The downside — or let’s call it the challenge — is keeping your set interesting. With this limitation, it’s easy for every song to start sounding the same.
So how do we change things up?
Look at your playing style. If you’re just strumming chords through every song, you need to change it up. Try finger picking the verses and then back to rhythmic strumming on choruses. When you get to the bridge, maybe it goes to a muted chop, then back to chord strums for the outro.
You could also create dynamics by going to an a cappella section in the middle of your song. Or open with an a cappella chorus. It’s something unexpected and will get the crowd’s attention.
Simple changes like this will add dynamics to the song, since you don’t have other players to drop out or ‘come down’ for different parts of the song. If you’re not good at finger-picking, work on it. You need to have that option to go to, so you can hold the audience’s interest throughout your set.
Start watching a variety of players to get ideas for different rhythms and playing styles. If you’re in a rut writing the same types of songs (too many medium tempo tunes for example), co-write with someone who writes rock or great ballads, to shake you out of those old habits.
We will have a class for singer/songwriters during our 2-day Tom Jackson Bootcamp in September, and we’ll be demonstrating these things and more! We’ve got a 40% off deal on Bootcamp for the month of February only – you really should register now and make plans to come to Nashville in the fall.
If you come to Bootcamp, why not go ahead and book a 2-hour session with me while you’re here? That way we can show you some specific ways to work with a song or two to make it really engaging for your audiences.
We’d love to help you see how you can apply Tom’s Method to your show and ramp up your solo gigs!
(And I haven’t even started to tell you some of the visual things we can teach you how to do when you are the only person onstage… here’s a short excerpt from Tom’s book to show you what I mean:)
You’ve got a song where your intro is a guitar instrumental. So you step aside (away from the mic) and look at the guitar as you are playing it. This will draw the attention of the audience to what you are playing. When it’s time to sing, you step back to the mic, and it tells the audience “listen to the lyrics.” At the end of the chorus, there’s a nice little vocal embellishment you want to draw people’s attention to, so you close your eyes, and deliver it at an angle. Now instead of one “look” you have three!
If you just stood behind the mic stand and merely lifted your head to sing, there is little anticipation for the lyrics. By stepping to the side you build anticipation. In this song you are directing the attention to the instrument, to the lyrics, and to your voice when you (with your eyes and body) tell the audience “I’ll be right back” and visually stretch the singing. The song has more impact if the audience knows what to pay attention to.