Questions, Questions, Questions…
Just getting through the first few gigs is an achievement in itself; the fear can be overwhelming. Is anyone going to show up? Is everything in tune? Is anyone enjoying the music? Am I going to forget all the words? Am I going to forget the chords? Am I going to drop my drumsticks? Why am I putting myself through this???? Of course not everybody suffers these horrible thoughts and lucky them! For anyone new to the game and looking for some tips on playing live, here are my top five taken straight from my own crazy experiences as a gigging musician.
Think of yourself as an actor or actress, get into role and be brave! Take ten deep breaths and visualize you and your band being awesome. Don’t get so intoxicated that you’re not in the moment, unless that is your thing, in which case – good luck and have fun! A bit of nervous energy can make for a great performance, and you are more likely to be in tune and in time if you keep your head together. Most importantly, if you make an error, it will be far easier and quicker to correct it if you’re more on the sober side than if you are blurry-brained from booze or whatever your poison is. Just remember – once that bum note is played, it is gone forever and who cares? It’s not the end of the world, but a whole out of tune, out of time show can be really bad for your reputation.
2.Always Put On The Best Show You Can –
Even if it’s just your mom and her drunk friend at the back, and one random person sitting at the bar – you don’t know who might walk in, or who that guy at the bar really is. If you put on the show of a lifetime they won’t forget it, and maybe at your next show your mom’s friend will bring all her friends and they’ll buy your CD.
3.Know Your Sound
Get your sound right on stage if you have time for a sound check. Don’t be afraid to ask the sound person to turn you up or down in the monitors, or anyone else for that matter in between songs. If you can master the sign language of sound engineers, then you can tweak it whilst you’re playing live, but make sure you get it right or it could just make things crazy up there!
Have someone there who knows your sound to listen out front and see if it is sounding how you like it. If you don’t have anyone, then get the guitarist, or whoever has a long cable to get out there and check it out. Always be brave! Never feel that you are inferior to anyone.
4.Always Be Nice – To Everybody!
Even if the sound person seems moody and unfriendly, kill them with kindness. You will become known as a great band to work with and this will open more doors to you in the long run than if you are full of rock star attitude. Everybody loves to talk about their bad experiences, so if you give someone a hard time – they will tell everybody. If you are a pleasure to work with then you will be asked back to do bigger and better shows. Think professionally if you are serious about it.
5.Don’t Be Afraid To Stop
Worst-case scenario – (happened to me a few weeks ago) someone (me) starts the song in the wrong key for whatever reason (my keyboard had been accidently transposed down a semitone) and it sounds like the world is actually ending (and I tried to blame it on someone else for a while). You have to stop the song, laugh it off, start again and get through it. The world hasn’t ended, maybe a little part of you died inside, but you will live to see another gig and in future always check the little things that could be screwing it up for you (the list is endless).
It’s a weird and wonderful world being a musician; an emotional rollercoaster you could say. So look after yourself and make sure you sound as great as you can as often as possible and the good times will outweigh the bad for sure.
For anybody considering a full-time music career – come and check out the DIME Denver office underneath the Tivoli building on the MSU campus and have a chat with Wildflowers – the band in the basement.