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Playing Live - Things to Watch for

Ed Seith

Supreme Galactic Overlord
Staff member
Legend+
  • Nov 11, 2019
    3,561
    15
    6,080
    52
    Marana, AZ USA
    soundcloud.com
    35
    There's a site called Quora that started as a place where people could ask questions, and experts, or at least very experienced people, in those fields, could answer them, just because. The site has faltered - a lot - because of badly implemented attempts at monetization and because of the same kind of shout-down political nonsense that's destroyed a lot of sites, but there's still a lot of good there. I posted this answer there some time ago, and it's seen a lot of traction from other experienced musicians who agree. I thought it would be worth sharing with all of my friends here....

    "I am going to play guitar live with a band in front of a large crowd for the first time in a week. Can you give me some tips?"

    Don't put fresh strings on right before the gig. You will have tuning problems. String up the day before, and work them in.

    No one is going to hear your mistakes unless you REALLY fuck up bad. If you've practiced a lot, alone and with your band, you won't. Don't sweat it. Move along.

    The drummer sets the tempo. EVERYONE follow the drummer.

    Make eye contact with your audience as much as you can.

    Smile. Unless it's death metal. Then grin satanically.

    Move around the stage, as much as the stage size and equipment (cables) will allow. Interact with your bandmates.

    ENJOY IT.

    Those last four items are about PUTTING ON A SHOW. That's why Iron Maiden is legendary and no one wants to see Seether more than once, no matter how many cool songs they have.

    Bring extra. Picks, strings, guitar, if possible. Cables. Batteries.

    Once the sound guy drops his mic at your speaker and dials in your sound on the board, LEAVE YOUR FUCKING VOLUME ALONE.

    Days before the gig, make sure levels between patches, etc, are correct. This should have been ironed out in practice (proper volume difference between clean sounds, rhythm, and lead channels, etc., but if not, get that shit going.

    Have a set list, know your time limit. If you have a 20 minute set, choose 18 minutes of material. Nothing sucks worse than a sound guy shutting you down in the middle of the last song. Decide which songs, if any, the singer will banter in between. This is usually the singer's call, but try to know what to expect.

    Do yourself a favor, and slip the sound guy a $10 or a $20 before the show, and thank him in advance for doing his best for you.

    Don't be a dick to ANYONE. Except maybe the singer, but not until AFTER the gig.

    After you stow your gear in a safe place after loadout, go back into the club and mingle. Be accessible. If someone offers some criticism, listen carefully - this is your audience telling you how you did. If someone's a dick about it, still listen, then thank them and tell them you'll try to do better and hope they'll come see you again.
     

    Ed Seith

    Supreme Galactic Overlord
    Staff member
    Legend+
  • Nov 11, 2019
    3,561
    15
    6,080
    52
    Marana, AZ USA
    soundcloud.com
    35
    What if I'm the singer as well as being the guitarist? Do I be a dick to myself then? 😂

    If you're the singer, you have a shit-ton of insecurities and neuroses and have been a dick to yourself and everyone else your whole life. ;)
     
    Synner Endless Summer Collection

    Kai C

    Stairway to Heaven Tab Studier
    Nov 11, 2019
    224
    297
    28
    Naha Okinawa
    It is VERY MUCH WORTH IT, even if you don't get beyond bar band levels. There's a rush that's addictive (haha, that's a song - anyone know it?)

    I have a short ish term goal. I want to try busking within the next year. Any advice for that? Longer term goal will be playing in a bar, but I don't know the laws of where I'll be on that so we'll see. Finding a band and playing a gig by the time I'm done overseas is the real goal.
     

    Edward John

    New Student
    Nov 11, 2019
    782
    880
    22
    UK
    There's a site called Quora that started as a place where people could ask questions, and experts, or at least very experienced people, in those fields, could answer them, just because. The site has faltered - a lot - because of badly implemented attempts at monetization and because of the same kind of shout-down political nonsense that's destroyed a lot of sites, but there's still a lot of good there. I posted this answer there some time ago, and it's seen a lot of traction from other experienced musicians who agree. I thought it would be worth sharing with all of my friends here....

    "I am going to play guitar live with a band in front of a large crowd for the first time in a week. Can you give me some tips?"

    Don't put fresh strings on right before the gig. You will have tuning problems. String up the day before, and work them in.

    No one is going to hear your mistakes unless you REALLY fuck up bad. If you've practiced a lot, alone and with your band, you won't. Don't sweat it. Move along.

    The drummer sets the tempo. EVERYONE follow the drummer.

    Make eye contact with your audience as much as you can.

    Smile. Unless it's death metal. Then grin satanically.

    Move around the stage, as much as the stage size and equipment (cables) will allow. Interact with your bandmates.

    ENJOY IT.

    Those last four items are about PUTTING ON A SHOW. That's why Iron Maiden is legendary and no one wants to see Seether more than once, no matter how many cool songs they have.

    Bring extra. Picks, strings, guitar, if possible. Cables. Batteries.

    Once the sound guy drops his mic at your speaker and dials in your sound on the board, LEAVE YOUR FUCKING VOLUME ALONE.

    Days before the gig, make sure levels between patches, etc, are correct. This should have been ironed out in practice (proper volume difference between clean sounds, rhythm, and lead channels, etc., but if not, get that shit going.

    Have a set list, know your time limit. If you have a 20 minute set, choose 18 minutes of material. Nothing sucks worse than a sound guy shutting you down in the middle of the last song. Decide which songs, if any, the singer will banter in between. This is usually the singer's call, but try to know what to expect.

    Do yourself a favor, and slip the sound guy a $10 or a $20 before the show, and thank him in advance for doing his best for you.

    Don't be a dick to ANYONE. Except maybe the singer, but not until AFTER the gig.

    After you stow your gear in a safe place after loadout, go back into the club and mingle. Be accessible. If someone offers some criticism, listen carefully - this is your audience telling you how you did. If someone's a dick about it, still listen, then thank them and tell them you'll try to do better and hope they'll come see you again.
    Ed, what about the classic Zacky Vengeance tip, act like you are the absaloute man when playing rhythm, then seem depressed as hell when you need to sing back up! :) Or what about having a massive set of dud Marshalls to set on fire at the end of the show, a la Ritchie Blackmore?
     
    Last edited:
    • Haha
    Reactions: Ed Seith

    Ed Seith

    Supreme Galactic Overlord
    Staff member
    Legend+
  • Nov 11, 2019
    3,561
    15
    6,080
    52
    Marana, AZ USA
    soundcloud.com
    35
    I have a short ish term goal. I want to try busking within the next year. Any advice for that? Longer term goal will be playing in a bar, but I don't know the laws of where I'll be on that so we'll see. Finding a band and playing a gig by the time I'm done overseas is the real goal.

    I wish I did - I've never done it, and never known anyone who did. Good luck to you.
     
    Synner Endless Summer Collection

    Ids Schiere

    Sold-out Crowd Surfer
    Nov 11, 2019
    5,337
    6,747
    Groningen
    11
    There's a site called Quora that started as a place where people could ask questions, and experts, or at least very experienced people, in those fields, could answer them, just because. The site has faltered - a lot - because of badly implemented attempts at monetization and because of the same kind of shout-down political nonsense that's destroyed a lot of sites, but there's still a lot of good there. I posted this answer there some time ago, and it's seen a lot of traction from other experienced musicians who agree. I thought it would be worth sharing with all of my friends here....

    "I am going to play guitar live with a band in front of a large crowd for the first time in a week. Can you give me some tips?"

    Don't put fresh strings on right before the gig. You will have tuning problems. String up the day before, and work them in.

    No one is going to hear your mistakes unless you REALLY fuck up bad. If you've practiced a lot, alone and with your band, you won't. Don't sweat it. Move along.

    The drummer sets the tempo. EVERYONE follow the drummer.

    Make eye contact with your audience as much as you can.

    Smile. Unless it's death metal. Then grin satanically.

    Move around the stage, as much as the stage size and equipment (cables) will allow. Interact with your bandmates.

    ENJOY IT.

    Those last four items are about PUTTING ON A SHOW. That's why Iron Maiden is legendary and no one wants to see Seether more than once, no matter how many cool songs they have.

    Bring extra. Picks, strings, guitar, if possible. Cables. Batteries.

    Once the sound guy drops his mic at your speaker and dials in your sound on the board, LEAVE YOUR FUCKING VOLUME ALONE.

    Days before the gig, make sure levels between patches, etc, are correct. This should have been ironed out in practice (proper volume difference between clean sounds, rhythm, and lead channels, etc., but if not, get that shit going.

    Have a set list, know your time limit. If you have a 20 minute set, choose 18 minutes of material. Nothing sucks worse than a sound guy shutting you down in the middle of the last song. Decide which songs, if any, the singer will banter in between. This is usually the singer's call, but try to know what to expect.

    Do yourself a favor, and slip the sound guy a $10 or a $20 before the show, and thank him in advance for doing his best for you.

    Don't be a dick to ANYONE. Except maybe the singer, but not until AFTER the gig.

    After you stow your gear in a safe place after loadout, go back into the club and mingle. Be accessible. If someone offers some criticism, listen carefully - this is your audience telling you how you did. If someone's a dick about it, still listen, then thank them and tell them you'll try to do better and hope they'll come see you again.
    Just a tiny question, what if the drummer can't keep time? That happened more than once for me
     

    Ed Seith

    Supreme Galactic Overlord
    Staff member
    Legend+
  • Nov 11, 2019
    3,561
    15
    6,080
    52
    Marana, AZ USA
    soundcloud.com
    35
    Just a tiny question, what if the drummer can't keep time? That happened more than once for me

    You get a new drummer. Seriously. You ever see the "YOU HAD ONE JOB" memes? That's a drummers ONE JOB - keep time. All the rolls, fills, and stunts in the world will NEVER make up for a drummer that can't keep time. Oh, they'll play a song a little too fast or a little too slow sometimes, and y'all have to deal with it until the song is over, but you don't play faster hoping the drummer will catch on. He won't, you'll just make everything sound worse.

    There are things drummers can do to aid themselves here - a click in the ear, or a small strobe somewhere to follow, or whatever, but the drummer's ONE JOB is keeping time.
     

    Ids Schiere

    Sold-out Crowd Surfer
    Nov 11, 2019
    5,337
    6,747
    Groningen
    11
    You get a new drummer. Seriously. You ever see the "YOU HAD ONE JOB" memes? That's a drummers ONE JOB - keep time. All the rolls, fills, and stunts in the world will NEVER make up for a drummer that can't keep time.

    There are things drummers can do to aid themselves here - a click in the ear, or a small strobe somewhere to follow, or whatever, but the drummer's ONE JOB is keeping time.
    You are absolutely right!

    However, I know a little bit too many people who say 'I can drum' and then can't keep time but claim they can drum tool. Like what do you expect me to do? deliberately play out of time.

    Recently, I asked someone to learn how to drum Gravity by John Mayer so I could sing and play guitar over it. He started and I was like 'nope, I'm not gonna do this' because he was all over the place
     
    Synner Endless Summer Collection