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Talent Nights

     
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Many local pubs and clubs feature a "Talent night" once a week, where songwriters and musicians of all kinds can get their feet wet. It's a great way to find others with which to co-write or to form a band, duo, or trio. Perhaps, most importantly, it's a great way to perform for an audience and see what it takes to pull off a show of your own.

Talent nights can be a lot of fun as Instrumentalists, poets, solos, duos, trios, bands, you name it, will usually perform 3 or 4 pieces at a time, which makes it bearable for any audience to enjoy. If you don't like the act that's presently on, well, in 20 minutes they'll be gone and you can enjoy the next surprise. And, often, it is a surprise! You never know when some real talent might step up and do something uniquely from the heart. If you're just observing, you'll find yourself thinking how well you would do in comparison to all that you've witnessed...but be fore-warned, this isn't as simple as it looks!

You may have done all your homework, practiced to the max, compiled songs that are pure hits, with vocals and parts worked out to dazzle any audience. You're sure you're better than anything you've seen at the local jam nights, but on your first try, you'll most likely drop a bomb as big as any you've seen - and in total disbelief! Fact is, you didn't know what you were doing, and did a poor job. You didn't really think you'd pull it off perfectly on your very first try, did you? Of course you did! You worked hard at this! You prepared thoroughly! So what went wrong? Distraction, unfamiliar surroundings and lack of experience, that's what.

So, what to do? Go back next week, and do it all over again, simple as that. This is what talent nights are for! Let's face it, until you pull this gig off, you aren't gonna' be touring or getting paid for what you do. But if you focus, keep at it, and figure out all the little things that go on in a club atmosphere, it won't be long before you're a popular and welcomed face on the local talent night scene.

Absolutely every person in the audience ... in any audience ... wants to see you do well, really well. They're rooting for you from the moment you get on stage. The audience is not sitting there judging your talent or waiting for the next big thing to strike like a bolt from heaven. They don't care how "great" you are, or how wonderful you think you are. They're simply out to have a good time, and when you get up on that stage, they're hoping you'll be pure magic! If they see you struggling at all with anything, they're secretly praying for your success because they're putting themselves in your shoes! They're being "you!" Isn't that what you do when you're watching and listening to an act? When you get up in front of an audience, you start with them on your side.


If you get up there trying to prove how good you are, you're likely to do just the opposite. Try to let go of your ego. This isn't easy, because it takes quite a bit of ego to get up there in the first place, but you're there for them, they're not there for you. The performers who have this one twisted around are very obvious, and it's offensive, not entertaining.

If you're thinking about the audience, you're not going to be focused about what you're doing, and you're going to make a mistake. And then you'll be thinking about what the audience is thinking about you for making that mistake. And while you're concentrating on that dilemma, you'll make yet another mistake and so on.

In short, it all becomes a matter of what you really care about. If you care about what an audience is thinking of you, you're bound to blow it. On the other hand, if you care about what you're doing, it'll show as a sincere presentation of whatever talent you have, and that's all anyone can ask for, including you.

But know that any audience, from the very start, is on your side. So be there for them by focusing on your song and giving yourself over to that. It's not easy to develop this kind of trust in yourself, let alone a room full of strangers, but you may as well, because in the end that's the way it's going to be, or you won't be playing in front of people for very long.


The first thing you do when you get up in front of the mike is plug your guitar in, test it in conjunction with the mike and get a happy balance. Don't get all flustered, and don't expect anyone to know what you need, you're the only one who knows that. Simply say, "A little less guitar, please" or, "A little less vocal, please". Notice I said "less." Amateurs tend to ask for "more." Wrong idea, less is more. The only time to ask for "more" is in reference to the monitors. If they aren't loud enough, you might wind up playing in one key and singing in another without ever knowing it. The audience will though, and they'll think you're some sick cow who never should've got up there in the first place so make sure your monitors are comfortable for you.

Okay, you've got a good balance and you can hear your guitar and your vocals. Now you're ready to play. If you ever start playing before applying this discipline (and you probably will), you'll know, and you'll never forget why it's so important. If you can't hear yourself in those monitors, you're going to do a lot of very silly things, and, as I said, you probably won't even know it...but the audience will.

Now, relax and pull back. Play your instrument and sing your songs...quietly! Don't be fooled! This applies to rock bands too! I repeat - pull back and play softer than you think you should, especially in a noisy room! There's something that happens when you do this. It can't be explained, but you'll see what I mean when you successfully apply this technique. It seems to create a controlled tension that adds magic and professionalism to any performance.

Learn how to apply "controlled tension" by pulling back and focusing on having your own private party on stage ... and everyone will want to join you!


Try and get there early, and place your guitar/equipment near the stage ... there's usually a designated area - find out where it is, and when you're called to play, be organized and quick about your setup without sacrificing your satisfaction with the monitors and sound.

Be supportive of every act that performs ... no matter what your opinion may be. Everyone needs encouragement, especially those who may seem to be wasting your time. If they have the guts to get up there, they deserve your attention and applause.

While you're on stage, keep an eye on the head-honcho-in-charge for any signals - he may want you to do another song, or he may want you to wrap it up - act like a pro.

Don't make excuses about/for anything. No one wants to know whether or not you have a cold, etc. There's nothing so unprofessional as making excuses about your voice, or rambling on about some other unrelated issue. If you have a cool story to relate about a song, tell it like a friend, and it can add to the performance ... but keep it to the point and, for the most part, let your music speak for itself.


Last, but certainly not least, don't play any song you haven't practiced to the hilt. You should know your stuff backwards, forwards and upside down if you ever expect to let the muse have it's way.

Good luck ... and remember:
"If you ain't killin 'em, maybe your point ain't sharp enough!"

Or ...:
"It don't happen till you do."

 

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