I received his letter yesterday and thought that the answer might be of interest to everyone. Many times the places that we play don’t have the facilities we had hoped for or don’t have any at all. Here’s the post:
“I need some guidence from you: The woman I've been corresponding with obviously doesn’t deal with performers...which is rather alarming given that this is the opening of an arts center...so here's my trouble.
i'm not gonna have any amplification...and as yet, I don’t know what the stage set up is...specifically acoustics and backstage set up...
i've sent an email...that was a few days ago...i'm gonna send another one, but if I dont get to check out the place before the day of the event...any tips on how to handle playing when I can’t measure the acoustics before hand?”
In a situation like this, the best that you can do is to get to the venue as early as possible…even if you have to call her and ask if you can be let in early. I always arrive early and do as much time as I can on the stage where I’ll be performing. Gets you accustomed to the room and the space, so that you are more at home when you do the performance.
You are also dealing with someone who doesn’t have the kind of experience that you would like, so you are going to have to treat her gently. You don’t want to rattle her, or confuse her. You want to make her feel comfortable in the knowledge that you know what you are doing; you’ve done it before; and whatever you are asking for, you are doing because that will make for a better show.
Without being arrogant or condescending you need to communicate to her what would make for the best possible evening. If she’s new to all of this, then there are going to be gaffs and more than likely, the publicity for the event will not be comprehensive or impactful, so you have to handle some of that yourself as well. Just be diplomatic as you inquire as to what she’s done to promote the date, or who she’s hired to promote the date and then offer your assistance and if she’s up for it, your suggestions. But first back to the room.
Do your warm up on the stage exactly where you will be performing, in order that you can determine how alive the room is and how hard you are going to have to sing., which brings up a whole other problem.
When you sing without amplification the tendency is to sing as loudly as you can…this is a sure fire way to blow out your voice before your set is over. Make certain that you have done the proper warming up. Once my voice is warmed up, I can take it almost anywhere. I suspect that you will find that also true.
I discovered when I played bars, that while my first hour was difficult, the next two hours, were amazing. My voice opened up and my musicality was simple impeccable. I couldn’t get it wrong musically.
As for the set itself, with no amplification you really have to put it together in the most impactful way you can. But you must be careful, as you need all your chops to last the entire set. I have blown my voice out on occasion and there is not much you can do once your voice is gone. Radio mime is not very popular for a good reason.
You probably want to start the set with something both lively and short and then move into the quieter stuff building back up to a finale that is designed to knock their socks off and make them want to bring you back for an encore. So build the set so that you have someplace to go and then make certain that you get there.
I hope that this helps you, at least a little.