Inspiration strikes at the oddest of times, and when it does, it’s short-lived. Knowing this, I keep a recorder in my pocket at all times. So one day, I’m walking across the street minding my own business and BAM! It strikes. I drop everything I’m doing to try and relay this inspiring song idea from my thoughts to reality. As this new song idea floats around my head, the world around me stops. At this moment I feel as if this song that just briefly graced my thoughts is the best thing I’ve ever heard. Once it’s jotted down, I breathe a sigh of relief knowing this rare moment of inspiration has been recorded, and I can then finish working on this song later at home.
After it’s finally finished, a consuming feeling overtakes, and all I want to do from here on out is listen to this song I just created out of thin air over and over again on the way to work, to a friends house, or anywhere else I get the slightest chance to listen to it just one more time. It evokes an obsession that is hard to describe, and you wish that others can share this obsessing feeling with you about this very song you just wrote.
Now comes the hard part. To share your song, you’ll eventually have to perform it in front of others. Now, a whole different set of questions arise: What are they going to think? If I mess up this first show, will I be able to recover and play more later? Am I ready for this? The scary thing is, you’ll never know if you’re truly ready to play your first show; you just have to do it.
So, what are some good ways to prepare? What do you NEED to know before booking your first foray into live music?
1. Imagine Realistic On-Stage Scenarios
Obviously this will take practice and it will get easier with every show, but try to imagine what it will be like realistically up there. Practice tuning your guitar while distracted by conversation & feel comfortable talking to an audience in between songs. Once this is out of the way, you can focus more on your music and less on filling what can sometimes be awkward gaps between your songs.
2. Check your Gear
This sounds scary, but it’s a good thing to think about. Imagine what can go wrong with your gear, and do all that is necessary to prevent it. Get strap locks for your guitar if your strap occasionally falls off, bring extra cables if you have one that only works intermittently, bring extra batteries in case a keyboard or anything you have that is battery-powered happens to fail, etc. This again will help you focus on the music of your set rather than other factors.
Play in front of some people you trust, like good friends or family members who will give you honest feedback. They will be able to smooth out any missteps that may have slipped your mind during preparation.
4. Time Your Set
So, you have 30 minutes on stage, and 10 minutes worth of original material. Time to bust out some last-minute cover songs! Cover songs are fine as long as they’re well-rehearsed. Your audience took time to come out and enjoy themselves, so make it look like you put time into your set, and you have enough material to fill up your time on stage.
5. Get Ready to Promote!
You’ll be excited about your show so you’ll want to promote it. Don’t shy away, once it’s booked, it’s booked, so just own it and promote it with the end-goal being to get as many people there as possible. You can do this via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Make a nice flyer for your show so it looks official. Also, post smaller updates leading up to the show to remind them because people forget, even if they’re excited to go.
6. Prepare to Deal with Mistakes
Act like the mistake was just part of your song. Just own it. Most people probably won’t even notice, and if they do, they’ll be even more impressed based on how well you recovered.
7. Do a Soundcheck
Ensure you have good communication with the audio engineer working your set. Get to the venue early and talk to the person so he/she knows what kind of setup you have so they can make your sound shine up there. Once you’re up there, make sure you can hear yourself in the monitors before you start playing. Also, don’t be shy about asking the audio engineer to adjust levels or EQ in the mix in between your set.
8. Enjoy Yourself
Don’t take yourself too seriously. After all, you’re doing this to have fun and enjoy the experience. Whatever happens, land with grace, smile and be grateful for the opportunity to perform in front of an audience.
Hopefully, this will put your mind at ease and your first set will be a success that will keep the fire alive in you, wanting to perform again. Being on stage is a character-building experience, and it will help you conquer your fears. Enjoy the ride, feel alive, and in the words of Robert Hunter of The Grateful Dead, “Just Keep Truckin’ On!”