How To Do A Home Concert
One fantastic way of getting performance practice and getting to feel what it’s like doing a proper show is to put on one in your own home. Home shows are growing in popularity and musicians from all different stages in their careers are doing home shows.
I personally love doing them and it can be a really effective way to practice your repertoire and build a solid audience in the process. I’m into graphics so I made this cute pic to show you all the benefits of doing your own home show:
Ok so now we know how good putting on a home show can be, I’m going to take you through the steps of putting one on by yourself. There are three steps you need to consider: THE VENUE, YOUR AUDIENCE, YOU.
Your performance space
Always organize the venue before you start thinking about how many people you are going to invite to a show because if your home is really small, your guest list will need to be limited to a select few.
Also, depending on your living situation, you will need to arrange the time of your show around other people living in the house or organize it for when your grumpy neighbor is definitely going to be out.
Have a think about the resources you already have and plan where in your home you will hold the show. Examples of things to consider include:
- How many chairs do you have?
- Can you do the show in your living room so you can use the sofa as well?
- Do you play an instrument that you can use for the show?
- What sort of backdrop are you going to stand behind?
- Do you have enough room to let your guests have a few drinks and nibblies before or after the show?
- Is there a table you can use to display your CDs/merch/muffins that you baked and are selling for $1 each?
Also consider what the lighting is going to be like. Softer mood lighting in the evenings can easily be created with candles and a few lamps. Just make sure you put any candles in places that can’t be accidentally knocked over.
Oh and you don’t need a stage. Home shows are meant to be intimate and friendly so as long as you have enough room to move around and your guests have a good view of you, then performing sans stage is totally fine.
Once you have a good idea of your performance space, you need to think about equipment. The aim of home shows is to keep things intimate and so if you play guitar or piano and sing, then have a go at performing without any amplification.
However if you are going to use backing tracks then even if you don’t need the volume, using a microphone can help you to feel more comfortable and gives you something to do with your hands. It is incredibly hard standing up there without an instrument, mic or mic stand to fiddle with!!!
At some stage you will need to start collecting basic equipment and I personally like to buy stuff that is going to grow with me, but I know that it can get really expensive really quickly, so I will give you a few alternatives to consider.
Here’s a list of the basics you need for your home show and the equipment I personally use plus some cheaper alternatives. Please bear in mind that my equipment is pretty much industry standard and you can find things that are a lot more expensive and a lot cheaper but it gives you a benchmark. Prices are averages so shop around to find the best deal.
This is the first thing you should be looking to purchase as a singer and it will be the one item you probably use the most (for obvious reasons.) I use a Shure SM58 which you will find being used in most pubs and clubs around the globe. It will cost you anywhere from $150-$300.
Any of the cheaper Shure models are also ok, but any less than the 58 and you’ll start getting feedback issues a tinny sound and other problems like that ‘pop’ noise when you say a ‘p’ sound into the mic. If you are going to spend any decent money, spend it on your mic. A good mic makes you sound better. ‘Nuff said.
PS: your mic will probably not come with a cable that you need to plug it into the next piece of equipment we will talk about so make sure you pick this up when you buy your mic. We (musos) call these cables ‘leads’.
This one is entirely optional. I like to use a mic stand because of the type of music I sing but whether or not you use one is up to you. You can grab them for anything from $40 – $150. I use one with a weighted round base because I’ve tripped over the ones that have the three legs that stick out at the bottom and it’s hard enough singing in heels as it is.
PA or some kind of amp
You need some kind of amplification to plug your mic into so you can have volume. Singers use ‘Pas’ instrumentalists use ‘Amps’.
What’s the difference?
A PA does more.
There are many different sizes and types of Pas that you can get but basically the main set up for a PA system is:
Fold back speakers – these are the speakers that point towards you on stage so you can hear what you’re singing
Front of house speakers – these are the largest speakers that point out towards the audience so they can hear what you are singing
Mixer – this is the control device that you plug your mic and all the other instruments into and you can set the volume, the levels (i.e. how much bass or treble you have in the sound), reverb (that’s the ‘echo’ that makes your vocals sound nice and lush), etc…
A quick note:
I know that this can all start looking a bit overwhelming and before you go out and spend a heap of cash on a PA system, here’s a little tip; its called….
The povo PA set up!!
You can get away with a super povo set up like playing your backing track through your ipod speakers and using your boyfriend’s tiny practice amp for your mic. Because you don’t need a lot of volume this will be fine for a home show BUT at some stage you are going to need to get a PA so I always feel it’s better to invest in something proper from the start.
Having said that, I have used the povo method a few times and it did the trick. (If you’re not Australian, ‘povo’ is slang for someone with zero budget.)
When I got my first PA I bought the Yamaha Stagepas 300 for around $800 (about 5 years ago) and it was awesome. It looks like this:
This little baby will keep you going for indoor audiences of up to 80 people (or 80 pax in event speak.) It comes with its own mixer and is super portable and lightweight; which I love because I hate carting heavy equipment around the place.
It’s a cinch to set up and comes with its own leads and because the speakers are powered (that means you don’t need to run extra leads from the speaker to the power socket) there is less to fuss with. It will give you great sound for home shows and when you start getting paid gigs in cafes for example, then it will be all you need for a small venue.
I still use mine today and just added a couple of really amazing powered speakers to it for the ‘front of house’ speakers and I use the two little ones you can see above, as foldback. I can perform for audiences up to 300 with it now which is pretty much all I need. If I ever sing for a larger audience, it’s for a show that has the PA provided.
Now its time to put your event organizer hat on. Let’s talk guest list.
How many people do you think you could get to a show? Are you going to invite friends and family or are you going to let guest bring other people that you don’t know?
Home shows are supposed to be small so… if in doubt, leave them out. That’s my motto for home shows anyway. Keep them simple and save yourself the headache or having to organize a bigger crowd.
Things to think about when it comes to your guest list:
1. Will you send out tickets or charge a small fee?
2. Think of your purpose for putting on the show. If it’s your first try and you are using it to gain performance practice, then go friendly. Just invite people you feel will be encouraging. If you’re a gig pro and you’re looking to expand your fan base, then extend the guest list to one or two people you don’t know really well to increase your exposure.
3. Will the people you have invited actually like the type music you are going to sing? This will greatly affect the outcome of your show. If you hated pop, you wouldn’t like to be dragged along to a friend’s pop singing show would you? Pick your guests appropriately and set yourself up for success from the start.
Turn it into a real event
When you are planning your show, remember to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think about how you will be using their time. Noone goes to a show that only runs for half an hour, so if your repertoire list is teeny tiny make the evening into a real event by inviting your guests for drinks and munchies before or after your performance.
I like to throw a dinner and make it into a ‘dinner and show’ kind of a thing.
Remember the finer details and make yourself a buck in the process
Think about the things you normally do when you go out to a show. You buy a ticket, grab a drink before hand, enjoy the show with your friends and if you liked it, maybe buy a CD or some sort of memorabilia at the end.
So here’s something I really want you to think about:
People like to engage in the experience.
In financial terms that means; they like to buy something little so give them the opportunity. If you don’t have a CD then bake brownies, make programs or do whatever (get creative ladies) and sell something. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
Many women don’t like the idea of selling to their friends. Don’t think of it like that. It’s really about creating the whole experience for them and… if you get a reward for all your hard work then that’s great! You should be rewarded for your efforts; after all you have provided an evening’s worth of entertainment. 🙂
This is the fun part. It’s where you get to decide which songs you will sing and what outfit you’re going to wear for the show.
Decide on your songs
Choosing the songs you are going to sing and putting them into an order of performance is called creating a SET LIST. Ordinarily singers will perform for 45 minutes to an hour at a time. This is called a ‘Set’ (hence the term ‘Set List’) so when you do your own show, if you don’t have enough repertoire to fill a whole set then you can make the decision to only sing for 30 minutes if you want to. Just fill up the rest of the time with some drinks or cook a meal to go with the performance and turn the evening into a ‘dinner and a show’ type thing.
When you are putting together your set list, you need to think about the energy level of your songs and how they will make the audience feel. For example if you put too many slow songs together the energy level of your show will drop and your audience might become bored, but similarly, if all of your songs are fast, you could be missing out on creating some really intimate emotional moments that will really resonate with your audience and make you stick in their minds.
Try mixing your songs up and see how it goes. You can always change the order for the next show (or even during the show if you feel like you need to.)
Choose your outfit
I recommend really going for it when it comes to performance clothes. Think of your outfit as a costume that only singers can get away with. Trust me, the better you look, the more confident you’ll feel and the better you’ll sound.
Things to think about when choosing your outfit:
- Does it suit the music you want to perform?
- Is the outfit flattering? ALWAYS play up your best features.
- Does your top restrict your breathing or require you to suck-it-in the whole night? If so, maybe rethink your outfit and go for flowy or comfortable but glamorous gear that allows you to breathe properly.
- Does your outfit contrast the background you will be standing in front of? This is so important to consider. If you’re performing at home and you have white walls, don’t wear white or you’ll blend right in. Go for a solid colour.
- Rethink your heel height. Can you really sing and move around in those stilettos?
It’s a fantastic idea to have someone take photos or video of your show to use as promotional material so make sure your outfit reflects the style of music you are singing as well as your personality.
So there you have it! Everything you need to put on your very own home show.
Here’s a full article I wrote on how to get singing gigs for more ideas on making an income from your singing.
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