Sunday, December 6, 2015
Band 101 - Number 6
Band 101 is a blog series that deals with the in's and out's of being a participating member of a working cover band.
Entry number six deals with a somewhat controversial subject, using cheat sheets when playing live. First off, no matter what any band member may say cheat sheets are OK to use if you can't remember the words to a song or the chord changes. Practicing a song at home is great but playing live is very different, sometimes memorizing a song can be hard no matter how many times you may practice it at home. Cheat sheets are a great tool on the road to memorizing any song. A no cheat sheet band policy is really not a good thing, as at least 1 band member may need them to perform confidently. It's not uncommon for a famous recording artist to use cheat sheets so I think it's OK for any local musician to use them. I've witnessed famous recording artist Lucinda Williams use a songbook onstage. Lucinda wasn't glued to her songbook so it didn't detract from her outstanding live performance. It's no secret that Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath fame has the words to his songs continuously displayed on a fake monitor out front. This is the best way to do it but not all musicians have the technology or the budget to do this. The absolute best way for a working musician to "cheat" is to have a ipad or computer device set up on your mic stand so any quick glances can go unnoticed while performing. Finding a special attachment for your mic stand is easy to find if you want to buy one for your ipad. If you don't have a ipad I found the best way to make a cheat sheet is to write in big, bold black ink, any notations on a large sheet of foldable white paper. Be sure print your notes in big, black bold lettering. Using any other color ink will render your cheat sheets illegible once you find yourself under colored stage lighting. The best place to put any cheat sheets is on the floor directly in front of you. If you're playing a club that provides monitors you can tape them to the front of your monitor to hide them from the crowd, this will not affect the sound from the monitor. Lyrics can be taped on a side fill. Be sure to place them directly in your line of vision so you see them while you're singing. I found that cheat sheets are the absolute best way to defeat any crippling self doubt you have with any song you're not sure on. Be sure not to spill any liquid on them so you can use them for your next gig. The main thing to remember is that if you find yourself looking at your cheat sheets more than the audience you are supposed to be performing for then you are relying on them too much. Clearly, memorizing a song is the best way to go.