A Preparation Guide For Your First Live Performance

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.
Prepare For Live PerformancesPlaying your first gig can be a very nerve racking experience. Whether itโ€™s in front of a few friends or in front of a room full or strangers, itโ€™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…

Spare Guitar StringsIt 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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’.

9 thoughts on “A Preparation Guide For Your First Live Performance”

    Every time I go on stage weather a small club or a Ho-Down or singing to people I meet for the first time. My nerves always get to me and my insides start to shake. I just stay calm and know that I have talent. I tell myself “I’ve done this before, just do it again”. After I start singing, I start to feed off the crowd and focus. I was woundering about taking a drink just off stage to calm down before I proform and I don’t drink but, I was thinking of starting. Not anymore. It is true about giving myself time so as not to have to rush and forget stuff. Scouting out the venue location, makes all the sence in the world. It would not matter that you had everything you needed with you and left in plenty of time, if I got lost on the way(time flies too, when your not having fun). Well thank you Mr. Chubb and HAPPY TRAILS. This is the Year QB Diamond with helpful advice like this and IMA. I will be successful.

  2. Great comment QB Diamond, I’m glad you find the article useful!

    That’s the thing, gig nerves do tend to effect a lot of people. As humans, we’re not naturally used to getting up and performing in front of a large number of people. It is something that can be worked on however, and gets easier to do with experience. Once you’re on stage, if you start the first few seconds well, a lot of the nerves go away naturally by themselves.

    Good luck with the success ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. This is definitely a great checklist. While some people might think that some parts are obvious, others might feel the same way about a set list–both can be quickly forgotten. Just as it is a good idea to write down your set list, this list would also be helpful a tool to have on hand when preparing for a gig. I have been singing for years, and have a few live performances under my belt, but am now starting to venture out into live performances in front of large groups of strangers. I appreciate this site, and all of the great advice given. Tips are always welcome, especially when coming from experienced people.

    I do have one question: How do you feel about wearing shades on stage to help with stage fright?

    I have crippling stage fright, but always get through the performance. Do you think that this would be made easier by wearing glasses while performing? I don’t want to come off as too cool, or risk not connecting with the crowd (I feed off of them as well). I’m just looking for things that will allow me to show my full potential while doing what I love.

    Thank you so much!!

  4. Thanks for the great comment Dior. I agree, what may be ‘obvious’ to one person may not be to another. That’s why I cover all different levels of advice on this website, from info for beginners, to more advanced strategies which can be used by more seasoned musicians.

    I haven’t heard of people using shades to help with stage fright before. When I’ve seen people wear shades on stage before (Inside), I always wondered why they did it. I’ve also made the odd โ€œWhy are they wearing sun glasses insideโ€ joke. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If possible you should try to do without them. It would give a better image of yourself, and it will make you less reliant on this tool. Maybe you could try shutting your eyes for parts instead? It’d make you looking like you’re ‘getting in the zone’, and really connecting with the words you’re singing. It’ll look good to your audience, and hopefully also help you feel more comfortable and relaxed too. Hope that helps. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Thank you very much for the positive feedback. Playing a gig can get the legs of even the most confident musicians shaking! I’m glad that you agree with the points made and have found it useful in some way! Keep up the great work guys!

    Thanks again

    Andy Chubb

  6. hi i do have stage fright and im wanting to wear a wig and dress cool and unique to settle my nerves. and if like i would become popular in my town i want people to know me as my stage name which i dont know what it will be yet but i just want to be known as my soon to be stage name cuz im trying to gather equiptment and stuff for my first time. i dont want to be plowed down by people that like my music when im out some wear. what do you think on this?

  7. Paul, most likely people won’t hound you unless you get very popular. This won’t happen if you start performing at small gigs first, so maybe do this to get yourself comfortable with getting on stage and the like? Check out my guide on dealing with performance nerves too, I think that’ll help you.

  8. Playing first gig tomorrow night and am so scared I am going to forget the words!! Any tips??

  9. Sorry I didn’t get the tips to you earlier Graham! How did your gig go? For future gigs though, my best advice is to learn your lyrics inside out! Be sure you go over them multiple times a day a few days before the gigs, and as soon as you wake up see if you can remember them off by heart without reading them. Then continue practicing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Comments are closed.