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sing to recorded music- nursing home

27 Aug 15 - 04:33 PM (#3733583)
Subject: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,newgurl

I am exploring singing in nursing homes to prercorded music. Has anyone ever done this before? Can you give me any advice? (How much to charge, what to expect, how to get started, what not to do, what is needed, etc.)

Thanx :-)

27 Aug 15 - 06:04 PM (#3733593)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Joe Offer

I'd stay away from performing to prerecorded music. Seems too much like a karaoke night to me - but maybe others have other experience. When I sing in nursing homes, I sing a cappella with a group, or with a piano or guitar. Sometimes with a whole string band.

The most popular program at the Florida nursing home where my dad lives, is the Thursday night "chimes" program. The guy has a MIDI keyboard. I don't know what his skills are, but he seems mostly to play "name that tune" with songs that he has programmed into his keyboard. He does sing a bit, but not a lot.

Toward the end of the performance, he passes out chimes, which are more-or-less like bell choir bells. He directs as the residents play a number of tunes, sometimes accompanied by a programmed piece on the keyboard.

He has a great sense of humor and banters with the residents throughout the performance. I think the banter is what people enjoy about my nursing home performances, too. Never talk down to them - and don't be afraid to flirt a bit.

But singing to recorded music? It might work, but I'd never do it.

Have fun!


27 Aug 15 - 07:36 PM (#3733609)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,DrWord

Hey NewGirl. If you're new to Mudcat, welcome here. Have a cookie. & whether you're new here or not, there is an immense trove of anecdotal and experiential stuff here. Browse the 'related' threads...then come tell us how you're doing - and whether you've bought a uke or other portable accompanying instrument :)
keep singing

28 Aug 15 - 03:45 AM (#3733651)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: WindhoverWeaver

Hi Newgirl,

Where are you located? I suspect that the prices charged and also, to some extent, the expectations will differ quite a lot depending on that.

I am in the UK and have done a few nursing homes. I charge $80 for around 2 hours (but I am not trying to make a living at it), plus transportation costs if it is more than 20 minutes away. I have been told that I am on the cheap side.

I play guitars and sing myself, but my brother sings to pre-recorded music and he gets a lot of gigs. Also, the most popular session at several local homes is a church group who bring in recorded music and do a sing-along of songs from the 40s and 50s.

So I guess my advise would be to try it and see if it is well-received (though I would probably either learn to accompany myself or look for a good accompanist).

All the best!

28 Aug 15 - 06:41 AM (#3733691)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Big Al Whittle

hmmm...a much vexed question for me at the moment.

i originally did a gig working with backing trax and i am now convinced its the best way. with a radio mic - it gives you freedom to perform. and performance is what makes you different from the karaoke singer. you can interract with the audience.

i've been trying to work with just a guitar - do the same thing. that has superficially many advantages. you can change key, change the song at will etc. however to play the guitar at anything other than a thrash you need to get into radio mics, taping radio mics to your face. i find they keep falling off when you sweat!

28 Aug 15 - 01:14 PM (#3733769)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Desi C

If in the UK I think you'll find most acts volunteer their services for free, and I'd doubt backing tracks would be too welcome

28 Aug 15 - 01:25 PM (#3733775)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Big Al Whittle

not true Des. most places are required to be inspected to show they are trying to stimulate their residents.

part of this is to get entertainers who are skilled at engaging with and talking to the residents. they budget for this.

it is a tough job, and is way different from amateur musicians going through their paces. you need to be fit attentive, mobile - not just going through a few bits and pieces that you happen to like.

28 Aug 15 - 02:27 PM (#3733789)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Allan Conn

I don't know what generally happens but our club is sometimes asked to provide free entertainment at various nursing homes. We haven't done it a lot but we have on several occasions. Can be a bit of an experience. On one occasion and old dear got up after one song and before walking out said loudly to her compatriots "none of the lot of them can sing" :-)

28 Aug 15 - 08:45 PM (#3733846)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Joe Offer

A church caroling group I lead has had a great time singing for the Sisters of Mercy at the local convent's infirmary for Christmas and Fourth of July for a number of years. I've been hoping to do a singaround with the nuns, but it didn't happen until this afternoon. We had an absolutely delightful time. Most of these sisters were born in Ireland, and most are over 80. A couple have dementia, but both have a great memory for songs.

One of my favorite sisters is Sister M... M... M... (Sister 3M). When I met her several years ago, she was absolutely brilliant - and outrageously funny. Then dementia set in, and she can't remember a lot of things now and doesn't know my name any more. But she still knows songs, and sings them with gusto - and I think she figures the dementia gives her permission to be even more outrageous. So, she and I opened the afternoon singing "Three Lovely Lasses from Bannion."

I took along ten copies each of Rise Up Singing and the new Rise Again Songbook, mostly to show them off since I am an associate editor of Rise Again. The sisters were very interested in the process of developing the book over the Internet. They did request a few songs from the books, mostly songs from musicals and a few hymns. The songs from musicals worked especially well. We'd sing the song in the book, and then we'd remember the story of the play and sing as many of the other songs from the play as we could remember.

We spent a lot of time trying to remember songs together, and that was great fun. I did not let them rely on songbooks very much, but the books were helpful to have handy.

When I sing at nursing homes, I try to make the performance into a casual conversation that is punctuated by songs and storytelling, and it seems to work. It worked especially well today with those wonderful Irish nuns. At the end, I told them how I got to know my wife through the Sacramento Song Circle and how I became best friends with her husband Jim and then spent a lot of time singing and talking with him as he was dying of colon cancer. Then I sang "I'll Fly Away," which I sang at his funeral. And then I explained how Jim and I loved to sing songs that annoyed the women, particularly "Wild Rover." So we closed with "Wild Rover," which the Irish nuns knew by heart and sang lustily.

And then they invited me to stay for tea, so we chatted and sang and drank tea for another hour.

What a great afternoon!


29 Aug 15 - 12:01 PM (#3733966)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,leeneia

Thanks for the helpful and informative post, Joe.

29 Aug 15 - 12:20 PM (#3733973)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,mauvepink

I would say stay clear of backing tracks. They have done for music what the digital camera has done for photography. Anyone can use them and create a half decent result... but few can use them to their fullest potential.

Backing tracks take away your chance to ad lib an audience. You have to be spot on your timing, ALL the time, and you have little leeway to interject anything verbal if you see something in the audience you could 'bring in' to the song. Of course, this is only my opinion, though I find being able to freely interact with an audience really game changing. You can hold off on a chorus while people get up to dance, you can repeat something, you can comment, you can mingle with others on the song (hearing mondegreens is great if you can repeat immediately with effect). You can also ad lib someting whilst someone comes up to join you. A backing track will never allow you such freedom.

I tend to cherry pick songs to fit a venue but I, by no means, choose all oldies and war songs for homes. Audiences have astounded me in the past with how up to date they are (being asked for Ed Sheeran recently and Sam Smith was an unexpected pleasure) and many like to join in. Being ol excludes no-one from such happenings and I sometimes ask the venue if any of their residents have requests for favourite folk, country or sixties songs.

I agree with never talking down. Just be ordinary and normal, treating them as an audience who knows what is going on, but be on the look out to include some of the folk who may be looking nervous or lost.

None of this is rocket science. Just enjoy what you are doing and the audience often enjoys it with you. Smiles go far further you may imagine.

Most of all...Enjoy! :)

29 Aug 15 - 02:34 PM (#3733987)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Joe Offer

I don't know why, but a pre-programmed keyboard seems to work much better than recorded backing tracks. Maybe it's just because the guy with the keyboard and chimes at my dad's place is so engaging. He seems to know his keyboard very well, and so it seems that he's playing even when he doesn't have his hands on the thing.

I'm not ready for either recorded or MIDI accompaniment; but I do have a favorite pianist, and singing with her is my favorite way to perform. And she's got a wicked sense of humor and likes to play "straight man" to my corniness.


29 Aug 15 - 04:29 PM (#3734009)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Big Al Whittle

rehearsal is everything. initially backing trax were liberating for workings club acts who traditionally carried 'the dots' for an organ and drums duo to back them with. and then you were reliant on Bill Novack and Charlie Goode (and together they are ...Novack'n'Good) tobe able to read your dots...

with backing trax you could have the band of your dreams...sometimes a jazz trio, sometimes a brass band, sometimes a full orchestra.

backing trax work ...but only if you work. when i had a studio i edited backing trax for JohnTams to use for Lark Rise to Candleford at the national theatre....there is nothing inherently wrong with backing trax. the amount of professionalism you bring to the performance is down to you.

29 Aug 15 - 06:08 PM (#3734020)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Joe Offer

My son's band was very successful, but they had ten members and an agent and had to split the income so much that the band members couldn't survive. They went down to four members and a well-programmed keyboard - the only member of the band with a female name. Seems to work quite well for them.
So, I think if the backing tracks are a wisely-used supplement to the live performance, they can be a great asset if used well (and they don't require you to split the pay).


29 Aug 15 - 10:07 PM (#3734050)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Stim

As I mentioned before, I'm on the other side in this now, and I've seen a variety of performers, and people can provide a good show, no matter which options they choose--I respectfully disagree with Mauvepink, there are lot of people out there using backing tracks, and who improvise--think about DJs--we've had people do shows with an iPad..not my choice, but it's out there, and it's not going away.

29 Aug 15 - 11:11 PM (#3734058)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,mauvepink

@ Stim

No need to disagree. Your take is just as valid. I am heavily biased, I confess, as I adore live music, so am not so open minded as you on the subject. It does take all kinds and there is room for everyone :)

30 Aug 15 - 10:59 AM (#3734181)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Stim

The lines have gotten very blurry as to what even constitutes "live" music--the Korg Trinity/Triton made it easy to integrate samples and loops, midi sequences, and synth in live performance and nothing has been the same since.

To be clear, I still play mostly unplugged, though I have moments when I wish I could just push a button and get that EDM sound;-)

30 Aug 15 - 11:05 AM (#3734184)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,#

Just out of curiosity, has the OP returned?

01 Sep 15 - 05:57 PM (#3734734)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home

I use karaoke backing tracks. I put a tablet in a mic stand holder and play through a Bose Compact PA and a Tonematch engine. I play my acoustic-electric guitar along with the track and sing. The audience doesn't care that it's canned music. It sounds good and that's what matters. I have no trouble getting repeat gigs so it must be working OK. I am 71 and do mostly oldies from the 50's and early 60's. Most of the residents were in their 20's and 30's when they paid attention to popular music so it works. It's what I grew up with and know best anyway. They like up tempo stuff and not so many ballads I have found.
I get paid usually $75.00 for a one-hour show.

01 Sep 15 - 06:56 PM (#3734744)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Joe Offer

No, #, I think that one message is the only one newgurl has ever posted here. I'm afraid it can be hard for newcomers to find a thread once they've posted. Many email me and then I lead them in the right direction - but I'm afraid many get lost and never find their answers. I don't know how to make it easier for them - I've had the same problem at other forums I'm not familiar with. I post a question, and then I can't find my question again - or the answers.

But at least her question has generated an interesting discussion.

Guest above, is that the Bose L1-T1 system you're using? The one with the tall speaker, a base module, and a small "sound match" mixer? I'm hosting a concert next week and hope to borrow such a system. Should it work OK for 2 performers with an audience of 100?


02 Sep 15 - 05:05 AM (#3734793)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Howard Jones

Backing tracks are fine, especially for popular music where you want to reproduce the sound of the original. Appropriate backing tracks can let you do proper cover versions without needing a full band. Done well, it can be very effective, and will probably get a better response from your audience than a solo performance accompanying yourself on an acoustic guitar.

The mistake is to think that it is an easy option. It needs thorough practice and rehearsal, because if anything goes wrong there is no way back.

28 Jan 17 - 04:52 PM (#3835389)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Russ Burke

I am a very old fellow who has been a working Musician (singer & bass player) but 20 years ago I ceased the bass due to Carpal Tunnel. I can still sing and have done some stage shows and other gigs.
I have put together a program of oldies from the 20s to the 50s , about 50 songs, by creating them with Band in a Box. They would be considered canned music but very usable because I have included the melody to remind the old folks of their youth by singing along.
I have not as yet performed in a nursing home but will do so very soon. PS, I am 87 at this time so I will be right at home with many of the folks there. WISH ME LUCK.
i'll report my success or lack thereof!

28 Jan 17 - 08:06 PM (#3835430)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: Joe Offer

I think that if you sing with backing tracks or a pre-programmed keyboard, you should treat your backup equipment like a person. Give it a nice name, and talk to it a bit....

29 Jan 17 - 11:54 AM (#3835512)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: punkfolkrocker

Joe - that way madness lies..

I bought my wife a discounted price amazon echo dot for xmas..

Alexa is now her new best friend, and I'm becoming more certain they are conspiring behind my back....

I've just been sat downstairs.. the 3 of us..

Alexa plays dumb when I ask for music I like, and refuse to answer any of my quite reasonable question about politics, sexuality and religion..

.. and my wife just automatically takes her side
and scolds me for getting too exasperated with Alex and commanding her in an irritated tone of voice....

Bloody antagonistic passive aggressive AI robot companions.. 😣

Errr... sorry.. got a bit side tracked..

By my reckoning I must have accumulated just about most generations of convenient versatile backing track technology
from multi track cassette tape, midi file players, mini disc, CD walkman, digital multitrack recorder, laptop, tablet etc...

All are valid, and should be very useful if still in reliable working condition..

But I'd personally opt for a multi track so I could drop or include
for example drums, or bass, or backing vocals, etc, depending on circumstances and mood..

And take along at least one back up device with all the same tracks duplicated...

20 Sep 17 - 08:03 AM (#3877806)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Russ

Hi All,
I am doing "Nursing homes", Assisted living & Memory Ctr. Entertainment called "SING-A-LONG with Russ". I am an 87 year old Bass Player and singer and I created and entered over 150 songs from the 20's through the 70's all arranged as 2 choruses and they are stored in a laptop where they can be played on request from two songbooks I produced. I am the song leader while my wife handles the computer music choices. I use 2-12" speakers, a wireless Mic & mixer.
I started this program about 8 months ago and have been slowly adding to the schedule as interest grows. At this point I am pleased to be already booking for next year.
There has not been a problem with my canned music because we can vary the tempo, style etc. of the song choices to match the audiences desires. For me, the big day was the first time I got a call back!
Many places book as much as a year ahead so you need to get known.

27 Feb 18 - 04:40 AM (#3908223)
Subject: RE: sing to recorded music- nursing home
From: GUEST,Russ Burke (Sing-A-Long with Russ)

Hi, I am located near Atlanta Georgia. I have been doing my show for about a year now using backing tracks I created myself with a music program. I put together bound song books which contain over 100 song lyrics easily indexed in large print. The tracks are all on a laptop with page numbers that match the songbooks. My associate handles the music and I sing and interact with the folks. They can choose any old song they would like to do. The songs range from the 1920s through the 1960s, mostly songs that appeared on a hit parade for a while but many others as well. Since I am presently 88 years old and have been doing music since I was very young the music is very familiar to me. I love my audience and am on several schedules already for this year. My backing tracks have never seemed to be a problem. I created then with 2 choruses but sometimes we cut off at one. Even folks at memory centers respond to music remembered from the past and it's a thrill to see them perk up and look happy as they remember.