Monday, May 23, 2011

National Single Mic Competition

This past weekend, my band (The Chris Talley Trio) competed in the National Single Mic Championship in Silver Dollar City.  This is the first time we have ever entered a band competition of this type, and it was the first time I have ever seen the band competition.  It was absolutely amazing.

First, let me say that all the competing bands had to submit a DVD or audio recording, then the submissions were screened and voted on, and then the bands were sent letters that stated whether or not they were accepted into the competition.  Only 20 bands were chosen to compete.

This is a two-day competition with three judges each day, for a total of six different judges.  The judges from Day 1 cannot talk to the judges from Day 2, and the judges cannot see the bands perform on the days they are not judging.  Bands are judged on their vocal abilities, instrumental abilities, showmanship, how they work the single microphone and audience reaction (which is actually only a minimal 10% of the score).

The Chris Talley Trio and another student band from The Bluegrass Shack, Charlie & the Girls, both competed.  I thought both bands did really well!  In fact, as Zane put it, "The only way I could have done any better was to have someone else do it for me"!  As much as I hate to admit it, my band was not the best band.  We were amazing, but not amazing enough!  The Link Family won first place, and they were SOOO deserving of this!  Everything they did was incredible, from working the mic, to vocals, to instrumentals, to showmanship, to having full audience approval and standing ovations both days.

Now, just for the sake of anyone else wondering, what could my band have done better?  (Maybe this will help you!)  Well, one thing I realized is that a three or four person band cannot really compete with a five, six or seven person band when it comes to working the mic.  I mean, what can two people do to work the mic on instrumentals other than trade places?  With more people, you can get really creative with how you work the mic and how you come in and out of breaks and vocals.

Secondly, you've got to have excellent three- or four-part harmony.  (That much I think we really had!)  Some bands had practically no harmony or just two-part harmony.  There are certain songs that are made for that, like Emily and Rosemary's amazing song on the second day, but you don't want to only have two-part harmony for the entire presentation.

Next, your instrumental breaks need to be amazing.  My band could have done better in this department.  I personally like simple, and so I tend to play things pretty straight-forward and solid.  The winning bands absolutely blew away many of the other bands with incredible instrumental breaks.  These breaks weren't necessarily non-traditional, because you could tell what songs they were playing.  They were clean, original, tasteful, and in many cases shared with another instrument (split break).

Stage presence is of utmost importance in this competition.  The winning bands really had this down.  They looked at the audience, they CONNECTED with the audience, they had FUN!  Many of them had great outfits and looked SHARP.  I thought we also did well in this category, but it simply wasn't enough!

Now that it's all over, I am really glad that we were accepted into the competition and were able to participate.  It was something I will never forget!  As a musician, I know I have a more discerning ear than the general listener.  This makes listening to bands not always so enjoyable for me.  That was not the case at all on Saturday and Sunday.  I can't EVER remember hearing so many really good bands at one time.  D.A. Calloway and Silver Dollar City really outdid themselves on this one!  Now I am full of ideas and can hardly wait to practice again!

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