Musical entertainment for Senior Citizens. Tips, information, and useful links for entertainers, event organisers and activity directors. Senior citizen entertainment is a specialty.

Basic Equipment
for a Seniors Entertainer

Acoustic Guitar cutaway style

1. Easy Level

Your voice: I have found that, in anything other than a small, intimate room, you will find yourself straining your voice even slightly. After an hour, this can cause you to strain your voice or damage it temporarily.

Good vocal technique

Really helps and we will get into that elsewhere. I always use a microphone as I do up to 4 engagements a day and I need to save my voice. It may not be hugely impressive to walk in and sing without accompaniment. If you also use an acoustic guitar, piano or accordion, your voice will have the strength of that behind it, making it actually sound better. This is simple and can be OK for a small room.

Any musical instrument that you can play chords and solos on can accompany your singing. Some will be more practical than others. I'm not a huge fan of Karaoke as it shows some level of vocal talent only but if you can put on an unusually visual show it can work.

So here you are, you walked in with your gear and now to set up. Choose an area that affords a view of the most people. If you need electricity find an outlet nearby. Never run an extension cord where some resident or employee can trip on it. They can get into things fast, and you might not have a chance to warn them. I prefer using an outlet behind me as I set up back to the wall.

2. A step up

Most entertainers will bring some sort of amplifier with a microphone etc. for their voice and instrument. You don't need to be loud but again the voice issue makes it so much more comfortable to sing easily with a mic.

If you are in a noisy room you won't be bashing away at your instrument to get a little more volume, and it will sound better. One amplified speaker for both microphone and guitar or piano is practical and usually enough.

Some amplified speakers such as JBL makes have 2 channels. You can use a small multi channel mixer first if you like. I prefer using a mixer for the inputs of the guitar and microphone.

It offers more control over tone, and the volume control is more accessible. If you can raise the speaker(s) up, the sound will carry across the room better. Aim it at the audience. If you are in a large room where the sound from one speaker isn't sufficient, use two speakers separated to the left and right of you and raised up and facing the audience.

Roger Chartier with headset mic

3. Even better

I prefer a headset wireless microphone (see the picture of me on the right). And a wireless guitar set-up as it allows me much more freedom.

If I have to move about from a fixed position the mic stays with me and my guitar is still plugged intot the system although wirelessly and I don't have to stop talking or singing.

My friend Marc plays guitar and he uses a headset wireless mic and wireless guitar setup, as well.

As he is totally wireless he walks around the room between chairs and tables with his guitar strapped on and playing while mingling with the audience. He is a flirt and the ladies love him. We entertain at the same places, and I hear about him from the ladies...

4. More Better ;-)

I like versatility and I use a variety of things to achieve this. Here, the idea is to give them more sounds and a better show. As far as sounds are concerned. Backing tracks are a terrific idea. It makes you sound as if you are a whole band. People use many different ways to provide backing tracks.

You can record them yourself if you can play other instruments or you can use a midi device and find the backing tracks online. There are some backing tracks available for sale on the internet.

A drum machine is an excellent tool to use to liven up the beat, especially when the residents are physically able to dance and the facility that you are at encourages it.

If you can try to use another instrument for a treat, such as a trumpet or harmonica or whatever. Variety is appealing to the audience.
Clothes and props will make the show better.

5. Move the equipment

Equipment on 4 wheeled dolly

Do everything you can to learn how to carry your equipment in with one trip. Make it from the vehicle right to the set-up area.

Several trips back and forth can be tedious for you and take the fun out of it. It takes more time and looks amateurish.

I suggest using a 2 wheeled, or even better, a 4 wheeled dolly. It will take less time and you can waltz into the set up area where the people who are early birds get to watch you set up.

The set up just above was what I made to carry my gear in one load. I cut the foot off of the 4 whelled hand truck and bolted a box for music books on the bottom. My mixing board etc is carried just above that and on top is my foot board set-up.

On top of that is my guitar. On the end is a powered JBL speaker. The quality of that powered speaker is excellent.