Presentation And Playing Live. Part 1

Putting on a good show isn't a natural thing for some bands that are just getting started.

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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.

85 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Sanitarium91
    brazen wrote: GodbowstoMath wrote: The first real gig I ever played was a total disaster. Not 30 seconds into the first song, I break a string. 10 minutes later, our bassist (who was off his ass on cheap beer and lord knows how many somas) starts playing in some strange martian key and then threw up on stage. Then our singer tripped over his own cable, falls on his face, managed to break two fingers in the process. I then got hit in the face with a full can of whatever and in my own drunken stupper started a fight (with the wrong guy I later found out) This was all followed up by the cops shutting the gig down because some idiot was shooting a shotgun outside the semi-converted warehouse we played. this went better than our second show. rock 'n roll mixed with 17 year olds, stolen prescription drugs, cheap beer, store brand vodka and our nerves running a little high. but, one hell of a way to get over stage fright! LMAO!!!!! sounds like an awesome show
    + 1
    Dyers
    my first show went great. i love playing infront of a crowd especially when they dance its awesome
    joshgiesbrecht
    xCoilx wrote: GodbowstoMath wrote: The first real gig I ever played was a total disaster. Not 30 seconds into the first song, I break a string. 10 minutes later, our bassist (who was off his ass on cheap beer and lord knows how many somas) starts playing in some strange martian key and then threw up on stage. Then our singer tripped over his own cable, falls on his face, managed to break two fingers in the process. I then got hit in the face with a full can of whatever and in my own drunken stupper started a fight (with the wrong guy I later found out) This was all followed up by the cops shutting the gig down because some idiot was shooting a shotgun outside the semi-converted warehouse we played. this went better than our second show. rock 'n roll mixed with 17 year olds, stolen prescription drugs, cheap beer, store brand vodka and our nerves running a little high. but, one hell of a way to get over stage fright! that.is.amazing.
    +1
    xCoilx
    GodbowstoMath wrote: The first real gig I ever played was a total disaster. Not 30 seconds into the first song, I break a string. 10 minutes later, our bassist (who was off his ass on cheap beer and lord knows how many somas) starts playing in some strange martian key and then threw up on stage. Then our singer tripped over his own cable, falls on his face, managed to break two fingers in the process. I then got hit in the face with a full can of whatever and in my own drunken stupper started a fight (with the wrong guy I later found out) This was all followed up by the cops shutting the gig down because some idiot was shooting a shotgun outside the semi-converted warehouse we played. this went better than our second show. rock 'n roll mixed with 17 year olds, stolen prescription drugs, cheap beer, store brand vodka and our nerves running a little high. but, one hell of a way to get over stage fright!
    that.is.amazing.
    Mike D'Spike
    Wow, man, great advice, i've never realize that so many things could happen during a concert, now I now just what i need to do, thank you for everything
    deafening
    uprawrock wrote: that wasn't very informative. More like common sense. Watch yourself, learn from mistakes. Yeah, thanks.
    whats eatin ur arse?
    urik
    This thread is as good as sex with Adriana Lima. So yeah I guess that it's m'kay. /lying. It's ****ing awesome .
    FeiRei
    I use to be nervous about messing up, but then I had the realization, know one really notices if you screw up, unless it is huge. Hell I played and entire solo a half step sharp(I did not notice because there was zero monitoring in the venue) but on one seemed to really notice. Now that I have gotten past messing up fear I can move and put on a freaking awesome show.
    dylanfromearth
    when i play live i plan on being covered in christmas tree lights and the drummer will have glow in the dark paint on
    brazen
    GodbowstoMath wrote: The first real gig I ever played was a total disaster. Not 30 seconds into the first song, I break a string. 10 minutes later, our bassist (who was off his ass on cheap beer and lord knows how many somas) starts playing in some strange martian key and then threw up on stage. Then our singer tripped over his own cable, falls on his face, managed to break two fingers in the process. I then got hit in the face with a full can of whatever and in my own drunken stupper started a fight (with the wrong guy I later found out) This was all followed up by the cops shutting the gig down because some idiot was shooting a shotgun outside the semi-converted warehouse we played. this went better than our second show. rock 'n roll mixed with 17 year olds, stolen prescription drugs, cheap beer, store brand vodka and our nerves running a little high. but, one hell of a way to get over stage fright!
    LMAO!!!!! sounds like an awesome show
    t3hrav3n
    The thing to remember is this: if your band doesn't click during one gig, don't lose hope, you can rock the next one. It's weird, my band is usually not too together, stage-presence-wise, but we did our biggest and most recent show the other week and killed it. It's good to go over what you guys should do during parts of songs. Like "headbang 8th notes during the breakdown" or something. There's not a lot of stuff much cooler than the whole band headbanging to a brutal breakdown. It looks weird, however, when you have one guy headbanging while the singer's taking a drink and another guy is doing a guitar spin. You're just not together, y'know? It should mostly come naturally, but working on specific stuff isn't a bad idea.
    punkrockjoe
    Well my band has done quite a few gigs and they all seem to go smoothly but one time my lead broke without a spare so I resorted to ****ing about chucking bottles at the crowd and then they cut out our sound. Not good.
    Gammas1
    I'm gonna have my first "performance" in a few weeks, and I think this will definetly help. Thanks!
    GodbowstoMath
    I think the cable issue is the only thing I've never had trouble with. i usually just route it between the guitar and the strap, so that it rests on the strap peg. a little tape goes a long way as well, especially on small stages where your cable is going to be stepped on.
    lolcats
    You shouldn't need to worry about your guitarists plug coming out if you hook it through the strap. That seems like a pretty n00bish mistake to not do that.
    mr. ...
    -Rane- wrote: They make strap locks; I wonder if they make cable locks...?
    ha ha sorry they don't. but there is a cale that locks to your input jack...
    -metalhead-
    Agreed on playing in front of the mirror, makes me feel good, I look awesome when playing. =)
    m1chael w0rkman
    My first show...Ahh. I enjoyed this article, just thought I'd share. We were playing at an all ages club: opening for some bigger bands around town, and we were all under 18. (I was 15 at the time.) Anyway; Like most bands from a few years ago, we played all our stuff in Drop D, but had a few covers in Drop C... Our bassist apparently forgot this. So the first half hour of the set, he was in Drop C because our drummer got nervous and kept starting the songs back to back to back to back. After that, everything was cool though. haha. We were received really well by the other bands and I actually play guitar for the main band we were opening for now! Funny how things work out. [shameless self-promotion] www.myspace.com/warcreekmafia
    corpsegrinder72
    my first gig went pretty good. the EQ on my amp went crazy on one song, which threw my bass way out of tune, making one song sound bad, but the rest was pretty good. we even had another established band come up to us and said we were really good.
    hightension01
    CasanovaBass wrote: -Rane- wrote: Paul Carbonella wrote: yeah or just a 20Ft works wonders but thats my number one rule 1.Thread you Cable inbetween the guitar and cable 2. make sure it has some slack 3.always have a 2nd guitar ready to play Ex. strap and cable already attached 4.tape second guitar output cable right above the input jack for easy access (this one saved me big time) It' so true what he says about pulling the cable. That's happened to me twice, and it's horrible. They make strap locks; I wonder if they make cable locks...? You take the cable behind you, then thread it through between your body and strap,then back down and into the plug. It stays in, however much you step on it . The only disadvantages are that it can pull amps over and you can damage the guitar's internals by putting physical strain on the plug socket. Works for me though I suppose a 37ft cable helps.
    arnob_oblique
    lol sumday b4 we played in a hallroom full of girls, like 400 of them. We got really nervous at 1st bt then after we started, our vocal spontaneously jumped and then other followed it (u knw like u c the bands all jumpin during songs in perfect timing).. We arent used to jumpin bt once we did it, chicks seemed to dig it! (u don c many bands in Bangladesh doin dat) .. So evn though there were mistakes in the playin, we got hugely appreciated ! N the nervousness ws also gone after the first song...
    turtlewax
    You loosen up after youv'e played a few gigs. Then your much more confident.
    Fritz621
    Yeah like everyones said most of this is common sense.... and if something does happen DONT FREAK!!!! just relax and pretend it was suppose to happen or after the song make a joke or something so the audience isn't like " AHAHAHAH idiots" lol
    ShredGuitar9
    brazen wrote: GodbowstoMath wrote: The first real gig I ever played was a total disaster. Not 30 seconds into the first song, I break a string. 10 minutes later, our bassist (who was off his ass on cheap beer and lord knows how many somas) starts playing in some strange martian key and then threw up on stage. Then our singer tripped over his own cable, falls on his face, managed to break two fingers in the process. I then got hit in the face with a full can of whatever and in my own drunken stupper started a fight (with the wrong guy I later found out) This was all followed up by the cops shutting the gig down because some idiot was shooting a shotgun outside the semi-converted warehouse we played. this went better than our second show. rock 'n roll mixed with 17 year olds, stolen prescription drugs, cheap beer, store brand vodka and our nerves running a little high. but, one hell of a way to get over stage fright!
    hey.. that happened 2 me 2!
    ticklemeemo
    If you aren't needlessly nervous most of that shouldn't happen. I've only played in front of a big crowd (like 200+) once or twice, but everything went smoothly. Monitoring was a problem though, the stage was too big, so I could only seen the other guitarist anyway.
    poundhead
    GodbowstoMath wrote: The first real gig I ever played was a total disaster. Not 30 seconds into the first song, I break a string. 10 minutes later, our bassist (who was off his ass on cheap beer and lord knows how many somas) starts playing in some strange martian key and then threw up on stage. Then our singer tripped over his own cable, falls on his face, managed to break two fingers in the process. I then got hit in the face with a full can of whatever and in my own drunken stupper started a fight (with the wrong guy I later found out) This was all followed up by the cops shutting the gig down because some idiot was shooting a shotgun outside the semi-converted warehouse we played. this went better than our second show. rock 'n roll mixed with 17 year olds, stolen prescription drugs, cheap beer, store brand vodka and our nerves running a little high. but, one hell of a way to get over stage fright!
    Now that's rock 'n roll! Try practicing that in front of the mirror Nice article too, only thing is that when you start, your first gig(s) are most likely on a stage the size of a pooltable (at least where i come from). Not much use to practice 'looking cool'... And by the time you step up to larger venues you should be confident enough...
    Bassman13
    Its cool to be nervous, I find I play better when im nervous for a show. But it takes a little while to get over the nerves, just comes with experience.
    i agree, sometimes using the fear or nervousness really helps you. i play better when i'm scared, i pay more attention to the songs and what i'm doing. and yes, it does get easier over time.
    Bassman13
    not much i didnt' know, but it's still very good general knowledge that should be held by everyone interested in playing and performing live.
    Inferno11
    rojomeansred wrote: I would be more worried about breaking a string than anything! but good article. Maybe try and incorporate some tips to combat nervousness though?
    Its cool to be nervous, I find I play better when im nervous for a show. But it takes a little while to get over the nerves, just comes with experience.
    Godsm4ck
    sam i am wrote: What will the band do if something goes wrong with an. All rights reserved. Used by permission.amplifier or the PA? Lol how did that get in there?
    its not
    Bodom69
    Good Stuff. my band has definately been through most of those things one time or another. i guess the most important thing is to just be cool and shit generally works out,.
    DROUGE1
    a combination of problems, i was doing a gig once, and the other gutiarist managed to step on my cable.. and since there was poor monitoring.. i continued playing.. not for too long, but yeah.. i had to bend down and get it lmao
    FLNagle
    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.
    I hear you there! i recently went to go see Nineball at a local venue in my town. they're kinda big (although still unsigned, very strange), but they played to less than 20 people. their stage presence was very impersonal, what i would expect for a crowd of hundreds. a different band that played that night had equally good music, but a much nicer presence. they went through and individually asked everyone in the front row 'how are you doing tonite' among other things. the second band got my money at the merch table.
    Majes
    As far as i can tell from this the more you practice the more you can be yourself. When you have a song practice so far that you can do it blindfold, you don't concern yourself about playing it the right way, and that you leave a space you can performe anything else than music. See som of the best out there, when they perform, you don't feel like their struggle with their music. the control over music can give you more control over non-music aspect of the show and it can be the edge that sets you apart from all the rest.
    red_hot_chili18
    broken circle wrote: This skimmed the top - nothing new, nothing really in depth.
    nice "input" i think it's a good basic tips article, nicely done man!