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Live Show Tips

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Live show tips: Suck less and play your best.

These are just some tips, in no particular order of importance, to make your show the best one you’ve played yet.

1. Be on time, especially if you are the headlining band. Nothing annoys a venue owner like bands who show up late. Greet the bands who are there opening for you, and be nice. Help them get their gear on and off the stage. You never know who is going to be playing bigger shows down the road, and most guys I know really appreciate kindness like that. It just might come back around to help you out. Finally, I know this sounds basic, but I can’t even count how many times I’ve been disappointed by the attitudes of other band members (either the headliner or one of the openers). Even if you can play like Hendrix, you don’t need to be arrogant.

2. Set up as much gear as possible before you get on stage. Set up the drums and have them ready to go, carry out the pieces one by one. Guitarists, buy a Salvage board for quick set ups and wicked style. At a bare minimum get a piece of wood and put some Velcro on it. this will serve as a great pedalboard until you can pick up something awesome.  Organized gear saves a ton of set up time.

3. Set up your equipment, and then get off the stage. Simple, but helpful to the sound technician working your show. If its a small stage, more than likely you’ll be in the way once you’re finished setting up. This helps to save time, which I’ve found helps to keep people in the venue for your set.

4. When you get into the venue, pull your stringed instruments out of their cases. Temperatures, humidity, even air pressure changes, can have an effect on your strings and tuning. Most guitars will detune (if only slightly) the moment you pull it out of the case. This is a good thing, let it sit in the environment that you will play in and tune before you play, and you’ll be good to go. Having a back-up tuner that you have backstage so you can tune before you go out will save you time on stage also.  Keep in mind that if the venue has bright stage lights they will warm the guitars and tuning will change.  If possible allow your guitars to sit on a stand under the lights for a few minutes, this will help them equalize.

5. Don’t rehearse the day of the show unless its absolutely necessary. I’ve found that playing the day of the show can actually get you feeling overly confident, which can turn out negatively.

6. Never take an encore if you aren’t the headliner. Nothing sends the wrong message like taking an encore when you aren’t the headliner. That is the quickest way to burn bridges with venue owners and other bands.

7. Respect the other bands’ time by not playing too long. Another form of respect…this is just my opinion, but 6 songs seems to be a great set time for opening bands. If the headliner is a bigger name, I’d do 5 songs instead. It depends on your song length, how much talking you do in between songs, and how much time it takes to set up and take down your equipment. Factor everything in and make a decision.  Also, if you’re not the headliner nobody cares what you have to say.  Keep your mouth shut about your cause, merch, social media etc.  Less talking, more rocking is likely the best policy.

8. Have merchandise with your band name on it to give to people. This is promoting 101…often times people don’t remember your band even if they liked your music. Have business cards, stickers, CD’s, shirts, etc. that you can give to people. Another great thing for bands who have interesting or difficult-to-remember names – have a sign printed with your band name on it, and have it on stage.  Don’t be annoying about it, just have it available and most importantly make your show worth remembering!

8. When promoting your band, continuity will do a lot for your band image.  Pick one font and use it for all your branding. Make it simple, easy to read and classy.  It’s a great way to establish an image. Of course you’ll change things up for t-shirts and other merch occasionally, but having consistency is great.  If you pick Bleeding Cowboys or Comic Sans for your font I’m going to punch you.  Just don’t do it.

9. Have all band members help with moving gear. Seems simple, but make sure everyone is helping out, no matter how much or how little gear they have. Even if the singer has nothing but a mic, he can help lift drums and amps on stage and save you precious time in front of the audience.  Take charge at rehearsal and give everyone a pep talk about helping out.  It’s simple, if the drums get set up faster the singer has more time to sing.  It’s a team effort, don’t be a douche.

10. Finally, have fun on stage. Even if you’re making mistakes, even if you aren’t playing your best, people can tell when you are having fun with your band. The best shows I’ve ever played have always been when I was just having fun.  Just go rock.

Enjoy these tips, take them for what they are worth…everyone is different, so remember to try different things and find what works for you so that you can play your best every time you get on stage with your band. Please do comment or add any tips of your own!  We would love to hear what you think.

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Comments 5

  1. It has been a long time since I have been in a gigging band, but this is good stuff. For the last 10 years or so I have been mostly playing or leading music at church and such, but these tips work well in that realm as well. Diggin’ it, dude.

  2. Huge one… once you set up your gear, do a line check and then PUT THE AXE DOWN. Nothing is more unprofessional than a bunch of noodling while you’re waiting for the soundguy to finish setting the mics up.

  3. Great advice, I think the main thing is “Don’t have big heads” and don’t be Arrogant!
    And of course, Have FUN and ROCK ON!

  4. Write down all your settings in a notebook, and check them as soon as your gear is set up. Few things are more annoying than seeing a guitarist fiddling with pedals, amps etc during the set. Know your gear, and be prepared.

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