Last night, I attended a great open mic at Trees Organic Cafe in downtown Vancouver.
There was that comfort of entering a familiar environment that I’ve experienced back home in Toronto — the musicians coming in with their guitars, getting their names down on the sign-up sheet, the host coming up to the mic, introducing each performer, the kind of nervous, excited anticipation buzzing around the room.
I’ve unfortunately been battling some fierce allergies that have been getting progressively worse since I got to Van. My voice is unhappy and I can’t really breathe properly.
So, while I really wanted to play at the open mic, I knew I needed to sit this one out!
Just watching the performers with no intention of singing myself was actually really nice. It gave me a chance to simply observe and not be distracted by nerves or thinking about the songs I was going to perform.
So, after watching several people perform, here are some tips I thought I’d share for singing at an open mic:
1. Sing with some expression and emotion.
Wow, there were some people who did this brilliantly. One woman just bared her entire soul to us, it was amazingly intense and uplifting. But others had the exact same look on their face throughout all of their songs.
Think about the story and feeling you want to communicate, then push past the fear of vulnerability and give it to us!
2. Make eye contact with the audience.
There were many performers who did a great job expressing themselves (including one with a STUNNING voice). But they barely made eye contact with the audience when they sang. It created this block between us and the performer, making it hard to fully connect with the performance.
You don’t have to stare everyone in the eyeball the entire time you’re singing, but definitely try doing it more frequently if you always find yourself singing with your eyes shut.
3. (Re)Consider the length of your songs.
Usually when a song keeps running on for what feels like 6, 7, 8 minutes, it’s one that the performer wrote themselves. There were some songs that would have felt perfect if it had just ended a bit earlier (like two minutes earlier). Some people even started clapping at that point, because it really felt like the song was done … but then, it would continue. And continue.
I don’t want to sound like the songwriting nazi, because I am no expert, but at least for a performance, reconsider the length of a song for the sake of your audience. Keep them engaged and don’t lose the impact of your song by repeating the same line or chorus a million times.
4. Move on if you mess up or forget a line. A few people did this, but laughed it off and moved on. If they really couldn’t remember, they switched to a different song. It happens! No one will mind! Forgive yourself and smile about it. 🙂
5. Practice your songs well. I was really impressed by how seriously each singer seemed to take their performances. I don’t mean serious in an uptight way. I mean that you could tell they had taken the time to rehearse to get their vocals and guitar playing on point.
You never know who’s watching or what an open mic performance can lead to (my first open mic led to my first gig)! So, practice well and put your best foot forward!
By the way, these are ALL things that I also need to continuously work on as a performer. They are also good reminders for myself and also, just my one opinion. 😉
What say you? Do you have any advice for singing at an open mic? Please share!