Stand Or Sit?

How do you stand and handle multiple foot pedals?

The discussion below is taken from a thread launched by "Eric, B" on the Synth Zone General Arranger forum. Click here to go to the original thread.

Eric, B
07-11-2001 03:33 PM

Hi all!  Encouraged by our friend UD and previous postings, I like to open a new thread. I totally agree with UD that standing during a performance is much better than sitting, for the reasons mentioned earlier. Here is my dilemma though: I'm using two foot pedals with my Pro. #1 to break/fill to self, #2 to glide (right hand). During a solo, I often use the glide instead of the pitch bend for, lets say a lead guitar, and use a fill-in at the same time, while I try to keep my hands on the keyboard. Two pedals, two feet; sitting no problem. Standing I will fall flat on my face . Any comments? Remember I'm not a seasoned player like UD, Scott or others. Thanks for your help.  -- Eric

Scottyee
07-11-2001 04:16 PM

Eric & all,
I, too, agree that standing height is preferred for maximum exposure to the audience. Eric, I fully understand the tricky dilemma you are referring to. I personally utilize both a "4 pedal" foot controller unit (to trigger fills 1/2, intro/endings) as well as an additional single pedal unit (to trigger panel memory incremental changes: AABA parts of the song). I've figured out a standing height solution that works well when I perform. I situate the keyboard at full standing height but then use a TALL stool so I am able to sort of rest my butt against it for support which enables me to still use both my right and left feet to trigger the foot switches as needed. This is sort of a part standing / leaning / sitting position. Now you can perform without falling flat on your face

For even more exposure and professionalism (if no stage is present), I use a platform riser and portable stage lights. For full effect, I add my stand up backup band "cutouts.". You can check my website for a picture of my band:  http://scottyee.com

By the way, I also constructed a simple thin (1/4") lightweight plywood platform that sits on the floor and is kept into place by the keyboard stand's legs. This platform is used to secure both the "4-pedal" foot controller and single pedal foot controller units in place (keeping them from moving). This way, the pedals will always be exactly where you remembered them (via touch. No peeking OK?, remember, you got to keep your eyes on your audience. Before coming up with the foot pedal holder platform, the pedals used to slide around and invariably distract my attention away from the audience!  Hope my suggestions help, - Scott

Dnj
07-12-2001 05:44 AM

I stood up for over 25 years, then I got lazy and started to sit for a few years while performing.  But if you gig as much as I do, many times 2X a day, my arms would start to hurt due to sitting back and extending your arms to the keyboard. This past Xmas I got together with UD and we reconfigured my setup from top to bottom and now, for the last few months, I have been standing on stage and Love it. First of all, your arm are straight down increasing the blood flow.  You look better to the audience with a professional appearance.  You are in better control of keyboard / equipment navigation. Singing is easier and you can move and groove to the music while playing, too. No stool to carry. I really like standing and IMO its the way to go for a professional looking performance with an arranger keyboard solo act.  -- Donny

Fran Carango
07-12-2001 06:08 AM

I have been standing during performances and practice for over 40 years, starting with the accordion. I even stood while playing the Piano and organ in the 60's. At least it is easier now to adjust the portable gear in our comfort zone. Stand up and be heard [seen]...Fran

travlin'easy
01-19-2003 07:14 PM

Until a few years ago, I thought standing was the only way to go. I did it for more than 40 years, but about three years ago at the end of a double where the jobs were about 20 miles apart, I decided to use a keyboard stool and situated the keyboards and music stand so I was sitting sideways to the audience. I've been doing it ever since, and while I would prefer standing, at my age by the end of the night I would need help walking to the van. Fortunately, retirement is somewhere in the future. In fact, my wife says I can retire three days after I'm dead. Standing's OK when you're young, but sitting's a lot easier when you hit Social Security age. --Gary

kbrkr
01-19-2003 08:03 PM

I can always count on you guys to come up with some very real, practical, and on the edge topics. This one is another topic which I have myself been struggling with.  I stand about 6'1" and, when I stand, I feel like a giant on stage looking down on everyone towering over most other band mates. I use two keyboards stacked one on top of each other. How do I play the bottom keyboard if I stand? And... How do I use the volume pedal and sustain and Leslie ON/OFF pedals whilst standing?  I haven't figured this out for me yet, so I position my Drum Throne really high so that my head height is well above my music stand. Do you think the audience really is sensitive to my not standing?  -- Al G

btweengigs
01-19-2003 08:04 PM

I'll stand as long as I can. Pianists can sit (and should, IMO). I ain't no pianist.  Reason Two: Standing extends the diaphragm for singing. For me that is reason enough.  Reason Three: One of the most successful guys in our market once told me that musicians sit and entertainers stand. Since my goal is to entertain, his comment is embedded in my brain.  Reason Four: Audience members often try to talk to me while I am playing, and sometimes even when I am singing (a sure sign that they must think I am a DJ) . But, when I can talk to them, I prefer to be at eye level, or close to it.

Standing at the KB for 3-4 hours can be tough on the legs and feet for sure, but I found a 3/4 rubber pad (similar to those used by bartenders) and it does take some of the discomfort out of standing directly on a hardwood stage.  -- Eddie

DonM
01-19-2003 08:27 PM

Sometimes I stand and sometimes I sit. Depends on the job and hours. Standing looks better. Sitting is easier to work the pedals. I use an adjustable-height stool and sit it quite high. Sometimes I use it as Scott suggested. I'm 6'5" and I enjoy looking down on little people! -- DonM

Idatrod
01-19-2003 08:33 PM

Well, I am not yet at retirement age and I agree that standing during a performance gives the musician more of a "presence" to the audience, but I have to admit I have used a stool (bench) from the get go. In my case, it is much more relaxing for me to play while seated. And I also use two foot pedals. When playing with my band, I am tucked behind the lead band members so, even if I stood, I would still be basically out of the spotlight anyway, "which is fine with me, btw."

PS: Also, when I play with my band I don't use any auto-accompaniment features of my keyboard, it is strictly keys only; mostly guitar, electric piano, acoustic piano, and organ sounds. But 99% of my home playing and practicing is with auto-accompaniment. I do have times when I play to a smaller venue by myself and I will use all of the auto-accompaniment features of my PSR 2000, which gives the performance a live-band feel, but there again I always sit when playing. I have tried standing up a few times when practicing at home and I might give it another shot. With a little effort, I suppose I could get used to it and probably end up enjoying it so much that it could become my routine way of playing during a performance.  Best regards,  -- Mike

Gord
01-19-2003 08:58 PM

M91 keyboard stand (thanks for the idea, Scott, same width on the floor regardless of height). Because I play a lot of stuff out of fakebooks and I'm always glancing at the music, it makes sense to me to keep my head at just about the same angle when I'm looking at the music (especially when I'm playing a solo) or the crowd.  I just keep working at it and hope someday to be able to raise the M91 stand a bit more and get rid of the stool.

matias
01-20-2003 02:30 AM

I sit most of the times, especially if it's a long gigging journey (most of my jobs are long marriage parties). But I agree that standing allows a more dynamic act and a better interaction with the audiences. When in a 2/3 hour entertainment (in a bar or a dancing dinner), I prefer to stand and I like to be able to move. It is well worth to loose a little bit the ability of using the pedals to gain in communication with the crowd.

What kind of tall stool are you guys using? A "normal" tall stool or a musician stool (brand/model?)? -- José.

Pilot
01-20-2003 05:56 AM

I'm basically a pianist so I have always sat. Feels funny playing standing up. Interesting comment from btweengigs though. How many of you have people talking to you when you play. I've found that I can have about four conversations going and still be able to punch out the music. Never figured out how I can do that.  -- Bryan

The Pro
01-20-2003 07:53 AM

I am a pianist and sit when playing solo, which is comfortable and looks completely normal. However I usually stand when playing with a band because they do and it allows me to be more interactive with them.  Interestingly, I was watching Chuck Leavell play with the Rolling Stones on their HBO concert this past weekend and saw that he did both -- sitting and standing.

B2
01-20-2003 08:33 AM

If I'm playing for the dinner hour, I sit. If I'm with a band and I'm at a Baby grand, I sit. At the synth, I stand. Quite frankly, I have seen Billy Joel, Elton John and others sit their whole career and it didn't effect their shows one bit. Granted, they could stand on their heads and be good. Specifically addressing arranger one-man band setups, do we do it because we think we project ourselves better? I think, as with our equipment, we care more than the audience. I have never had anyone tell me that they wished I had stood during a performance. Personally, IMHO I think it's way over emphasized. If you're a good performer, it makes no difference. You can project and entertain from your butt as well as your feet. In fact, the best piano performances (single acts) I have ever seen were from people seated at either synths or pianos. The deciding factor should be what is best for you and what is comfortable for you. James Taylor sits on a stool for a lot of his show. When he stands, he doesn't move much from the waist up. Who sees any difference??? The audience thing is not really an issue. If you want your mug to stand out and have eye contact with people, you can do it just as easily from a seated position. Just place your setup on a platform in front of the people. I think we take ourselves too seriously at times. Standing or sitting won't earn you a single dollar more or less over your career..

travlin'easy
01-20-2003 09:13 AM

When it comes to people coming up and talking while your playing and singing, it happens all the time. It's almost as if they are oblivious to what you're doing -- they just want to talk with the band guy. Most of the time, though, I think the folks that come up while I'm performing are blitzed out of their minds. Had a guy come up and request a song while I was in the middle of playing and singing Devil Went Down to Georgia, which is a tough song to do. He had a mug of beer in his hand, which he attempted to sit down on the top of the amp bead. Fortunately, the barmaid stopped him before he sat it there. She told him to write the request on a napkin and she brought it to me when I finished the song. As for sitting Vs standing, I think B2 is right -- no one really cares and you won't make another dime more if you're standing.  -- Gary

Scottyee
01-20-2003 10:39 AM

Interesting to see this topic resurface after a year and a half. I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments and perspectives. Though I agree that standing (while leaning against a high stool) provides better audience visibility (stage presence) as well as vocals (increased diaphragmatic breathing), I now prefer performing sitting down, with my weight firmly centered on a normal chair height stool. Attempting to play and also activate footpedals with your right and left feet (like I do) can result in foot and lower back pain, because your body weight is constantly being shifted from one leg to the other. After having spent considerable time playing while standing (even leaning against a tall stool) and then getting lower back aches, I now prefer sitting on a normal height stool, especially for longer gigs. The audience seems to be as happy as before, and more importantly, my feet and lower back feel a whole lot better now. I guess the bottom line is: do what feels best to you. Afterall, you're going to give your best when you feel the best!  -- Scott

matias
01-20-2003 11:05 AM

My opinion that standing allows a better contact with the audience comes from my personal experience. ALL the gigs in which I stood were very successful ones, with a lot of communication between me and the public. They were probably technically quite poor (a lot of mistakes) but I guess when people are having great fun, this doesn't count anymore. This might just be a coincidence, of course, I'm not experienced enough to have a significant sample of gigs to be able to state that standing is better..

I was just thinking that it would be great to have a setup - keyboard stand - that would allow us to somehow instantly switch from a sit position to a stand up position with just the click of a button so that we could adjust ourselves to the mood of the gig/crowd.  -- José.

Dnj
01-20-2003 11:29 AM

Us solo Arranger Keyboard players are constantly seen as just a some guy playing a keyboard Vs what the majority of people see at one of today's affairs. What's that you say? ...DJ's!!! that are standing up, with two other guys and girl dancers running around. Flashing lights, fog machines, etc. etc. So saturated is the public that when we perform they think of us as DJs!!!

Last week one of my clients says to me, "All these years I thought you were playing records.  I can't believe that's you singing and playing. It sounds like a record."

From the audience's view, we do look like a DJ because people just see a square box in front of us that looks like a DJ COFFIN turntable rig. They have no idea what we're doing, which is sad.  My good customers know because I have played for them for years, but new younger crowds?  Forget it!!

If you want to make it in the Arranger Keyboard / Singer / Entertainer business, you have to be flexible and roll with the punches and mix it up.  That includes, singing and playing, live and with SMF songs, MP3/CD backing tracks, and doing a little DJ work through out the night also. Standing up just gives you that energetic look that you're in control of the audience.

If you think it's tiring, your right -- but then you could be working a "real" job. Next time you see a guy on a construction site, or up on a pole, or digging a ditch, in the freezing cold, you'll appreciate what you do for a living as a musician, even if you have to "stand up" and do what you love, Eat, and make people Happy. Stage Presence is part of the Total Package like it or not. You generate what the audience will respond to big time!!!

But, who am I? Just a Happy Entertainer doing my thing 400+ times a year. Give them 200% every night and you won't go wrong!!  Carry On.

Flavie
01-20-2003 11:47 AM

I use Ketron XD3, Technics P 50 weighted keyboard electric piano and Roland AX9 – guitar- keyboard midi controller. I also sing and I use Shure wireless head set as mic. When I play slow songs, I use the piano and for the sax and synth solos, I use the controller. All the fast songs I leave the keyboards and I go in the front of the stage or even on the dance floor singing, dancing and playing the AX9. This is a very dynamic show and everybody is very impressed. Of course, all the girls are mine!!:-) Sometimes I let the crowd on the dance floor touch the keys of my guitar just to make them interact with my show ! Is sooo Fun! I love this job!  Yours, Flavie

B2
01-20-2003 11:58 AM

DNJ, I agree, stage presence is key, but standing up and stage presence are two completely different things. I think we can all agree that just because a person stands up, doesn't give him or her good stage presence. It's how you communicate, your energy, your competency as a keyboardist, how clearly you pronounce words, how well you communicate your material to the crowd .etc. I guess standing or sitting doesn't define an artists work in my mind. Can it add to a show? Depends on the performer, but I'm willing to bet that if a performer can wow a crowd standing up, if he sits down during the the second half of the show, it will not effect his show or the audiences acceptance of the performer one bit. Again, if it works for you, and you appear to be really successful, I'm happy for you. We all gotta do what we do best. But to say, "you gotta stand to make a difference," I don't think that is accurate. In the end, as with most stuff we discuss here, it's a preference thing, and it's what makes us all unique as musicians. -- Brian

Dnj
01-20-2003 12:16 PM

B2, I'll agree to a point. There are some scenarios where sitting is more proper musical etiquette. But I was referring mostly to functions such as Weddings, Dances, and events where people need energy put in a room. I have had my share of sitting also playing keyboards as musical director of a 9-piece Top name Oldies Show Band for years. Then my place was in the background with five singers up front. But now it's only me and my keyboard, Experience, "Stage Presence" and love of what I do that makes it a success. I guess I'll have plenty of time to sit when I get older but for now a couple of Dr Schol's gel pads in my shoes and I'm off and running!!

btweengigs
01-20-2003 12:34 PM

Maybe I should mention, at 5'6", it looks like I am sitting whether I am or not.  -- Eddie

tony mads usa
01-22-2003 06:37 AM

Dnj .... digging up OLD threads to generate NEW discussion.. GOOD JOB!!! . ...

I've played accordion, cordovox, keys, etc. and the only time I sat was when the primary kb was a Rhodes ... I always said that standing "kept me on my toes."  There have been times, however, when I used the "tall stool" setting as previously discussed by Scott Yee.  Being a BIG 6'2", even at a lower height, I looked like I was standing.  I just feel I have more of a presence and control while standing.  Of course, if it's just background dinner music, sitting is fine, and maybe even more appropriate.

BUT, I have ANOTHER question.  I have never been happy with the "look" of the kb sitting on the stand.  (I use a QUIK-LOC.) ... I feel that something is missing.  I've thought about attaching (with Velcro?) a black "skirt" around the bottom of the kb to hide the stand (and my legs behind that), or even using thin plywood (painted flat black) in front and perhaps on the sides.  As far as the plywood idea, I've thought of a front piece with the side pieces attached with small hinges, so that it would be one piece to carry, and would fold pretty flat.  But like many of you, I'm always thinking of trying to carry and set up less and less.  Any thoughts?

Catsailor
01-22-2003 07:28 AM

Tony, I like the Velcro and black "skirt" idea. I have been toying with this idea, too, and feel it is really a good way to go. If you put it up high enough, it will cover the manufacturer's name if that name is on the front of the keyboard like mine is.   --Peter

Dnj
01-22-2003 07:42 AM

Tony, here ya go!!...... http://www.djskirts.com/cgi-bin/dj/

DonM
01-22-2003 08:41 AM

In the past, I often used a Velcro-type covering. My wife thinks it looks better and less cluttered. I don't use one now, because I want people to see the keyboard, the pedals and foot switches and cables and that my hands are actually playing the keys.  -- DonM
PS Food for thought: It is difficult to take a bow while sitting.

Uncle Dave
01-22-2003 08:50 AM

My biggest reason for standing is because there is not always a stage. I feel that the performer needs to be "spotlighted" in some way, and if there is no stage, the least I can do is "rise" up to the level of their eyes or above.

Another major reason is the singing issue. There is no doubt that my lungs work better when my big gut is extended, instead of crushed up in my lap like a basketball -- not to mention the overall look is better. Standing allows me to feel the pulse more, move to the beat, see further out into the crowd. In a background situation, anything is OK, but for a "show" I recommend that everyone be as visual as possible. Remember, Billy Joel and those guys are not performing solo -- there are other players, lights, effects, etc.

If it's just me and the crowd, I need to be in the best position to control the flow. Sitting just makes the statement that it's less of a show and more background.  BTW - I do sit at certain places.  Like I said, It's an issue of show vs. wallpaper. Sometimes, I'm the paper too.

btweengigs
01-22-2003 10:42 AM

Uncle Dave: ...like I said, It's an issue of show vs. wallpaper. Sometimes, I'm the paper too.

Exactly!. I never thought of myself as wallpaper, but, at some gigs, that is what they want -- and what I supply.  They want paper; I want paper -- and want it to clear.  No problem.  -- Eddie

travlin'easy
01-22-2003 12:59 PM

Over the years I've been trying to spruce up the rats nest of wiring that runs to and from each device. Some of this has been accomplished by making a custom wiring harness that contains all the cables from everything. Unfortunately, if a cable goes bad, which can occasionally happen, you must disassemble the entire harness to make the repairs.

Despite the neat harness, the backs of two keyboards with all those wires and names sticking out really looks nasty. Therefore, the problem was solved by going to the nearest fabric store and purchasing a yard-and-a-half of 60-inch wide, wine-colored velvet, hemming the edges, and using 4-inch high bright gold letters, plastered the band name on the middle. Velcro fasteners were sewn to the top edge and the mating fasteners were attached to the top rung of my Ultimate Keyboard stand. The end result looks quite professional, covers the back of the keyboards completely, and hides all those nasty looking wires.

While performing, the keyboard stand is positioned at a 45 degree angle so I can face the audience and they can see that I'm really playing the keyboards. When I get a spare minute or two, I'll shoot a digital photo and post it on my website.

The other great thing about the velvet cover is that it can double as a cover for the keyboards when they're not in use. I know that some of you leave your keyboards at the job when you're not playing, which is great when you're playing five nights a week and have a couple days off. You can merely turn the cover around and drape it over both keyboards to keep the dust and dirt off the machines, then when it's show time, just turn it around and you're ready to play.  Cheers,  -- Gary

Dnj
01-22-2003 01:05 PM

Leave your KB at a gig? I wouldn't leave a wire anywhere. My rig goes where I go.  Don't learn the hard way!

tony mads usa
01-22-2003 01:13 PM

I've left my gear set up at a steady gig on a Friday going into Saturday IF I really know the owners, and they know my "No Touch" policy.  Of course, the gear has to be insured.  But lately, more often than not, I've taken the kb home both nights.  I try to leave the kb wires so that they can easily be plugged in.  I just don't like setting up when there's a crowd there.