Many singers chose to sing and perform with other people rather than going solo. The problem many duos and groups face is that they all have something individually, but often struggle to make it work together in a group.
A vocal coach can give performance tips for music duos and groups. But it also helps to work together to build your act into something cohesive and exciting, following industry advice that’s proven to improve performance with two or more people on stage.
The most successful groups play on the strengths of each individual and try to highlight those whilst performing. To learn how to be successful as a singing duo or a group and make the most of your individual talents in the process, read on.
Performance tips for singing duos and groups
Being a part of music duos and groups is a balancing act. The issue many duos and groups face is that they all have something individually, but often struggle to make it work together playing and singing in a group. On the plus side, combine your strengths will another person, or several other people who ideally have different talents, and you could find the kind of success and performance opportunities that may not have been open to you as a solo or vocal-only act.
How you perform will depend on your make up. Are you both instrumentalists, both singers, or a mix of the two. When forming a duo or group, it’s important to consider how you complement one another. It may not be enough to just be mates. Do you add something to the other musicians’ performance when you’re together? Does it add electricity, or is it chaotic?
Record your performances
Before you start a show, set a camera up to record. It might be cringe-making to have to watch yourself back, but the reality is, you can’t possibly see and evaluate everything that’s happening on stage. Videoing it will enable you to debrief afterwards and make changes as needed. This is even more important when part of a duo or group.
Tips for singing duos and groups
It’s important to remember that a duo or a group is only as good as their worst performer. It might seem an easier way of performing as there are more people in the group to share the roles, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
In relation to a current pop act, Little Mix are a fine example of this, individually they may not have made it, but combining their strengths in a group has allowed them to be a hugely successful act both in the UK and USA.
Once there are two or more people on stage, you’ll also need to consider your levels. When you sound test, be sure to check these are well balanced. Then when on stage, always be listening, so that you’re not overpowering anyone else. Drummers, keyboard players and those singing back up or harmony need to be especially careful. Equally, don’t be so quiet that you’re not heard. You’ll also need to be more mindful of the space – watch you don’t bump into each other or trip on their wires and cables.
You don’t all have to sound the same
Many duos and groups struggle because they fail to layer up their parts and harmonies and instead make it it all sound the same. Without layering the sound, you risk sounding like a solo act. This is where an arrangement comes in, especially for groups. This dictates who does what and when in a song.
When performing it’s important that the vocals layer up well within a duo and group to show off how diverse the act can be and what they’re capable of.
If you have more than one of the same instrument, think about how you can vary the sound. For example, guitars can be played as acoustic, electric or bass – all three together sound great with the right musical arrangement.
Dynamics – how to get a crowd pumped up
The benefit of having more than one voice or instrument, is that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Here are some tips for accentuating your different dynamics.
#1 Incorporate a breakdown
A section in which just one person plays or sings. This helps build a sense of momentum toward a crescendo section. A solo also allows an individual’s talent to shine (think of how Queen used Brian May’s guitar prowess in many solos on their tracks).
#2 Use counterpoint
Powerful harmonies work a treat, as well as layering one tune over another or making up a mix – something The Pano Guys have perfected. Counterpoint (voices that sing together but make sounds independent in rhythm and contour).
#3 Have backing performers
It’s ok to add some backing. You are defined by your constant members, so as a duo, for example, you’re still a duo if you sometimes add in a drummer, a pianist or backup singers. If you have a bigger venue than normal, it might be necessary. But if they then become a permanent fixture, you become a group.
#4 Use volume
Raise it up. With more than one voice or instrument, you can make more noise. Take advantage of this by contrasting soft (piano) and loud (forte).
#5 Consider a lead performer
Get someone to lead (if more than two people are on stage). Avoid a chaotic performance by ensuring someone is letting everyone know what’s going on. This can be achieved by developing a series of hand signals for the rest of the group to follow.
#6 Improvise and repeat
When you all/both work together regularly, you can learn to communicate live changes (using the hand signal system is great). This means you can improvise, choose to repeat a chorus or go a cappella for a section. This impresses an audience and creates a unique dynamic.
In relation to the above point on harmonies, even more important is to ensure as a duo or group you work the dynamics individually to work collectively.
How do you get a good stage presence as a duo or group?
A genuine rapport will shine through on stage. How do you achieve this? By spending time together doing fun things, as well as practising. Build social bonds with activities and nights out and keep a sense of humour with one another.
There will be times, however when you’re just not on form. This can happen as a solo artist as well as in a duo or music group. So how do you overcome this on stage?
You fake it. Interact with one another, smile at each other (of appropriate fr the song) and even always, always have your partner or group’s back. If you notice they miss a bit, or forget some words, help them out wherever possible. It’ll make you look better as an act.
Stage presence tips for music duos and groups
Plan how you’ll use the space and where you will stand or sit. As a duo, this should be front and centre, either close together or with a small distance apart. Synchronise your moves. Look at the audience but also at each other. Each instrumentalist will have different options when it comes to creating stage presence, but it can often be achieved simply by standing up when you would usually sit down, or vice versa.
Examples of Famous Groups & Duos with presence
It can be hard to explain what stage presence looks like. So one of the best ways to understand it is to spend time watching those who have it in abundance. It can be good to watch videos together in your duo or group and discuss your thoughts afterwards. It’s also a great way to pick up some performance ideas that suit your genre (although don’t be afraid to borrow tips from other genres too).
Here are some of the best – watch and learn:
Simon and Garfunkel
The Rolling Stones
Audience participation ideas for music duos and groups
People love to join in and feel part of your gig. A top tip is to get the audience to sing along. This is a common tool for solo artists too, but as a duo, you can get the audience to sing one of the member’s parts, while the other continues the harmony or counterpoint. This works better is it’s a song they know, and this will likely be a cover.
Again, with more than one person on stage, it leaves room for another, or several musicians to move off the stage, in amongst the audience. A famous example of this is crowd surfing – although this isn’t recommended for health and safety reasons. Instead, one person can sing or play in amongst the audience, walking among them, or taking up one spot. If a duo, you can enter or exit from opposite points in the venue. And if you’re an acoustic setup, you don’t even have to worry about trailing wires and plugs.
How to engage an audience at a concert as a duo or group
When you have a group on stage, you can get one of the members to start the audience clapping along. It’s often a guitarist that’ll do this in a section where they’re not playing, and so have their hands free. Clapping overhead while looking at the audience is the clearest way to get this going. One of the band could even do or say something funny, to make the audience laugh. This shouldn’t be at another member of the group’s expense though and shouldn’t throw them off in any way.
If you’re new to performing as a duo or as part of a group, have a think about how you can play to your individual strengths. Having instrumentalists as opposed to a purely vocal group is fantastic as it means you can play anywhere, anytime, without the need for backing tracks. Perhaps you might like to take up a new instrument to add to the dynamics and versatility. But above all, have fun. Performing with others should bring a sense of camaraderie and new creative horizons. Even if you move on to a solo career further down the line, this experience will enhance your musicianship and you’ll hopefully make great friends.
- What is an acoustic duo?
This is a two-person music group who make their sound through non-electrical means (although they may need to be amped if at a very large venue). Examples of these include a guitarist and a singer, a pianist and a cellist and two a cappella singers. Acoustic has become a genre of music.
- Who are the best selling music duos of all time?
The American pop-rock duo Hall and Oates (Daryl Hall and John Oates) have sold over 40 million albums. Simon and Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers had previously held the record for the bestselling music duo.
- How do you prepare for a singing performance?
Practice thoroughly. Warm-up ahead of the gig. Do a soundcheck where possible and look over your setup. Plan what you’ll do physically, whether it be a dance routine or some basic movement. And learn your lyrics inside out.
Do you have any performance tips for music duos and groups? What works for you? Let us know in the comments below.