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I play saxes in a 7 piece covers band. The band has male and female vocalists and does as close to original versions as we can manage of lots of very well known songs from the 60s - 90s. We play mainly for parties, dinner-dances, weddings etc.

The band's female singer had an idea that we could do a fund-raising gig for the school where her children and my daughter go. Something along the lines of the band playing for free and inviting the audience to bid to come up on stage and do a song of their choosing from our song list (currently about 100).

Presumably if the atmosphere is right, then the sort of person who would do karaoke might want to give it a go.

I can foresee all sorts of problems, including the band playing in the wrong key for the singer's range and also not getting enough volunteers ! But the main difficulties might be about the words and timing. We could hand out song sheets and the band's singer could try to keep the guest vocalist in time, but I don't know whether that would work. Maybe we could do something clever with a computer displaying the lyrics and highlighting the current word.

Have any of you SOTWers ever done anything like karaoke with a live band and have you got any tips ?

As well as the musical side, it would be interesting to hear ideas on the "business model" of how to make money for the school from this. Should volunteers pay a set fee (in advance or on the night); should songs be auctioned off - basically can it be made to work financially ?

Thanks in advance

Rhys
 

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Sure there could be plenty of problems, but that doesn't mean it couldn't work. If your lead singer is willing to hang back and keep the "guest" singers going, it could be fun.

My advice would be to think about additional ways to make the event profitable:

Don't be shy about asking local businesses to donate.
Food and beverage places can donate refreshments.
Any business could donate products or services for a silent auction. The items or services don't have to be big or high-priced, and very small items ca be grouped together to increase interest.

My wife goes to and/or coordinates lots of charity events, and the financial success always comes from corporate sponsorships, and the silent auctions.

Good Luck!
 

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Provide a list of all the songs you can do. (Just like a Karaoke machine). Be prepared to transpose it for the singers range (though much of the fun for Karaoke is trying to crack it out like the original... and failing miserably at it). Play straight through the song as close to the original as possible (don't stop for them to remember words or cut across to the bridge).

If you can provide a Karaoke video monitor with the words, this would help out a lot. Otherwise, have sheets with the lyrics printed out.

It's just like Karaoke, but live, some would argue that most cover bands do this anyway. (Especially if the crowd has had a few too many).

It can be fun though if you don't take it too seriously. Enjoy.
 

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The guys in the band have to be good enough to know when a singer hacks meter. Then they have to know how to adjust. Usually you drop out and let the rhythm section make the adjustment. But you have to be able to find your place in the score after that. It helps to have lyrics cues notated on each part. Or at least on each section leader's part.
 

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Swampcabbage said:
Provide a list of all the songs you can do. (Just like a Karaoke machine). Be prepared to transpose it for the singers range (though much of the fun for Karaoke is trying to crack it out like the original... and failing miserably at it).
I wouldn't worry too much about getting the range right. It's up to the singer to pick a song they can do, they'll only learn what's in their range if they get stuck with some things outside of their range.
Plus: It's not like they'll be in tune anyway. I've got tonedeaf neighbours downstairs with a karaoke machine. Awful.
 

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If you're covering the songs close to the original (like you said) then it shouldn't be hard for someone who knows the song to keep up.

This is the same as karaoke except for the words appearing on a screen.

I was with an oldies band that would occasionally let someone from the audience give it a try and the worst was they forgot some of the words.
They kept up with the band just fine.

Keep the whole thing in the spirit of fun and the crowd won't mind the mistakes.
 

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I would play tunes in the original keys. That's what people have been singing it to in their cars anyway. Also, I wouldn't worry about trying to keep up with the vocalist. When they sing karaoke, they have to find their place. I'd let your usual vocalist hang in the wings to jump in and help them find their place, acting like the video prompter in a karaoke joint.

I think the hardest thing will be the people coming up on stage and trying to sing, immersed in all that sound for the first time. It's a lot different from a tune playing over a sound system. A vocalist really has to learn how to hear themselves and sing on a stage with drums, amps, etc.

Sounds like a fun idea.
 

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Morry said:
Also, I wouldn't worry about trying to keep up with the vocalist. When they sing karaoke, they have to find their place.
Which is wh karaoke machines project "follow the bouncing ball" lyrics on a screen. If you hack meter in a karaoke bar, you not only can't sing, you can't read.
 

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I've occasionally tried to meld with a vocalist provided by a client, almost always for a wedding (father sings to the daughter). Even with a rehearsal in advance, you generally find that the amateur can't hack it in the key that you are in.

Better results occur with original key arrangements, as noted above, However, the original key might not suit your vocalist who is normally called up on to sing the tune. Not much point carrying Crazy in seven different keys when you normally only use one.

Far better results occur with tunes that an audience member can be part of, but without actually singing. I use two of these occasional.

The first is Pennsylvania 6-5000. Years and years ago, I got tired of listening to over played cymbal bells when doing the tune, so I rigged up a two tone electric bell, about as close to a classic telephone as you could get. While we don't do 6-5-oh-oh-oh all that often, I occasionally offer "performing with the band" as a freeby silent auction item that they can raffle off.

The winner (female) gets to sit on a stool, out front of the group, with the bell on her lap and a string around one of her ankles. Comes the appropriate time in the tune, a tug on the string means to push the button. Cute, harmless, and a nice enough comedy gag.

The other one is for a lucky guy in the crowd. He gets stood up on the stool, with one of the vocalists singing Happy, Happy Birthday Baby with the appropriate writhing and so forth. We had one gal that could make a priest forget his vows when doing this...

Up to the top, someone made the point that a wedding is not about you (the musician) and more about them. Keep that point well in mind. IFfen they don't want to hear Play That Funky Music White Boy", well then don't play it.
 

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littlemanbighorn said:
I wouldn't worry too much about getting the range right. It's up to the singer to pick a song they can do, they'll only learn what's in their range if they get stuck with some things outside of their range.
Plus: It's not like they'll be in tune anyway. I've got tonedeaf neighbours downstairs with a karaoke machine. Awful.
Rhys,
I used to work in a karaoke bar. If the singer knows the song and can sing it well he/she does it in the original key.
Many people sing off-key and I doubt if the band adjusting to them will help. Also, they don't expect it anyway. (Just imagine how you'll react if the karaoke machine suddenly adjusts it's tune to your singing:D They'll probably be very surprised or, more likely, they wouldn't care because they're too busy listening to themselves sing and cannot hear the accompaniment too well anyway )
I would suggest you just play it in the original key whether the singer is in tune or not. Makes life simpler for them and you.

Ben
 

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Make it a live "Gong Show" instead of Karaoke. When they stink, you don't have to hear them butcher the whole song.
 

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SOTSDO said:
I've occasionally tried to meld with a vocalist provided by a client, almost always for a wedding (father sings to the daughter). Even with a rehearsal in advance, you generally find that the amateur can't hack it in the key that you are in.
If you have the luxury of a rehearsal with an impromptu singer, you can find the singer's key during the rehearsal and play the tune where the singer can sing it. Without a rehearsal, I usually spend a few minutes with the singer before the set and find the key. In a pinch I'll do it on the spot. "Sing me the first few words so I can find your key."

We were playing a big band gig at a country club in Palm Beach. They said, "We have someone here who wants to sing." It was Joni James. (Remember her?) She walked up to the bandstand, took the microphone and started singing one of her hits without telling us in advance the tune or her key. Bummer. She was singing between Eb and E. In the cracks. I hovered over the keys wondering what to do. The bass player looked at me and shook his head. He played in the cracks with her and gradually pulled her down to Eb. Then he nodded, and I came in. Later she said to me, "That was very effective how you had me sing with only the bass and then came in." The bass player just grinned.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions and anecdotes.

I think our singer's original idea came out of some "guest" vocalists who have invited themselves on stage. Sometimes they are good and sometimes awful, but either way, it can go down really well with the crowd. It helps if they know the singer and are in the right frame of mind.

I think it's a good idea to stick with the original keys and if the guest singer can't hack it, then our vocalist would help and eventually take over. Or maybe the "gong show" idea to cut them short !

Probably the best idea is to make the "live karaoke" just part of our set, so we play a few numbers, mixed in with a few guest numbers. It could be quite good marketing for us and a way of getting more (paid) gigs in the future.

It also seems like it would work best as part of a bigger fundraising function. And sales of alchohol should be an important part of making sure we get enough volunteers !

I'll let you know if it happens and how it went.

Rhys
 
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