What are these cues, and can an up-and-coming singer and musician develop a sense for picking them up? Here’s what I consider the Top Ten Cues good headliner singers should be able to sense every time they hit the stage. If you are in a band or are a solo act, things will be a bit different but the principles are the same.

The Intro Cue
You’re backstage waiting to be introduced by the MC and he has gone into twenty minutes of comedy material because the audience is really receptive in the moment. You understand. You’re doing your warmups but are listening for his cue to introducing you. The warning cue might go something like this; “You’ve heard of Neil Diamond or Tony Orlando?” You get into position. The MC continues, “Well we can’t afford to bring you such high priced acts but we do have a performer who is a combination of both artists and more. And he’s got a sense of humor that made (Insert the name of a big star here) split his sides laughing. We’re proud to bring you…what was your name again? Oh yeah I remember now…one of America’s top new performers, (insert your name here)!” Hint: Make sure your intro is written on a 3×5 card for the MC.

The Music Cue
It’s safe to say that you’ll never have a song intro played the same way twice, even if the music is charted out. I’ve spent thousands of dollars having charts specially made, but invariably every musician adds his own feeling, his own tone, so you need to concentrate on your musical entrance.

The Tempo Cue
You’ll be able to hear and recognize the tempo as you make your way to the stage. Listen for it, as it’s impossible for the same two musicians to hit the exact same tempo.

The Volume Cue
The volume of the band is super-important and you must recognize whether they are playing too loud or too soft for you. If a change is needed, you must confidently, but without making it obvious, indicate the need for change immediately.

The Singing Volume Cue
It takes concentrated listening and audience observation to know whether your voice is coming over too loudly or not loud enough. You should endeavor to have your voice “swim” in the music.

Orchestra Cues
You must indicate that you know where to come back in after a musical solo interlude without a look of intense concentration on your face. If you are playing an instrument make sure you do so well and effortlessly so it does not get in the way of singing the song. Most of all, no matter how bad a mistake is, never stop playing.

Key Cues
Some songs have key changes in them and they sometimes require some concentration on your part. Choosing the proper keys for your songs is of paramount importance. Choose easy keys and key changes so you can free yourself to concentrate on selling the song.

Room Cues
Noises in a room can sometimes be annoying competition to your performance, but it’s possible to eliminate some of these distractions if you know what to listen for. For example, ventilation is important in a hot and stuffy room full of people, but if you have a dramatically quiet song you can make arrangements to have someone turn the room fan off during that number. Listen for any other distracting sounds or visual elements (the darker the room the better to show off your light show). Be 110 percent aware of your surroundings.

Body Cues
Be aware of the cues from your body. Is your mouth dry, are your knees or hands shaky? You should know how important hydration is. Always stay hydrated and keep the vocal cords moist. Just make sure you don’t drink so much water that you must run to the bathroom when your song or set is over.

Audience Cues
The cues you get from an audience are perhaps the most important ones of all. Are they talking, fidgeting and coughing, or listening to your music and laughing at your jokes? You must listen to the amount of applause you receive at the end of your set and to the intensity of the applause so you’ll know how far to go off before you come back to take your bow. Depending on how strong it is you can wait for the call for an encore, or if it’s light go right into your next song. Being able to read an audience is the number one skill that separates the working performer from the wannabe’s.

Originally posted 2009-07-24 04:45:44.