Putting on a good show isn't a natural thing for some bands that are just getting started. I've seen several local shows where the audience was expecting something entertaining from the band and didn't get much. The music itself wasn't the main problem, although it could have been better. Bands like these could benefit from some preparation and thought on the performance side.
The act of live performance has to be practiced just like the music. It's a skill that's separate from actually playing the music even though they appear to be linked when watching a band perform. If the two seem to be linked, it's because the band has put thought and work into their presentation.
However if the musical skills aren't present in a performance, the presentation isn't going to make up for the lack of solid music. Getting the presentation together is not as effective if the performance isn't there.
Genre And Place
Presentation totally depends on the band and the genre. The band needs to be comfortable with the kind of presentation that they choose and it should appeal to fans of the music. A traditional jazz combo is generally going to present itself far differently from a death metal band. The fans and expectations are different. Know your genre and know the fans.
Be aware of the venue as well. Something that works great in front of 200 people might not work as well in front of 20 people. Is the audience filled with fans of your band or genre, or something totally different? If you examine live DVDs for ideas, keep in mind that something that works for an established band in front of 1,000 people might not work as well for you.
Be Prepared For Poor Monitoring
What does this have to do with presentation? If you can't hear yourself or the rest of the band, it's natural to be distracted from the actual act of performance. It's hard to look good if you're just trying to hold the music together.
Many venues have acceptable or good monitoring. However it's a guarantee that some of the venues you will play will have poor monitoring. In these situations it can be hard to hear anything, or things might be way out of balance. You might only be able to hear the drums and vocals for example. It's best to know the material well enough that just hearing one or two instruments is enough to keep you in the right part of the song and playing in time.
A really tight and prepared band will have the least amount of trouble with this situation since they don't need to hear every note each member is playing. If you know the rest of the band will play just like in practice, it's not as important to hear absolutely everything.
Record The Practice With A Camcorder
It's important to watch and critique yourself. When watching a video of yourself, you'll notice things that you weren't aware of in the moment. If you were a member in the audience watching, what would you think of the band in the video? Make a list of things that were done well and those that needed improvement. Play up your strengths and minimize or improve the weaknesses.
Practice In Front Of A Mirror
If you can get a large mirror for band or individual practice, it's really useful. It will help you see how you look, and how the rest of the band looks during practice. This has an advantage over recording with a camcorder and watching later since you get immediate feedback. This allows you to try different ideas right in the moment, which can lead to good changes and discoveries.
Plan For Accidents And Mistakes
The band should have a plan for different common problems. What if one of the guitarists pulls the cable out of the guitar? If you're using a wireless system, what if the battery goes dead? What will the band do if something goes wrong with an amplifier or the PA? If one guitarists' amp goes out during a solo, would the other guitarist be able to immediately jump in and finish playing it?
Basically this comes down to looking good even when the situation is falling apart. If you plan for the worst possible situation and practice the worst possible situation, most of the time you'll look and play great.
In short, unless your band has a good deal experience playing live, be more prepared than you think you need to be, and be ready for all possibilities and problems.
For more articles and resources to improve your playing, visit Dave's website at Cardwellmusic.com.
Copyright 2008 Dave Cardwell.