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.
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.