When you’re songleading:
1. Consider stepping away from the microphone more often. Listen to the group. Do they have it? Are they singing well? If so, back off the microphone and let the group’s sound drive the space instead of you on the microphone.
2. Faster tempos do not always mean that the song is rocking, jamming, grooving, etc. harder. Sometimes I noticed in the fast parts of the the Shabbat Song Session that the tempos were really too fast. It made it hard to follow. Here is a suggestion, record one of your song sessions. Listen back to it the next day. Listen for tempos, tuning, blend, harmony, group volume to song leader volume relationship. Nothing tells the truth better than the tape. It can be painful, but do it, it’s good for you.
3. Hava Neitzei: Problem. This song was taught incorrectly and now all of camp sings it incorrectly. I think I understand what happened. I will try to explain it and how to fix it. I am pretty sure that it was learned at Hava Nashira in our URJ song leading track. I am pretty sure that Cantor Rose Boxt and I selected it as an “Oldie, but Goodie.” If my memory serves me, Rose taught the song in a call and response manner to get the phrasing out there quickly to the group. However, she never intended for the group to execute the song this way when sung in a song session. I remember her singing it with us the proper way, but I guess this was missed by the person that taught it at camp. With that in mind, here is how the song should be sung:
Hava neiztei b’machol (melody 1 going up on the last note)
Hava neitzei bimcholot (melody 2 going down on the last note)
Hava neitzei b’machol (same as the the first)
Hava neitzei bimcholot (same as the second)
Ya lei a lei, ya lei a lee…
Notice it is NOT call and response as it was executed on last Shabbat’s song session. I have heard the song done very slowly at the beginning and then speeding up with each repetition. It’s very cool this way.
4. Direct eye contact. Search for, find and lock in with individuals in the group with which to sing.
5. Memorize names of campers. If you’re bad at it, work on it. When I was in college I was always forgetting people’s names, It was embarrassing. I was terrible at it and I decided I was sick and tired of being in the awkward position of not knowing who they were. In addition, I have learned that people absolutely love you to know who they are. It’s a little thing that has a big impact.
Here are three techniques that have helped me.
A. When introduced to someone ask them how they spell there name. Especially if it’s a name that you already know how to spell. Say, is that Sarah with an h or no h? Is that Bob with one, two, or three B’s? You’ll get them laughing which is good. And this gives your brain some focus time on them, there face, their features, etc. with which to learn their name.
B. Spell their name when you hear it. Write it on their forehead with your eyes as you are speaking with them. If they ask you, “What the heck are you doing?” Say, “I am writing your name on your forehead because it helps me to remember your name.” Don’t be afraid of this. People love you to take time with who they are. This is universal.
C. Say their name out loud at least four times during your meeting them. This helps another part of your brain lock the information in so you will better remember it.
D. I am in no way a master at this. I share this only because it has helped me so much get over the hurdle of being unsure, and therefore, sadly so often not knowing a person’s name.
6. Practice your guitar, don’t just play it. Clearly identify your areas of weakness. Write them down. Seek help from the internet. Lots of lessons online for free. Seek help from players in your community that you have identified as better than you in that area. Ask them to help you. They will, and they will be honored that you have asked. You’re building another relationship. You will also notice that they will be much more invested in helping you when you are songleading.
7. Watch your ego. What does it matter if you are the head songleader or not? Does this mean that you are not allowed to do the work? No. You have tremendous power to impact the group positively and negatively. Go out and be the best You, you can be. Don’t worry about other people’s ego stuff. It has nothing to do with you. You have no control over that anyway. Think of ways that you can set up beautiful singing moments at camp FOR camp and then work on methods to get out of the way, literally and figuratively.
8. Get some harmonies going. Right now so many camps sing in a very linear fashion. Even on the songs where there are harmony opportunities, camps are staying with the leader on their part and not staying put to add a harmony. This has to be taught to camp. Do not expect that they will get it on their own. They will be hesitant at first, maybe even a bit resistant. You be sure to be re-assuring, loving, supportive, kind, patient and maintain your sense of humor. They will get it. Have trust in them and yourself. Let them know that you have complete trust that this will work out for the good. The group will always respond well to this sort of leadership. It’s very reassuring to the group. They are responding to a well rooted confidence that is not caught up in poor ego placement. Quite honestly, camps needs this presence very badly. Please offer it to them all summer.
9. Do something wacky, fun and crazy every once in a while. Share this wackiness with camp. We all need a good joke and a good laugh from time to time. Whether it’s a crazy song that has popped up on your itunes shuffle, or some song from Aladdin as I just recently saw a camp use for silly fun or a crazy skit or… Let the camp see that you don’t always take yourself so seriously as to not have fun. This will draw people in.
Whoa, dude, that was a lot of stuff right there. Hope it helps. Let me know. I would love to have your response to each of the nine points.