JP Honk: How to Lead a Song
[Suggested “Best Practices”]Know the structure and general characteristics of the song, as much as you can
- What the sections 1, 2, 3 etc each sound like
- What typical sequence the sections are played in
- Are there sections of the song that should be played softer or louder?
- How does the song end?
- Will there be a stinger or a decelerando?
- A triple-tag or a double-tag?
- So you might want to opt out from soloing, if you are leading the song
- "During the final phrase of each section" means be careful not to signal too far in advance... this requires a little practice but you will quickly get the hang of it
- For louder, same but palm up and motion it higher/upward
- tap your flattened hand on the top of your head
- OR point your index finger upward and motion your hand in a circle
For songs with solos
- If there are few soloists, the solos can be typical length (i.e. not shortened):
- Option to have all play the chorus between each solo (song not too long)
- If there are lots of soloists, make the solos shorter:
- Hand signal for short solo is thumb and forefinger open like U shape with pinching motion toward each other horizontally
- You can have one solo immediately after another (keep song manageably short)
- Be sure to make eye contact with the person and get their consent indicating they want to solo and they are ready to solo, just before they take over
- When they should start, cue the person with an open-upward hand, or hand held high up with finger(s) pointed directly at the individual soloist
- If possible, at least on songs with typical-length solos (i.e. not super short solos such as commonly done for Second Line), try to alternate instruments, i.e. trumpet then sax then trombone before an additional trumpet, etc
- Think about pointing out a pair of soloists (or even a trio) and asking them solo together ("trade 4s")
- Also try to alternate brighter/louder instruments (trumpet, alto sax, trombone) with softer/mellower instruments (melodica, baritone)
- When a solo by a softer/mellower instrument is about to start, it sometimes can be helpful to gently signal to the percussion that they should get softer during the solo
- Use flattened hand horizontal, palm down, and pushing downward/lower
- For a stinger ending, motion your fist with the beat, to keep pace on tempo so folks don't slow down, and bang out the stinger
- If it is decelerando, lead the slow-down, so people can stay together with each other
- If it is long vibrato sustain, spread hand out all fingers wide/separate and vibrate them