Relax Moms and Dads this post is not about some hallucinogenic pill. It is about much worse – LEAD SINGER DISEASE!
However, before I get into that and alienate my vocal brethren I want to give you two versions of the same joke, just to show that I can be self deprecating also. It’s all in fun singers so loosen up the leather pants!
How many guitarists does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer: 7 – one to do it and six to sit around saying they could have done it better.
OK, how many singers does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer 1: He/She just holds the light bulb and the world revolves around them.
So true, so true – on both accounts.
You see, I have been playing guitar since I was about 13 or 14 (no I don’t know exactly how old I was – I didn’t plan on walking on water and writing my memoirs to preserve my journey!). I started playing in clubs since I was around 18 or 19 (again – the walk on water thing). I am now quite older (OK, I am 40 as of this writing). So that is 27 years of playing (I actually did the singing along with my drummer when I first started playing in a band – so that was my LSD period).
OK so 27 years of playing with a TON of different singers and you know what? I have only had one singer through it all that didn’t suffer from this dreaded disease – and it took me 24 years to find her!
You’ll know you found one when you hear any of the following statements uttered with the subtleties of a Lion’s roar when some chump Hyena is trying to steal their food:
“Hey man, this P.A. is mine and we’ll play what I want to.”
“Dude, you sound great but your stepping over my vocals.”
“They’re all coming to see me!”
“Hey Bro, turn my mic all the way up.”
“No Man, I don’t do roady stuff.”
“I’ll see you at the gig.” What he/she really means is – I’ll see you at the gig 5 minutes before we start to play.
“Steve Perry sucks, Man. I can out sing that fool any day!”
“Hey I AM Van Halen, Man!” (sorry this one is from my past – couldn’t help but put it in there)
Oh yeah that reminds me, if they go by three names, then you know they are already full blown chomping on the LSD pill – See: David Lee Roth, Ronnie James Dio, Axel Freakin’ Rose.
OR, if they go by one name you can bet LSD is chronic – See: Elvis, Mariah, Celine, Mikey (just kidding bro, love ya! A little inside joke for me and my gang.)
And on and on and on and on and on and on…
So, my young guitar hero, how do you deal with LSD?
Just like any bad trip gone wrong – you just let it ride…just let it ride. And keep saying to yourself, “This is just make believe and soon it will be over.”
Seriously there isn’t much you can do because most singers do not live in reality.
Ever seen American Idol? So so many of those people just can not sing. Simon rips those dudes and tries to bring them back to this planet, but they NEVER listen! They just say how stupid Simon is, while he’s making 10 bazillion dollars and they had to take time off from the fry station.
Hey money isn’t everything, but the man got where he’s at for a reason, you’d think they would listen, take the free advice, and use it to improve. Well it’s not their fault they can’t – they’re hopped up on LSD!
What blows me away is that I have seen singers who have just butchered a song, listening to themselves on a recording, and have seen them personally, with my own eyes, and heard them bellow with my own ears something like this, “Hell yeah – I nailed it!
So, you can’t give them criticism, can’t show them by playing their debacle back to them, what can you do?
Well first you have to know your prey. You have to understand that they are basically naked in front of a bunch of strangers dangling their wares in front of the world to see. In order to do that they HAVE to have a thick skin and a crap load of confidence. We have our guitars to hide behind.
Also, we can feel like crap, be sick, be tired, be any number of things and still perform as long as the fingers work. Singers, on the other hand, are victims to their voice. Their body IS their instrument, so any number of things can jack that up.
Also, we don’t even have to really hear ourselves to be able to play in key. And if we can’t hear ourselves, hey, we just turn it up to 11! Not singers! It’s all about their ability to project. In this day and age, ever since they outlawed eunuchs, projection just ain’t-a-gonna-happen. That is why as a guitarist, you’ll hear the inevitable phrase, “Dude, turn it down some.”
In reality, you gotta pity the fools (thank you Mr. T).
So now that we know the beast we are dealing with, what do you do?
I found that the best way to handle this is the same way I deal with a 3 year old:
- Use a comfortable calming voice
- Don’t get too worked up (really tough to do)
- Praise the good
- Guide the bad with reassurance
- Stroke the ego a little and paint a picture of greatness
Now this may seem easy to do, but when that SOB is ranting how lucky you are to have him in the band, that everyone is there to see him, and how your band would be nothing if he wasn’t there – it can be a real mutha to stay CALM!
Excuse me, I am starting to get worked up! Flashbacks.
Let’s say your singer just blew chunks all over a song and you feel the need to let him/her know. You might say something like this: “Man I liked the part where you (think of something, but it must be believable and should be something you want him/her to repeat). The way you did that, Man, I think if you would do this (fix the part you screwed up royal) then that would blow people’s mind. Give it a shot and let’s check it out. “
And keep this type of supporting dialogue up until the LSD dissipates a little (it may never go away).
This is way harder to pull off when you are playing live, but can be done on a break between songs or sets.
Outside of finding another singer, that is really all you can do. And good luck finding another singer that isn’t afflicted – remember it took me 25 years!
Needless to say, if you play in a band or associate with any musicians, you will eventually run into someone afflicted with LSD.
Hey, just like me in the beginning, it may be you!