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Brett McCarronHow's Your Banter?
Making your act more fun
for you and your audience

By Brett McCarron

It's not so much what you say, but how you say it, that gets the audience on your side.

...Especially when there's time to kill because of a broken drum head, guitar string, or other equipment malfunction. Turn that downtime into quality time and make your act appear more professional in the process. It's not as hard as you think, once you get used to doing it.

Designate the band's emcee or presenter
Determine right now who's going to be the on-stage spokesperson for your band. While it's normally the lead singer, this isn't always the case. But it is most often the band leader's role. This person will serve as the Master of Ceremonies (MC), if you will, to introduce songs and help keep the pace during your band's time on the bandstand.

If something goes wrong, it's the emcee's job to entertain the audience until the band is ready to perform the next song. If something happens to the emcee, be sure that you've designated one other person to serve in this role until the band leader is again ready to go.

Don't talk over one another
This is a cardinal sin of many bands. Be sure to let the person who is talking to the audience finish their thought before rushing to put in your two cents worth. Nothing sounds worse than two people trying to talk over each other. Especially if they each expect the other to stop talking, with the end result that neither gives up. Defer to the emcee. It's not quite as formal as Robert's Rules of Order, but hopefully you'll let the person who is the most entertaining "have the floor".

Don't ramble
Get to the point and move on to the next piece of banter. Remember that the audience came to hear your band's music. So as soon as the on-stage problem is solved, and the band is tuned up and ready to play, then get on with it!

Don't mumble
Speak up, open your mouth (and use your lips to enunciate), know your subject (know what you're going to say before you say it), and get it out. If you're a mumbler, then you shouldn't be the person speaking to the audience in between songs. Let someone else do it.

Turn off the vocal FX between songs
This happens more times than you can imagine. Vocal effects, especially reverb and echo, make the singer's voice sound great. But they're murder on the spoken word. Make sure that the vocal FX are "killed" after each song. You may not even realize they're still on if you don't run the effects through your stage monitors. Talk to your FOH (front of house) sound engineer about this so that he/she knows what you expect.

If you don't have a sound engineer, invest in a foot switch to turn the effects on or off from the stage. If your effects don't have this feature, perhaps your mixing device or FX loop has this feature. If the audience can't hear what you're saying, then you've defeated the reason to say anything in the first place.

There's a difference between blab and banter
Be concise. Have a point to what you're saying. Don't waste time. That's why being prepared will save you. At first you might need to create a written outline of half a dozen things to say during the performance. Be sure to use large, easily seen letters, and tape it to the back of a PA speaker or some other place where the audience can't see it. These are your cue notes. After awhile, you'll find you won't even need them, since you'll have memorized the content.

Now let's look at some things to talk about >>

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