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7 Tips For Playing Live

The importance of the live performance is arguably at it’s highest level for some time.  Artists income and revenue streams are becoming narrower with the shift to digital streaming formats, which means artists and performers need to be at a significantly higher level to compete in the live arena.  The following tips will help you be at the top of your game when playing live, so that you can maximise your exposure and give yourself the greatest opportunity to compete with the best:

  1. Rehearsal and practice – Experienced artists will know that these are two different things. Practice is what you do BEFORE you come to rehearsal.  Rehearsal time should be spent refining the songs and for the band to ‘gel’.  Make sure you have done your homework prior to rehearsal, so that you can arrive well prepared to genuinely rehearse and enjoy it too!  Your bandmates will love (or hate you) for it, but it will take things to a new level of professionalism.
  2. Equipment condition – Make sure your equipment is in good working order prior to arriving at a gig. If you’re a guitar/bass player, that means fresh (and slightly played-in strings), amplifier serviced, pedal board checked and spare supplies on hand (strings, picks, cables, toolkit etc).  If you’re a drummer, a few sets of sticks, drum heads checked and tuned.  If you’re a singer, turn up with your own microphone!
  3. Stage management – Decide on which band member is your allocated ‘stage manager’. Quite often this is the person that, whilst not always officially titled, tends to lead the presence of the band and controls cues etc.  They also often liaise with audio engineers to relay the band’s requirements for stage mix and front of house etc.  A great gig is always well managed on the stage, so that it comes across as seamless to the audience.
  4. PA/mixing – It’s crucial that you have confirmed with the venue prior to your performance any requirements regarding PA systems and provision of audio engineers. This is just as important whether you’re playing a small pub gig or a large stadium, the fundamentals are the same.  Nobody likes turning up to a gig to find there is no PA or desk to plug into… or engineer to get your mix happening!
  5. Sound check – This ties in with Point number 4, confirm with the venue what time sound check/load-in times are permitted. General rule, try to get there as early as possible to familiarise yourself with the venue and also the general acoustics of the room.  It will help you ‘acclimatise’ to your surroundings so that by the time you hit the stage, there are no unexpected surprises.  It also helps with getting comfortable with your position on the stage and your vantage point from both your bandmates and the audience.
  6. Dress to impress – Pay close attention to your image and the way you present yourself on stage. This can be a very individual thing and you may find bandmates have varying opinions on what they consider appropriate attire for a gig.  It’s important to have this discussion well before even booking a gig and decide on the way you intend to present your performance and the image you want to portray.
  7. Video video video – There is simply no better way to critique your own live performance than by filming it and watching it! It can be the single most sobering moment and (if you take it constructively) can be a serious fast track to improvement.  You may not have noticed that you had your back to the audience for 50% of the gig or that you sipped (or spilt) your beer no less than 27 times!  It’s all about the details and it’s important that you take control of every element of your performance to maximise impact!

I wish you all the best with your live performance endeavours!

Until next time,

Mike

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