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  • Writer's pictureIan Galipeau

With A Little Help From My Friends

I played a show a couple months ago with Modern Fools, on an amazing stage, opening for a national touring act. Huge light show, smoke machine, an incredible sound system, a couple hundred people in the crowd... all those things you get used to playing without at small venues, we suddenly had. We did our soundcheck and we were ready to go.

Then the show started. I couldn't hear the vocals in my monitor at all. And while those lights and smoke machine looked amazing, they also meant there was no real chance of catching the sound guy's eye to ask for more. So instead of breaking the flow between songs to ask for more vocals in my monitor, I said to myself, "I've got this," and I adapted the same way I have for many a bar room PA - just sing loud enough to hear myself in the main mix. It was a big room with a ton of natural reverb... and I was sure the vocals sounded great. The audience reaction and the awesome light show reinforced my certainty.

Fast forward a couple of days - I get a recording of the board mix... and I'm mortified to hear that I'm singing backing vocals like a narcissist - I'm consistently as loud or louder than the lead singer, I'm not matching his tone or phrasing at all, and I'm occasionally flat. It was far from my best effort, and there's not a wide margin of error with harmonies - they're amazing when they're on, and they're quite distracting when they're not. I was decidedly not on.

If you're not a musician, here's an analogy - it's like if you asked someone to help you paint the trim in a room in your house, and they came over and didn't immediately see a brush. Then, instead of asking where to find one, they just grabbed a roller and gave it a shot. They were supposed to add the finishing touches, and instead they f@$%ed up the walls that you'd already painted, which looked fine.

What I'm saying here is advice for my future self, but it applies to anyone else who grew up with self-sufficiency akin to religion - doing things for yourself and being resourceful is admirable... but sometimes it's better for everyone if you ask for help. It would have been easy to just ask for more vocals in my monitor, but I didn't because I thought it wouldn't be cool. And that was the wrong decision.

Don't let your pride get in the way, especially when other people are affected by the outcome. It's another way in which we should all be more like Ringo - get by with a little help from our friends.

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