5 live performance tips for musicians

Published: 01/07/2019

Editors Note: This is a post that was found when going through our old blog.  Since much of this holds true today, we've decided to repost.

The following are some general tips that all musicians should know (and most are already doing) when performing live, whether it’s at a backyard party or a big stage.

1) A sound check is a necessity not a luxary.

ALWAYS do a sound check well before you play the first song. There are few things that turn a crowd off than screeching feedback or a bad mix. These things should be nailed well before show time, not during. Also, make sure the instruments and vocals are well blended and no 1 instrument is too loud and overpowering. I am guilty of this one (darn guitar players) and find myself reevaluating the volume of my guitar amp and instruments around me. The crowd should hear a well blended mix of vocals and instruments. It’s OK to play loud, just don’t make the mix sound like a blur of noise. Go for “clear” instead and make sure everyone in the band can be heard equally. Another equally important thing is to make sure all instruments are tuned and ready to go. If you are a guitarist or bassist you NEED a tuner Don’t borrow one from the band or ask someone to “play an open E please”, You need your own. There are few things worse than a crowd having to hear a band go through a 5 minute tuning ritual that should have been taken care of at sound check.

2) Don’t have sheet music or lyrics in plain site.

A set list is OK to have close by but it’s not a good thing to have song lyrics or chords where the audience can see them. Your audience will get the feeling that you are playing from a “fake book” or singing from a script rather than playing a song you know and perform from the heart (yes they do know the difference). Take the time to memorize the chords and lyrics to the songs you perform and the crowd will be into YOU, not the piece of paper you have in front of you.

3) Have a backup plan

Do you have guitar strings, an extra mic (and chords), extra drum sticks, duct tape, etc? Many things can happen to bring a gig to a crashing halt. Always have a “toolkit” for your band that contains the essentials. Strings and drumsticks break, cables go bad, just about anything can happen and it’s imperative that you prepare for such emergencies. Your crowd will thank you too.

4) Talk to the crowd

Take the time to thank the crowd for coming out and always introduce the band or yourself (if you are a solo artist) at least once during your show. These people want to get to know the band members as much as they want to hear your music. Make friends with your audience and they will repay you by coming to the next show and telling their friends about you.

5) Avoid “Rockstar Syndrome”.

This may be a future blog post by itself. I’ve been to quite a few shows and have seen bands act like they are “larger than life” just because they happen to be on stage and they pay little attention to the crowd. This says to your audience “we’re all about us and you should feel lucky to be here”. The people that take the time out of their life to go and hear you want to feel like they are part of the show and not a set of ears to fill a room. Be humble. There is an old saying that goes (paraphrasing) “If you don’t practice humility, you will be humiliated”.