Guide to getting and playing better gigs


   

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The image of your band is something that should be neither discounted nor over-considered. For one thing, it's something that relates to the way people think of your band away from the musical aspect, which is something that is fairly trivial in the early days of becoming an established band, yet it also affects the context in which people listen to your music. People can read into your lyrics very differently depending on whether you have presented yourselves as being cool and aloof or energetic and upfront.

Band image is something that can fail miserably if too much effort is put into making it a certain way. It's much better to allow your band to act naturally and develop an image that's a true reflection of it's constituent members. The skill in developing the image of a band is to recognise what kind of presentation you can pull off without it looking too 'manufactured'. Of course, part of the stage acting is just that, acting, but for a young band it'a relatively pointless exercise to try and convince the audience that they're the hardest metallers around, and spend so much time doing so they only manage to prepare 3 songs for a gig.

However, deciding what your image will be is part of the 'fun' side of being in a band, and can add a lot of 'spirit' to the band, making simply being in it a more enjoyable and proud experience. The feeling that your band has a particular character helps you to take what you do more seriously, and as long as you remain realistic, you'll find this character shines through in your music on stage and your songs will begin to develop a unique style.


Image stems from a lot of things, and the sound of your music is an important one, from the instruments you play to the particular ways in which they are played, the tone of the lead singer's voice to the instrumental make-up of the music. Obviously a soft country image is not going to work if the guitarist has skulls engraved all over his instrument, and by the same token a band portraying themselves and a heavy punk band will probably want a 'fat 'n' nasty' sounding guitar with a more interesting body design. When your band plays, look at how people stand and how they hold themselves, do they put a lot of physical movement into it or do they stand looking wooden and solemn.

Neither of these is better than any other way of appearing, but it has to be taken into consideration when you finally come to think about how people are going to see your band. Also, listen to the members playing. Does the keyboardist hammer the notes energetically or does he move gracefully through his chords and arpeggios? Does the guitarist jump about and whack his instrument mercilessly, or does he stand, plucking lightly and tapping his foot? Does the singer sing with a deep gravelly voice or a thin whisper?

Using particular musical techniques can earn your band certain trademarks. It's possible to use this by finding a particular lick or twist that one of your member's can do naturally and allow it to happen in most of your songs. Of course don't overdo it and make all your songs sound the same, it's equally important to find something different for each individual song to become a stand-alone piece.

Your bands image is also to do with the member's personalities. There's no real way to classify a person, but look at the band and see which members have the attitude, which have the charm, which have an exuberant presence, and so on. And once again, don't try and force an image on the band. The best bands have become role-models for younger musicians, and people like to believe that the image these idol bands present to us are the representations of how they really are, not how they would like to be.

Unlike the image of your band, the way you appear on stage is something that you'll want to give some careful consideration to. Your stage appearance really falls into two parts, how you look and how you act. How you look is something that people may judge upon a little less than how you act. It's perhaps a little less common to find bands dressing up in elaborate costumes and making as if they were in a pantomime, yet you can still see some bands going for uniformity. For example, a band may decide for all of it's members to dress in black suits, which allows for either a 'Blues Brothers' image or a 'Men in Black' image, or any others you care to mention. It's a good idea for all the band members to have a common theme in the way they dress, such as smart, loose, denim, or whatever. However, to an extent it's important that the clothes you wear are clothes that you might wear during everyday life, for two reason, you must feel comfortable on stage, and you must dress to a role that you can fulfill.


There's no real need to sit everyone down and have a discussion about how you're going to dress. All that's required is to mutually decide on a general theme which you can all stick to. Only go for more gimmicky ways of dressing if everyone in the band is happy with it. And don't forget, there's no harm in each member dressing totally differently, after all, the best kind of bands image-wise are the ones where each member has their own image which contributes to the overall band impression.

The way you act on stage is something that happens naturally rather than as a result of any deliberation or discussion. It's much more important to concentrate on your playing than on how you're acting, so it's best to act however comes naturally. As you gain experience, your stage presence will improve, and as members become more confident performing publicly, their act will become more physical and they'll begin to give the audience something to look at as well as listen to. Being able to put on a physical show while playing is good, because it radiates a kind of enjoyment that can be absorbed by a receptive audience.

Trying to put on too much of an extreme act may be difficult for an amateur band's audience to swallow. Although most bands try to emulate the greats they've seen either live or on television, one must not forget that when these professional bands perform they have their image already laid down, and the audience knows how they'll behave and have come because they like it. Showing up in ripped t-shirts and jeans and standing on the stage screaming and spitting may work for the famous punk bands, but in an amateur band it shows a loss of perspective and an balance of attention towards image rather than sound. The other extreme, the cool and aloof image, is easy to pull of, but be aware that it can become too extreme and make the band seem boring and lifeless. At the end of the day, you're there to entertain the audience, don't stand on stage trying to make a statement about yourselves.

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