performances can be one of the most effective avenues
for you to market and promote your band, and is the
primary source in terms of building a huge fan base.
If you're just starting out, it doesn't matter how
many people come out to see your band perform if you
don't fully understand this concept.
bands don't just play 4 sets of music each night,
pack up their equipment, and then go home. They draw
people in, and make them feel like they are a part of
the band. They spend time talking to them and getting
to know them in between sets.
gig offers the opportunity to gain exposure, and
network with people who will support and help promote
your band....but before you can really focus a large
amount of your energy on the promotional
opportunities that each gig offers, you're going to
want to make sure that the level of your stage
presence can be described as
seen too many bands that never seem to get beyond the
"basement band" phase, and it's usually a
result of not paying attention to certain key
elements of their stage performance.
best way to understand what I'm talking about is to
go out and catch some new bands performing in your
local clubs. As you sit there, carefully watch, and
listen. It won't take you long to notice that even
though the musicians on stage may do a decent job
during the performance of each song, it's the time
between each song where the band really seems to be
lacking on-stage experience, organization, and
leadership. This is usually displayed in a number of
ways. Here's just a few:
tuning out loud.
asking, "What should we play next"?
answering, "I don't know, how about the new
looking at the drummer for the count.
members joking around with each other, with no
real communication with, or to, the audience.
band members always playing a few chords from the
next song before they actually start playing it.
Unseasoned musicians often do this to check their
volume, tuning, or sound -- but just imagine what
this must sound like from the audience's
most obvious solution, since most of these habits
occur in between songs, is to cut down the amount of
time your band takes to kick into the next song. Now
before you go shooting down your entire band's stage
performance, you might want to get an accurate
indication from someone outside the band as to how
long your band actually takes in between each song.
should try to do this without the rest of your band
finding out what it is you're trying to accomplish.
If they're aware of the fact they're being timed in
between songs, then they may subconsciously try to
speed things up.
should also try to get this information during a live
performance if you want it to be accurate. Trying to
accomplish this during a regular rehearsal won't
allow you to get a true assessment of such
performance criteria as:
Set List Management
This is just simply having a prepared list
of songs that you're going to perform in order for
each set. If you're doing 45 minute sets with 15
minute breaks, then you should try to arrange your
sets accordingly. Club owners like to see some kind
of consistency when it comes to the length of your
sets, especially if he or she has hired a DJ to
provide entertainment during your band's breaks.
This one is never simple, unless of course
you have a person in your band who's the designated
front person/lead singer. Having just one person
front your band usually solves this problem if that
person knows they're responsible for doing 100% of
the talking. This also solves the crosstalk problem
if everyone else in the band understands they're to
cue off the front person, and only talk when that
front person talks specifically to them.
This is when more than one person on stage
is talking at the same time, and it's next to
impossible to focus on any one person from the
As a guitarist, I know only too well what
it's like to go out of tune in the middle of a
performance, but there are tuners available that
allow you to tune with zero volume. Tuning out loud
is not something that the audience needs, or wants to
hear you do after every 2 or 3 songs.
Fully Prepared Backup Instruments
Again, as a guitarist, I've often had to
deal with a broken string in the middle of a song,
and this is why every guitarist should have at least
one backup guitar ready to go in case such a
situation should arise (unless you can change a set
of strings whilst still playing, as Hendrix could!).
Sound System Management
Running sound from the stage without the
help of a sound man is one of the hardest things to
do, and for the person whose responsibility it is,
there's no real joy in trying to stop microphones
from feeding back in the middle of a song. However,
if your band has no other option, then make sure the
person doing this is your keyboardist if you have
one, or your rhythm guitarist. A keyboardist usually
has a free hand to make any necessary adjustments,
and the rhythm guitarist can, at times, often stop
playing for a phrase or two until the sound problem
has been corrected.
not a bad idea to make a list of these potential
problems, and have a friend make as accurate a count
as possible of all the times these things occur
during an entire set.
another set you can have your friend record the
amount of unproductive time between each song. This
would be time spent doing things that offer no real
entertainment value -- and believe me, as necessary
as your guitarist may think, tuning a guitar out loud
is not good entertainment. It's distracting,
annoying, and just plain unprofessional.
you're able to pull this off without the rest of your
band knowing what it is you're doing, then when it
finally does come time for you to offer some
constructive criticism of your band's stage
performance, you'll have some accurate data to
support your well intentioned comments.
remainder of this section will focus on specific
techniques that can be used to polish any bands stage
performance. Now you may be one of the many musicians
who think his or her band is beyond hope, and that
you'll never have that professional, polished
quality....but before you totally throw in the towel,
let me share just a few things that you can do to
dramatically improve your band's stage performance in
30 days or less. As a matter of fact, I guarantee
you'll see results after your first few rehearsals.
best way to approach this, is to take it two songs at
a time. Now remember what I said earlier....most new
club bands that display signs of potential, do a
pretty decent job of entertaining a crowd during the
actual performance of a song -- it's the time
in-between songs that usually requires the polishing.
seen too many bands that just didn't know that
anything longer than 4 seconds between songs is
totally unacceptable. You have to kick into the next
song immediately if you don't want to lose everyone
on the dance floor.
tend to feel a little awkward if they're just
also very impatient. Don't give them a reason to get
impatient, or feel awkward. If you move from one song
right into the next, people won't have the chance to
walk off the dance floor.
know what you're thinking. Four seconds isn't enough
time to change guitars...OR...four seconds just isn't
enough time to change all of the patches on your
keyboards...or how about this one; 4 seconds isn't
enough time for everyone to look at the set list to
see what the next song is. I know that last one is
pretty lame, but I wouldn't have mentioned it if I
hadn't heard it used before.
what's more important? Switching instruments so you
can have the perfect guitar sound for each song, or
keeping people out on the dance floor all night. I
realize it's not an easy decision, but the only time
you should be switching guitars in the middle of a
set is when you break a string.
don't think I haven't heard guitarists telling me how
quick they can change guitars, because I have. The
only thing I can say to that is, people can walk off
the dance floor even quicker.
same thing applies to keyboardists who think they
have to change all their patches before each song. If
you want my advice, just get your main patch set, and
change the rest on the fly. I knew one guy who would
flip through his patches while he was playing. It
sounded like crap, but no one ever left the dance
floor....and as bad as it sounded, no one really ever
a few musicians in the audience picked up on it, but
we had a saying for musicians who use to come out and
criticize our act : "At least we're
with all that said, let me share a few techniques
with you that'll polish your band's entire act in 30
days or less. I've shared these techniques with quite
a few bands.
never seen any of them not show significant
improvement in their overall stage performance, and
there's no reason why your band can't experience the
same positive results.
Treat Two Songs As One!
One way to reduce the time, and improve
the flow between songs is to treat two songs as if
they're one. Just find two songs that are the same
tempo and style, and perform them back to back
without a break.
drummer can keep the tempo going at the end of the
first song for a bar or two, then a simple drum fill
can kick in the second song. It doesn't get any
easier than that.
You don't want to over use this
technique, but once a set should do the trick. It
should take you one night to rehearse the 2 songs
from each of your band's sets that you're going to
use this technique on.
before I move on to the next technique, I should
mention a very important point. Once you have a set
of 10 to 12 songs, don't change it. It's a lot easier
to have a smooth flow from one song to the next if
you don't have to take time out to look at a set list
all the time.
your sets don't change, and you practice each set
from song one to song twelve, in the same order, then
it won't take long before your entire band
automatically knows what the next song is, and how to
kick into it.
biggest argument against having sets that don't
change is the thought that they'll become boring to
play night after night. My response to that is you
have to play the songs night after night anyway.
not create pre-determined sets that you and each
member of your band will know inside and out. The
added degree of professionalism that this consistent
flow from one song to the next creates, will be well
worth it. Besides, who says you have to play the same
sets every night. Your band should always be learning
and adding new sets to your act. Notice I didn't say
"new songs", but "new sets".
Successful bands plan each set as if it were a
seperate show. They don't start practicing the first
song until they know every song that'll be in the
entire set, and the exact order in which they'll be
take everything into account from the tempo and key,
right down to the style and artist who originally
recorded the song. With planning like that, how can
you go wrong?
The Quick Count!
This is similar to treating two songs as
one, but instead of your drummer keeping the tempo
going for a bar or two at the end of the first
song....while your keyboardist changes his patches,
and your guitarist gets his effects just right, he
immediately gives a 4 beat click right into the
nice effect to let the instruments hold onto the last
chord of the first song for about 4 beats, and while
they're still holding, give 4 clicks of the drum
sticks, and then kick right into the second song on
someone leaves the dance floor in-between songs, it
should be because they needed a break or a
drink....not because your band gave them the
opportunity by taking forever to kick into the next
you use the "Treat Two Songs As One"
technique to link the first two songs of each set,
and the "Quick Count" to link songs 3 &
4 of each set, then the next technique that I want to
share with you will be used to link your second song
of each set with the third song.
See the example
1 through 4
1 > (2 as 1 Technique) > SONG 2 > (Talk
Over Technique) > SONG 3
can see from the example above, the next technique
that I want to discuss is called the "Talk
Over". Once again, this technique can be worked
into your act in just one or two practice sessions.
"Talk Over" works best within the first 3
or 4 songs....especially in the first set. There are
several variations of this technique which I will
share with you, but the simplest version is where
your bass player and drummer start playing the intro
of a song, and continue to repeat it while your front
man welcomes everyone to the club, introduces the
band, and works the crowd a little.
can vary it a bit the next set by bringing in the
guitar after six phrases or so, and then the
keyboardist to really build it up before you kick
into the vocals.
don't see too many bands that are just starting out,
use this technique....but your band can come across
as super polished, and a whole lot more stage-savvy
than you really are, by using this technique at least
once per set.
work this one into your act as soon as possible.
last song of each set is also a good place to use the
"Talk Over" technique, but instead of
starting the song with it, you can use it to end the
you've played the last chorus of a song, you can have
the vocals drop out while still playing the chorus.
You can play through the chorus a few times without
the vocals, and then your front man can come in with
a reminder for everyone to stick around for the next
he's at it, he can introduce a few of the songs that
you'll be performing, and even suggest a few things
from the bar. Club owners will love you for
it....just don't over do it. Of course there's one
thing you can't over do, and that's to continually
remind people to tip the bar staff!
can then bring the vocals back in, and end the song,
or you can end the song instrumentally. I always
liked bringing the vocals back in to end a song, but
it can't hurt to mix it up a little.
you use this technique to end your last song of the
night, this gives your front person a chance to thank
everyone for coming out and supporting the band, and
to let everyone know the next time you'll be
appearing at "THAT" club. It's not a good
idea to mention another club's name while performing
in any club. Our front man learned this lesson the
remind everyone to pick up a copy of your bands
calendar of club dates, CD etc; and to have a safe
drive home. Remember, these people are your fans, and
potential fans -- you want them to get home in one
piece, because you want them to come back and see you
perform again. If you sincerely care about their well
being, they'll come back....again and again and
techniques are very simple to implement, and can
polish your band's stage performance in less than 30
days. It may take a few live shows to work out all
the kinks, but that's to be expected.
think your first few performances will be a little
shaky, then book a small, no-name club under a
different band name until everyone is comfortable
with each set. Doing this will allow your band to
make as many mistakes as needed in order to polish
your act to a "professional quality"!