Five Tips for Vocalists Working with a Trio

Chester_Lori_Rogerx400Jazz singers can have any number of musicians backing them up onstage, but it’s often a trio, usually piano or guitar, bass, and drums. Here are some tips to help make your experience smooth, successful, and professional.

1. Your Own Charts
Make a book of your own charts in the keys you sing them in, and have a duplicate book for each player. If you have a horn player, make sure the charts are transposed in the correct key. The book can be as simple as a pocket folder, available at your local office supply store. Or you can invest in upscale professional folders, available online. Categorize your songs in your master book by style, key, and tempo. This will help you plan your set list from show to show. Number your charts and keep a master list in your computer so you can to add more.

2. Readable Charts
Make sure all your charts are readable and easy to manage. It will save time and stress during the performance to have charts with multiple pages taped together as one single, folded sheet. Try to arrange your charts so they are never more than 3 pages long. Any chart longer than 3 pages will flop over the sides of the music stand.

3. Counting Off
Know how to count off your tunes. Count them off in such a way that your trio can clearly hear the 2 and 4 in your count: “1, ah-2, ah-1-2-3-4.” Count off Bossa Novas and other Latin styles as straight quarter notes in such a way that the musicians can hear the “straight” eighth notes. Count off confidently and loudly enough for them to hear it. A GOOD TIP: To find the correct tempo, sing through the bridge of the tune. Many time bridges often contains the busiest part of the melody, so humming through it will often dictate what the tempo should be.

4. Form, Style, and Tempo
Review form, style, and tempo. Before starting the tune, remind the band of the style and the actual road map of solo form, modulations, meter changes, and codas. Take your time doing this. Under the pressure of being on stage, it may seem like an eternity, but in reality, it is six seconds that will pay off big time in the “just right” performance of that tune.

5. Intros and Endings
Know how to relay to the band the proper intro and ending. Standard intro and outro forms include: vamping, last 4 bars, last 8 bars as intros, modulations, Basie endings, tags, etc. A 4-bar intro works well for ballads. An 8-bar intro works well for a medium to up-tempo song, giving the band time to settle into the tempo.

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