Getting on stage is one of the best ways to introduce your music to new audiences and to cement the love of your loyal fans. No matter how large or small the performance, a lot goes into getting it right when you prepare for Live Performances. The sound, the lights, and the stage set-up all play a part in making the performance great. Whether you prefer to play stripped down and raw sets in black box theaters and coffeehouses, or your act contains fireworks and a custom lightshow, every band needs to plan ahead and know how to prepare for a live performance. We’ve compiled some tips and stage performance techniques to help you prepare for the big event and put on the best show possible.
This probably goes without saying, but the single most important factor for nailing your live show is practicing your set. The more you practice, the better. Make sure you know your part, your cues (like how many times you’ll play through the progression before the song ends, or how long that instrumental break lasts after the second chorus), and make sure you get plenty of chances to practice with anyone else you’re playing with. And don’t practice mistakes! If you commonly make a mistake in a certain part of a song, work on that section until playing it correctly becomes second nature. Repeating the mistake without addressing it could cause you to repeat it on stage. Lots of practice will leave you feeling prepared to take the stage and help calm any pre-show anxiety you might be feeling.
If you can, it’s a great idea to check out the venue you’ll be playing ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with the stage setup, figure out where you’ll be loading your equipment in and out of, and find out about the sound system. Scoping the venue out ahead of time will also give you a sense of what equipment you’ll need to bring and what you can leave behind. Many venues will supply mics and stands, but don’t take it for granted! If you can’t go in person, a phone call with someone from the venue is a great backup plan. Once you know what the venue has, put together a checklist of all the things you need to bring to the show. Check it as you load up your gear, check it again once you’re packed, and one last time after the show to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind.
Many venues, though not all, will give you a chance to get on stage and hear how you sound in the space before your actual performance. When you set up the show make sure to find out if sound check is going to be an option, and if so, what time it will happen. Make sure you and your bandmates are there and loaded into the venue before sound check to take full advantage of your time. This will be the first time you’re hearing yourself on the venue’s mics and PA system, and it’s a great opportunity to figure out how much volume you’ll need in the monitors, and how your instruments and equipment are sounding in the space. In some cases sound check will happen right before your set, with audience members already in the venue. In these cases, many bands will have a song or a riff they can all play together to make sure everything sounds good without actually playing songs from the set before the performance begins—this is a great thing to add to your band’s repertoire for sound checking on the fly.
You can’t have too many cables. This is something like a golden rule for musicians, especially ones who play with electric instruments and use modulators and pedals. Although the venue will likely have patches and mic cables, DO NOT assume they will have as many as you need. As a rule of thumb, act as though the venue will supply mic cables into their PA system only, and you’ll need to patch everything else as though you were at your rehearsal space (hint: see tip #2 for how you can confirm this ahead of time). Even if you know the venue has extra cables, bring your own. How many times have you had to interrupt practice to tape a faulty patch cable or run to the music shop to replace it altogether? Stuff like this happens even at the biggest venues, so bring extra cables. It costs nothing and it could potentially save your show.
Put simply, shit happens. This is true all the time, and it’s especially true during the jittery moments leading up to a show. Maybe your bassist is running late and their phone died. Maybe you locked the keys in the van before you finished loading out and you’re supposed to be on in fifteen minutes. If you’re prepared and you’re ready to embrace a go-with-the-flow attitude, you’ll find a workaround for anything that comes up. Keep in mind: if it seems like a disaster at the time, it’s a good story later. Once you’ve mastered this step, nothing can stop you from killing it when you hit the stage.
After reading this article and learning how to prepare for a live performance, which one of these techniques do you think will help you the most and what do you plan on implementing into your gigs?