This is a guest post from Andy Chubb. If you are an experienced musician / business person with a working knowledge of the music industry (And something useful to share), please consider contributing to this site.
Playing your first gig can be a very nerve racking experience. Whether it’s in front of a few friends or in front of a room full or strangers, it’s not easy to escape those first gig nerves. They can have you feeling terrible right until the ‘dreaded’ experience is over, at which point you’ll realise the actual performance wasn’t that bad. But the nerves leading up to it? Well, that part isn’t quite so fun.
A lot of the time, nerves come due to a lack of organisation and not knowing what to expect. While you can’t fully know what to expect on your first gig, being prepared can go a long way in helping ease those nerves.
I thought it might be a good idea to write down a few hints and tips for those who are going to play their first gig. As a reasonably experienced musician myself, I would like to pass on some advice that will hopefully help others out. If you find these tips useful, please share them on your favourite social networking sites, or leave a comment below.
Organisation Is Key
Be sure to have all of your equipment packed and ready well in advance of the gig. There’s nothing worse then dashing around last minute in search of your guitar or CD you’re performing too. Having everything ready will help you prevent a potential stressful situation, and make things flow that bit better.
You should also make sure that you know where the venue is, and if possible visit it some time before the gig. These are simple and obvious things to consider, but at the same time extremely vital.
Arrive Early And Complete A Sound Check
This is very important. Get to the venue with plenty of time to spare, and ensure that your equipment is set up and fully connected. Once this is done, do a quick sound check to make sure the sound quality of the amps and PA (if being used) are all ok.
Many issues could arise with the equipment, such as power failure, bad sound, and more. If you are bringing your own amps and PA equipment, you should ensure they are all set up and sounding how you want them too. If however the venue supplies their own and you are borrowing their equipment, you should still check that it all works how you want it to.
If you are in a band, each member should be responsible for their own instrument during the sound check process. For example, guitarists should make sure their guitars are tuned accordingly, and any accessories such effects pedals are connected to their amps and ready to go. If you haven’t yet got a guitarist in your a band and want to learn, check out the best online electric guitar training available for a beginners. Singers should check the microphone sounds ok, and that there are no issues with the mic cable or microphone levels on the PA. The drummer should of course set up his kit accordingly, and again check to make sure the sound is fine.
Once this is all done, you might well have a bit of time left to grab a drink. You may think this will help with your nerves, but often it can do more harm then good. Drunk performers very rarely sounds as good as when they are sober, which is why I’d recommend staying clear or drink before the gig.
Bring Back Ups
If you play an instrument, it is very important that you bring spares to a gig. Guitar players should pack a few spare sets of guitar strings, as you never know when one might break. You should also bring plenty of extra guitar picks, as they can easily be dropped whilst playing. The last thing you want is to be hunting around on the floor looking for your only plectrum in the middle of a live show…
It might be that the guitarist/s has more than one guitar. If this is the case (And you have the space to carry it), then it is advisable you bring along a spare one that is tuned and ready to play. That way if a string snaps, you can just pick up your spare guitar and carry on with the show. This will flow a lot better then you having to re-string during a performance, and looks a lot cooler too.
If you are a guitar player that provides backing vocals, than it would be a good idea to buy a microphone stand with a pick holder included. This will make the plectrums easily accessible. Drummers should bring some spare drumsticks, in case of a snap or loss during a gig.
Have A Set List To Hand
If this is your first gig, you should have rehearsed the songs you are going to play many times. You should also get to know the order you are going to play them in. Even if you do plan and prepare everything, it is very easy to get stage fright and completely forget the order of what to play.
This can particularly be a problem when it’s your first gig and things are still quite new to you. So to be on the safe side, it’s advisable you bring along plenty of spare copies of your set list. A couple can be placed on stage, and be referred back to if you forget what you should be doing next.
Record The Performance
While this is optional and not essential, it might prove very helpful to record the gig and listen back to it at a later date. This will allow you to hear how you sounded, and show you first hand what you need to improve on the next time around (Editors Note: This should definitely be done if you want to improve your performance skills at double speed. We talk a lot more about improving your performance skills in the Academy). You can purchase good quality mobile recording equipment at a very reasonable price, so this may well be worth considering.
Be Calm And Carry On
This is perhaps one of the most important things to remember when playing your first gig. Remember that no one is perfect, and it could well be that you make a mistake during the show. If this happens, just remember to stay calm and carry on when you can.
Just make sure you promote your gig enough so people actually turn up. 🙂
A first gig very rarely goes without a hitch, but the important thing is that you just enjoy it. Remember, mistakes are there to be learnt from, and to help you get things better the next time around. I hope you found this advice helpful, and they help you have a much better live performance.
Author: Andy Chubb
Andy Chubb is a guitar and bass player with over 10 years of experience playing in different bands. He now spends his time supporting Bandshop.co.uk, online suppliers of music accessories including guitar strings, guitar tuners, effects pedals and much more.
Both pictures in this article are supplied by Flickr. Above picture by ‘TheArches’, below picture by ‘cogdogblog’.