Archive for the 'Vocal Production' Category

Mar 16 2011

How to Sing in a Bar/Pub…and why

Published by under Vocal Production

It’s Saint Paddy’s day and I thought it was a good time to resurrect an earlier post as my gift to all pub crawlers. There’s nothing worse than someone singing at a bar who has no idea what they are doing.  In an effort to contribute to the masses in honor of my Irish heritage, here you go.

Years ago, I was sitting in a bar on the Champs Elysee, listening to a great jazz group and enjoying a glass of wine.  Because they were playing a lot of songs from the Great American Songbook, we struck up a conversation with the piano player.  He was a real piano player, with a great sense of style and the songs he played from the Great American Songbook were quite wonderful but he spoke mostly French.  That was a struggle, but it was fun and after awhile, he figured out I was a singer and asked if I’d like to sing something from the Great American Songbook.  That’s when I got nervous.

Now, really, that doesn’t make any sense.  I am a singer and have been singing all my life, but as a classical singer, I wasn’t really prepared to sing in a bar!  I didn’t even know the best songs for singing in a bar!  For years, the only experience I had with piano bar songs was when I sang opera in a piano bar, and I am sure those songs were not among the most popular piano bar songs!  So I have determined that the reason I got nervous was the same reason I get nervous in other situations:  A lack of preparation.

Since then, I have learned a lot of songs that are perfect for singing in a piano bar, and know the best songs for singing in a bar, and even the best karaoke songs.  So here’s how to sing in a bar with a real piano player, how to find the best songs for singing in a bar, what are the most popular piano bar songs, and the difference between karaoke songs and piano bar songs and the Great American Songbook.

1.  Be prepared with your voice.  Practice singing every day. Take lessons or a voice class if you like.  That would certainly help.

2.  Be prepared with your songs.  First place to start is by picking songs you like to sing and practicing them. Next, you can find discussions on line about what songs are best to sing in a bar, and even what songs are best to sing when you are intoxicated…always good to be prepared with that one!!  Most people agree that the best songs to sing in a piano bar are standards.  however, not everyone agrees on what a standard is!!! For an Irish standard, check out this list, “Whiskey in the Jar,” and “The Irish Rover” are the top two picks.

3.  Be prepared with a standard.  For a more in-depth look at what a standard is, try the Great American Songbook.  That is really every song written in America, but tradition dictates that it points to songs written between 1920 and 1960, more than anything else.  Other standards are whatever people are singing in the bars you visit and almost any famous song!!

4.  Be prepared to tell the real piano player the name of your song and the key in which you sing it.  Singing live in a piano bar is not the same as singing Karaoke songs!

5.  Be prepared to sing Karaoke songs.  Listen to a top forty station on the radio or to an oldies station.  Find the songs that you like and learn them just like the artist on the radio.  Then join the crowd at a Karaoke bar and have fun!!  Singing Karaoke songs gives you practice with your voice and in front of others who are drinking, which is important!!

In general, singing in a bar is all about sharing your gift with others.  People who study singing or sing professionally are often nervous about singing in front of others when they are not prepared because what they sound like matters more to them than it does to others.  Chances are, if you have an interest in singing, you have a gift to share.  Enjoy it!

Related posts and links:

Top Ten Irish Pub Songs

Digital Downloads of Irish Music


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