Presentation And Playing Live. Part 2

Some bands that are just getting started could benefit from some preparation and thought to improve the impression they make at their live performances.

Ultimate Guitar

Some bands that are just getting started could benefit from some preparation and thought to improve the impression they make at their live performances. This is especially true if the music is already at a good level. A band with a good stage presence and good music is going to be hard to ignore.

Putting on an entertaining performance isn't a natural thing for everyone. For some, it takes consistent and dedicated practice just like the music. However getting the presentation together won't be as effective if the music isn't solid already.

If you missed Part 1, I talked about some basic ideas involving practicing and preparation to help less experienced performers. Now I'll present some additional ideas to consider.


Some bands tend to ignore their transitions between songs. They can pull off the actual songs well, but in between the songs there are long stretches of silence, confusion, random noise, or talking to their band mates and ignoring the audience. This can work for some bands. For example, there are bands that let feedback ring in between each song, and the audience loves it.

However, sometimes this can really waste a lot of time and kill the mood. Uncoordinated messing around on instruments can come off as unprofessional. Try to be aware of whether your transitions are helping or hurting your rapport with the fans.

If transitions are a problem, a set list could be a good idea to help make them smoother. If spontaneity is preferred, the set list can just be a loose guide. It's always possible to change the order of the songs or extend them if the mood is appropriate.

With a little planning, transitions can be used to make the performance more exciting and immediate. By using a set list, the entire performance can be mapped out in terms of mood, tempo, or volume if the band wants.

Songs can be linked together by starting the second immediately after the first. After a dramatic song ending, some silence could make that ending seem even larger. Maybe a short solo after a song could be effective. There are many different possibilities that might be more interesting than silence or random noise between each song.

Stage Talk

Talking to the audience is a weak spot for some bands I've seen. The delivery might lack conviction, or it can be boring and inappropriate. Some bands prefer to keep all stage talk spontaneous, and others have it completely prepared in advance, delivering it the same way every night. I think spontaneity is a good thing, and having a backup plan isn't a bad idea either.

If you decide to plan it out in advance, make sure it's something you can deliver convincingly. Otherwise it might come off insincere or just generally inappropriate. Taking someone else's stage talk and using it might not be natural or appropriate for the situation. Keep the venue that you're playing at in mind.


There is another facet to presentation that doesn't necessarily have to do with the actual act of performing itself. Being prepared to put on a good show is just as important. A modern band tends to need a decent amount of equipment, and each individual part can break or become unreliable.

It's always a good idea to have a backup for anything that's important to the show. Keep these backups accessible so you can get them as quickly as possible. During a show, it's probably not going to be convenient to go offstage and get an instrument that's still in its case.

Sometimes it's hard to come up with enough instruments or gear to have a backup for everything. If the backup is a borrowed instrument, check it out beforehand if you can. Little changes between different brands of guitars can make a big difference. Seemingly small details like the string gauge, action, and spacing between the strings could make performing much more difficult. Different pickups could change the tone of the instrument in a way that makes it more difficult for you to sound good.


To reduce the possibility of string breakage during the show, consider changing the strings on the instruments before the gig, but not too close to the actual time of the gig. If the strings aren't done stretching themselves out it's could be difficult to keep the instruments in tune during the set.

The tension of the strings can also have an effect on the performance. For example many bands tune down their instruments to get a heavier tone. This can lead to tuning and intonation problems if there isn't enough tension on the strings to keep them in tune. Players who tend to play with a lot of force will make the problem even more apparent. If you are tuning down, try a few different heavier sets of strings to see if it helps your sound.

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Copyright 2008 Dave Cardwell.

45 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Cool article, there are about 15 bands around here that should make this their bible, great music, but their transitions make be wanna bring a toaster into a bath. Whenever I say anything to these guys its....."we'll figure it out along the way" reply "obviuosly" painted real thick with sarcasm. I hate kiddy bands.
    i see so many bands that suck at talking to the audiance, like they play a fsat song, then stopand talk in a soft voice and totaly kill the mood. people need to study alexi lahio, he is pro at this. we need more good frontmen in bands
    corrda00 wrote: Ive always naturaly had good stage presence and i love the things u pointed out in this article. I See what you mean by strings but $40 a set for bass doesnt really work...
    ...but then again, how often do you break your strings anyway? lol
    Good read. True, many performers should know this already, but then again I know plenty of bands who've been playing for awhile who need to see this.
    this is good. another way to learn all of this is watching KsE live. they are the best band ive ever seen live.
    I think though... to really make it you may need something that cannot be taught... some kind of unbelievable soul precense that nobody else has
    Nother tip: If your lead singer isn't the most charismatic person in the band, have someone else do the talking between songs (like, ehm, fall out boy...). If you, like me, are in a band where everyone plays an instrument, have another member prepared to do some talking while the other tunes/changes instrument or whatever. This is even better if you have talkers who are naturally funny and good friends with each other, as we joke around a lot between songs which takes a lot of the pretense away ("Screeeaam for me ppelbo!" or "You guys feeling goood?!?" doesn't always fly in front of 20 people). That's a common problem, local bands who try to be rockstars way too soon and just embarass themselves.
    good article, though nothing i can really use in my current hardcore punk or ska bands.
    I agree. I also like it when all members of the band just look like they fit together.
    Nice article. It didn't help me really because I had to force myself to learn this stuff by watching other good bands and practicing for hours on end in front of a full length mirror. But for alot of bands in my area, this would be really, really helpful.
    The article is great if you have never gigged before. Stage presence is something differnt from being a good musician. I have seen great players live but their art alone is not enough to get me excited. I like performers, they are usually competent players but their stage persona puts them in a different league. there is a big differnce between a musician and a performer. A combination of the two will generally crank the audience up a bit. It takes a while to get comfortable on stage, New giggers are generally awkward, they have to find their comfort zone. Some never do. Others get it quickly. I heard someone say the party starts on stage, the band revvs up the crowd which in terms feeds the band. Its a give and take and give thing. When its working, there is no other feeling like it. Now if they could put "that" in a bottle.....
    i love lamp. i bought an ibanez ts9, this will be great for gigs for them boosts. i love The Subways also, great band. i know my comment has nothing to do with this article. especially the i love lamp thing. cooh whip
    Always good to introduce the songs that people dont know. so if you are a new band, chances are that not many people have heard anything by you so tell them what the song is so they can go and check the original out at home.
    Good tips, like someone said I know a good few local bands who should read this :p The only thing I slack on in these lists are the backup thing, because I have 3 guitars in different tunings, a 100w head and pedalboard to bring to every gig (sometimes a 4x12 cabinet aswell), so bringing even more stuff isn't often a possibility.
    Haha, I'm sure you noticed but ye this article is aimed at beginners...which is exactly what makes it good because this is about all the things you need to know when you get started. Thanks alot
    do you have alot of experience live? if you do what band are you in?
    Epic Failure
    Nice and my band had a gig about 9 months ago and i think i'll use some of your stuff for our next gig, Thanks.
    cheers, our first gig is in 2 weeks, i have been playing for ages, but the guitarest have only played twice and from what i no they dont florish live, and our singer has NEVER sang in public before, so we dont no there, i will forward this article to them!
    Nice one. Not overly informative (in this case, a good thing), but the right amount to keep me interested and i picked up a few points. Thanks
    It was an OK article. To be honest, this was pretty much 101 stuff. Anyone not doing these basic things at gigs should probably hang up their gear.
    it was helpful in my opinion i think this stuff my be obvious, but like some things that are obvious people tend to forget about them. nice reminder, good job
    my bands so slack on the setlists ay, and it shows. but something i think is important thats not mentioned is to make sure you always vary it up often, if you play the same 3 covers every gig it gets kinda old. also if your playing a solo, try and make people take notice. i saw one guy who looked bored out his mind and he way playing the best solos ive seen in yonks
    my advice: if you need to read a guide on the internet about how to have stage presence, you don't belong on stage
    Yeah, a lot of both articles (part 1 as well) is all pretty 101 stuff, but a lot of new bands do forget a lot of this - most of the ones I've heard have just stood there, played their songs, asked people to buy their crap, then left again. When there was a crowd at a gig I was playing at, I always made a point of mingling throughout. But yeah, even stuff aimed at beginners is handy to hose to know what they're doing - sometimes it's the simplest things that are ignored and forgotten
    tranistion is key, like what was said, and i've noticed in the beginning days of my name we were crappy at transitioning from one song from the next, but now it seems so easier because before we were always switching not only guitars, but sometimes tempo to something slower because we really didn't know where to go with the band genre at the time
    Ive always naturaly had good stage presence and i love the things u pointed out in this article. I See what you mean by strings but $40 a set for bass doesnt really work...
    I would like to add: check all your pedal, active pickups, etc. batteries with a DMM to see if they will last through the gig.
    Small details like action and string gauge? They would be pretty big to me, but the point your making is good...