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Need a Band? How to Sing or Play on Your Own

Need a Band? How to Sing or Play on Your Own

“I don’t have a band to play with.” This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the music industry today. Ever since the beginning of music there have been solo artists. Take a medieval singer: all they had to do was go to the city center or market and begin to belt it out. Take a trumpet player in current New York City: all they have to do is buy a cheap subway ticket and play for the people waiting for trains. These two examples relate to busking, or street performing, which despite its connotations has been the reputable beginning of hundreds of musicians.

Johnnie Mac is a great example of making a very profitable living off performing solo and creating the BuskerWorld website. Many restaurants have wanted the special ambiance of live music but not the cost of a full band, so they will have a solo or duo perform. This keeps the cost low for the restaurant and performer. If a venue is willing to pay $50/hour, why have a 10 piece ensemble? If you are a solo artist, $50/hour is great pay and more than most people make at other jobs.

If you feel you need accompaniment to your solo playing, why not get some pre-recorded tracks? Pre-recorded tracks are readily available and can come as just a drum loop or a full orchestra accompaniment. You can download these to an iPod or MP3 player and have the band, literally, at your fingertips. These tracks can be found on iTunes and Amazon which has tracks for public domain songs. Many of these tracks come with an option to license them for other use.

As a musician, you need to be making a profitable business. This can be hard, but by performing by yourself you are eliminating the costs of other musicians, the need for more equipment, and other profit depleting aspects of a band.

One of the best aspects of playing without a band is a valuable lesson- entertaining by yourself. This is not merely playing or singing but entertaining the audience. When you have a band, you can turn to them, talk to them, joke with the, rely on them, blame them, etc. Without the band, your skills as a performer, musician, and speaker develop exponentially. About 10 years ago, it was the norm for a big name musician or singer to come out and sing a stripped, acoustic, or simplified version of a few songs.

All the colored lights and extra band members would fade away and the spotlight would highlight the entertainer in a simple circle of light. All the focus would be on that entertainer, if they had not learned how to be entertaining and capture the audience as a solo artist, it would be a train wreck. As most musicians start out as solo performers, this is not the disaster it could be. More and more though we see this spotlight, solo performance fade because musicians nowadays are not comfortable with being a solo entertainer.

Having a band is not a hindrance but rather a gift: monetarily, creatively, and as a growing tool for entertaining. If you feel you need accompaniment, you can download tracks, but remember they should not be used as a crutch but as a small dash of spice to your performance. The greatest lesson a musician can learn is how to entertain as a solo performer.

In My Own Experience:
As a singer, I had always sung with a choir, band, orchestra, or some other form of accompaniment. Never did I think I would be able to perform as a solo artist. My husband and I were asked to perform at a retirement home and, of course, we accepted. After we had accepted, we realized we really did not have any musician friends in the area at which we were to perform. So we set about brainstorming possibilities: singing a Capella, singing with the original MP3’s of the singer and song, or play to karaoke tracks. My husband has had a successful career as a music recording engineer and had recorded tracks for himself with which to record his own music and singing.

These tracks were paid for by him in order to record his vocal and sell his own CDs. We took off the vocals and it sounded just like a live band. So our first performance at that retirement home, we played to pre-recorded tracks or karaoke tracks. This opened our eyes to a broader market– playing as solo or duo artists without hiring a band. Karaoke tracks now are not the cheesy sounding synthesizer tracks of yesteryear. Instead, they are sometimes the original tracks with just the vocals stripped. In the case of Taylor Swift’s latest album, one karaoke company has the original music that her studio band played– you can sing to Taylor Swift’s real tracks! Since we discovered pre-recorded music and tracks, we have performed at hundreds of venues singing as solo or duo performers.