experience was with the bass guitar. I remember borrowing a fender bass from my friends neighbor and trying out for the band. None of us had really been playing long if any at all and we had no idea what we were doing. Shortly after that I decided to switch to guitar. Luckily, I had a good friend that learned a lot from his father and he helped me out. I had a bit of a knack for it and learned most of the basic chords in a few months. I was quite young, around 12 or so and I had lots of time to practice. After a few years of playing together we became a proficient band for our age and began to play a few shows and get together. After being on the stage I was hooked. It was so much fun and all the work was finally paying off. I continued on playing music with my first band till I got out of high school. Shortly after graduating I sign up for the military. This was in 2001 not long after the 911 attacks and I did not go overseas until 2005. Throughout this time I continued to make music and played with a number of bands as a singer and/or guitarist. Around the later years of the 2000’s I started playing music with my first band again. We made a good run but did not have the financial backing or will to succeed in such a business. I got a degree in web design that did not serve me well and worked dead end jobs mostly. It was a difficult time for me. I struggled financially and ended up in a divorce. Around 2009-2010 I met my wife and began to get things together. I ended up as a CNA at a local nursing home an worked there for almost 3 years. Around 2013-2014 I went to an Indie Lagone show for a meet and greet. I liked the vibe of the music and the laid back atmosphere of the band. It was a nice break from all the very serious heavier music I had played in the past. I started nursing school in 2015 and made it though by the skin on my teeth. As my career got better the band finally started finding stable band members and we began to grow in a positive direction. The direction of the music changed and we worked with a A and R representative to make better more marketable music. We did lots of analysis on popular music and structures of songs. It helped us immensely and we feel like our new music is the best we have made yet. On January 26, 2017 my baby girl Emberly Nyxx was born. I am so thankful for everything I have and glad to be a part of such a dedicated band as Indie Lagone.
The crowd has arrived, the stage is set, the band is pumped. Meanwhile, behind the facade of the confident singer, nerves have begun to come unhinged. He/She has tried to down a couple drinks to relax and started doing some much needed warmups. To no avail they still just can not find that comfort zone. What to do…..
Nerves can get the best of any good singer and make them appear less of the vocal god that they really are. Here are a few tips to help get that confidence up and reduce the urgency to blow out your vocals in the first 3 songs of your set.
PROBLEM: Can’t relax and produce clean notes in your higher range.
Here are several ideas for you that have proven effective for me. 1st the obvious. STRETCH. Relax everything. Try raising your shoulders and then while doing tail up and tail down vowels let them drop. Be sure to take very deep breaths and do this for about 3 minutes.
YAAAWWWWNNNN! Yawning is one of the best relaxation exercises for a singer. It allows your throat to open and your larynx to drop.
EAT! Not nachos and cheese or jalapeno bites from the bar. STAY AWAY FROM DAIRY! Try to eat something that is going to make you chew. The chewing motion will help open everything up and make your throat relax. It has to do so in order to allow you to swallow. I would suggest a hard fruit like apples. You can also try celery and peanut butter. The peanut butter will provide you with energy for your show as well. Remember the point in this is to chew, not just to get it in your stomach.
PROBLEM: DRY THROAT
Nothing like having cotton mouth just before you are supposed to perform. Ways to combat this? Well there are a thousand ways to do this but my advice is water. Stay away from alcohol. Not only will your body be hydrating to replace all the sweat that will pour out of your body during your show, but it will continue that swallowing action.You can also try sour candies to get that saliva flowing.
PROBLEM: I lose my voice halfway through our set.
If you are in a rock band with high energy shows, this is most likely something you have experienced. Sometimes this can be caused just by being too pumped up and screaming to the back of the room for the first few songs. At that point you have probably started to rip those chords. It is just downhill from here. Keep reading.
Another reason could be that you are simply out of breath. You know…. it takes air to make those notes. The less air we have the harder we push, the harder we push the more we strain, the more we strain the more we scream, the more we scream the less we sing.
Simple solution…. CALM DOWN!
As much as a stage show matters, it is not worth making your band look bad. Think of it from this perspective. If you were playing a ballad and you were in the midst of this super smooth light part and then your guitarist comes in full blown distortion with strings just out of tune. It wouldn’t really matter that he was pretty good about keeping it in the road, bending certain strings that he thinks are flat trying to make the chord sound whole. It would absolutely ruin that moment. That is what we do as singers when we push too hard for lack of air. Straining and sounding more like Chewbacca than the guy on the CD.
We can make ourselves believe that coming out running across the stage for the big “WE ARE HERE” intro. Eh… I would rather see someone actually have something left for the song. 30 seconds of BOOM is so not worth 30 minutes of UGH.
Try doing some deep breathing exercises before you hit the stage. Stretch your lungs. Stretch your arms out straight above your head and take in as much air as possible. SLOWLY exhale.. repeat.
Draw a mental road map of your show. Keep to it. If you find yourself getting off course pull it back in. Remember big, slow gestures are worth as much as the pogo stick bounce that grinds you down. You can also get your band to fill a little between songs to give you a chance to get a drink and recoup.
Remember this one point and it will help keep perspective. Fans come to see you play the songs they know. Your friends and family will always be way more forgiving than someone seeing you for the 1st time, having no idea what you should sound like. Some people like to see people fail. No matter what the reason is for those people to have shown up, you want them to remember you for your gift not the crash.
Give it a shot, put on a great show and CALM DOWN! It will make a huge difference in your performance and you may find your confidence and ability has not quite left the building.
My name is Allen Swank and I play in the band Indie LAgone. I have been performing for more than half of my life and love to share the knowledge I have gained along the way.