The Dos and Don’ts of Sitting In

If you are working to be a singer, one of the skills to master is the art of “sitting in.”

Sometimes when you go to see your musician friends perform, (or when you’re going to be in town presenting a workshop *smile*)they invite you to sit in on a number. This means you sing a song (or two) with their band. Having a successful sit-in experience is a result of doing the appropriate prep work. The goal of sitting in should be to have good performance experience and to gain more stage time.

Here are some things to help ensure a good performance (and maybe even a repeat invitation to sing with your friend’s band).

    • DO have 2 or 3 songs you are ready to sing at a moment’s notice. These are songs you that you like, that you sing well and that the band will likely know. Avoid ballads and pick the song that fits in best with the set your friends are presenting. (Be sure to have your songs memorized. *smile*)

    • DO bring along the music for your songs whenever you attend a gig at which you might be asked to sing. (I tend to keep my “book” in my car – just in case *smile*)

    • DO keep in mind that not all players will sightread a chart or sheet music well. If there is anything tricky, be sure to go over it quickly with the band before you sing. If it’s clear the band doesn’t read well, pick something everyone knows how to play – and you know how to sing! – without music.

    • DO know your keys! If you pick a standard tune, you probably won’t need music for the band, but you should be able tell the band in what key you sing the song. (I recommend knowing the keys of ALL the songs you sing.)

    • DO practice giving tempos (counting in) and groove/feel (shuffle, swing, R&B, etc.) to the band. Be ready to tell the players about the song form and how you will cue the ending.

    • DO pay attention to what you wear if you think that you’ll be asked to sing. Wear something that makes you feel good and that is comfortable to sing in.

    • DON’T just hop on stage. Talk to your friend(s) before the show or at the break. Wait to be asked. *smile*

    • DON’T use other people’s microphones or instruments without permission.

    • DO be gracious, you have been invited on stage as a guest. Sing only one song (unless you are asked to sing another) and thank the person who invited you to sing, as well as the player(s).

    • DO throw a couple of bucks in the tip jar. (Note: It’s also a good idea to spend some money at the venue since your friends are there, in part, to help the venue sell drinks and/or food.)

    • DON’T perform if you’re not ready. If you aren’t feeling up to performing, don’t have your songs ready or think that your and the band’s repertoires don’t really overlap, you can politely decline the invitation.

      When you’re prepared, sitting in can be the cherry on top of a great night of live music. Plus, as a performing singer, the more stage time you get the better.

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