When Your Favorite Artist Sings Off Pitch

One of the worst nightmares a singer has is performing at a huge event and as she hits the stage, things start to go wrong.  It goes something like this...

Oh!  That sounds very good.  

Yep, that’s the right tempo.  

Wait, I hear an instrument that’s not supposed to be playing.

I don’t hear it anymore.  

I don’t hear anything.

Uh, I think the monitors aren’t loud enough.

Or is the battery in my receiver dead?

Did I hit the right note?  

No. A fan in the front row just confirmed it.  


Hang in there.  

Don’t look at the audience.  

I’m totally off.  

On Monday night, I stopped my songwriting session for the 58th Grammys.  And as I heard the performance of the one and only, ADELE, I knew the nightmare was happening.  

On LIVE national TV.  

There was an odd sound playing off tune and off beat.  Sound was going in and out.  Adele was belting more than I think she planned to -- maybe to hear herself better.  Stress levels went up.  Tension in face =  tension in voice = pitchy notes.  I’m so sorry, Adele.  

My heart went out to her, because I’ve been there, done that.  

The big event?  

Hmong Music Festival 2012.

Thousands of spectators like you sitting.  Waiting in the sun.

Standing in the backstage, I got set up with a lavalier mic (think Britney Spears in concert) taped to my cheek and a receiver clipped onto my pants.  I stood at the point where I was going to enter the stage.  One final, quick check on the receiver from the sound guy, and I was good to go.

“Lub Siab” came on.  

I took twelve dramatic steps toward the center stage.  On the thirteenth step, I started to sing.  

Lub siab txoj hmoo zoo ntua ntais...

No sound.  

“We can’t hear you!”  “Your mic’s not on!”  The front row started shouting.  

Look at your 11:00.  Mic!  But crap, it’s not a wireless mic.  

No more dancing.  No more moving.  

Oh geez.  Just do it.  Grab the mic.  

I did and it all ended okay, but I’m pretty sure I felt like Adele that day.  Good or bad, the show had to go on - even for an international star like Adele.  

You see, if you've ever seen a live show in person or on TV, what you may not realize is how many circuits, checkpoints, and people are needed to make what you see in front of you look and sound seamless.  That means perfect timing, perfect visuals, & perfect sound for your entertainment.  

At the Grammys backstage, there are people pushing sets toward the stage for the next performance, sound guys clipping receivers to singers' complicated outfits, stage directors trying to move the stage along, staff trying to get the right artists onstage, and so on.  

There are so many factors and people needed to run a successful LIVE event like Hmong Music Festival and the Grammys.  This means lots of things can go wrong too.  As we know now, Adele tweeted about her Grammy performance this week: 

The piano mics fell on to the piano strings, that's what the guitar sound was. It made it sound out of tune. Sh*t happens. X

So when your favorite artist sings off pitch during her set, don’t unfollow her.  There are many reasons why, and sometimes, they're simply out of her hands.  

So in looking forward, THANK YOU to you for supporting music artists through all the trials and tribulations!  We need your love, especially at live shows where mistakes and errors are truly inevitable. :)  

Thank you.  Until next time…

Dream BIG,