Gigging Guide

The PlayRecord guide to playing live

In this article we take a look at all things gigging, including getting gigs, equipment, venues, promotion

Get a Set

The first thing you need if you want to start playing gigs is actually have something to play. This may seem obvious, but you need a collection of tunes that sit well with each other and that you can actually play. Time you or your band playing the tunes you have collected and see if you have enough material to be going on with. If you are wanting to play covers, then get your self some more tabs and lyrics and learn some more tunes. If you are not a covers band, but play your own original material, then it is still worth considering playing a few covers to bulk out your set. Covers are also good crowd pleasers as people know the tunes and can get into the performance a bit more.

Once you have settled on a set - practice it...

Get a Gig

There are a few different ways to get gigs. If you are just starting out and you don't have all the equipment you may need, then a good place to start is any sort of band competition. These are good as there is generally a full PA provided, complete with a sound man/woman of varying friendliness who will handle the technical side of things.
Make friends with the sound man/woman....
This man/woman controls how good you sound. You want them on your side...

The other great thing about competitions is that there is generally a good crowd as each band brings along their own crowd which can add up to a decent sized crowd.

Another good source of gigs is playing support to other bands. This means that you play before the main band as a bit of a warm up. This is good if you are just starting out as you do not need your own following as the main band will have a decent following.

You can always try and get gigs at your local pub, but be prepared to run into difficulties if you are under 18, Pubs want to sell beer, and are often not keen to invite underage bands who will bring all their under age friends and put the proprietor in a difficult position.

If you are still at school, then look into the possibility of playing at a school concert. It may not seem very Rock, but getting some experience playing in front of a load of parents and grandparents is a good start - at least you can be fairly confident you won't get booed off or have stuff thrown at you...

Get a Following

If you want to keep playing gigs and you want venues to want you back, you need to get a following. These people will come and see you play, maybe paying on the door, and will also buy a load of drinks. Venues like this, as at the end of the day they want to make some cash. There are precious few venues who value good music to the point where they don't mind if there is a large drinking following or not.

An obvious place to start is your friends. Get as many as you can to come along. One great way of ensuring people do come to your gigs is to sell tickets in advance - usually at a cheaper price than 'on the door'. Once people have handed over some of their hard earned, they are much more likely to actually come along.

However, unless your friends are all into your sort of music, you will find that many will only come along to one or two gigs as it is not really their style and they do not actually enjoy your music, they just want to support you. What you need now is a following of people who are into your tunes.

To do this you need to get people to hear your tunes. You can record a demo and distribute or sell it among your friends and at pubs, bars, clubs etc. The only other way, and probably the best, is just to get out there and play as much as possible. People will get to know you and if they like you they will make an effort to see you.

Get Ready to Gig

The first and most obvious thing to do to prepare for a gig is to practice. Plenty of practice will make you more confident and less likely to make a fool of your self. The next thing you need to do is to make sure all your equipment is ready.

Check your strings, any that are old should be replaced, or you may even want to replace all your strings. However - if you do, you need to thoroughly bed the strings in so that they won't slip out of tune as you are playing. To do this you need to repeatedly stretch the strings by pulling them away from the fret board until they do not slip out of tune anymore. Then strum all the strings vigorously for two minutes, then check the tuning again. Keep doing this until the guitar stays in tune.

Anything that is battery powered needs to have a new battery if there is any possibility of it dying whilst you are playing.

Check your leads - any leads that are crackly or dodgy in any way need to be replaced.

Check your skins, replace any that look like they might give way. Then tune your kit, make sure you take a tuning key to the gig as well for any last minute adjustments. Take plenty of sticks. Make sure when you take it that you don't forget anything. Finally make sure you have the transport sorted out. Drum Kits are notoriously difficult to transport due to the size and weight

You need to check your leads and mics, and take a stand if you need one. Practice the words. A lot.

In General:
Label things that are yours - a bit of coloured tape around all your leads will make it easy to identify what is yours on a dark stage. Pack things up carefully so that they don't get damaged in transit. Watch your stuff, equipment going missing at gigs is unfortunately common.

At the Gig

Normally you will be asked to get to the venue long before you are actually meant to be playing. The reason for this is to allow plenty of time to set up the equipment and do a sound check.

A sound check is when you play a song or two, and the sound engineer sets the levels and eq etc. This is your opportunity to have your input, make any requests for more of this, less of that etc. It is also a good last minute practice opportunity. Don't be afraid to talk to the sound engineer, make friends with them, explain how you want to sound and they will do their best to make it happen.

While you are waiting, resist the temptation to drink loads, it may seem like a good idea to clam your nerves, but it will ultimately make playing a lot more difficult and will result in you not sounding your best. Also it takes the edge off the incredible adrenalin buzz that you will get from playing.

You can find yourself waiting around for ages whilst you wait to play - take a pack of cards or a book/magazine to read. You need something to pass the time and keep you calm.

When you come to playing, stay cool, don't focus on the crowd, just think of it as another practice. Focus on the music and let your self go. If your music is energetic then be energetic on stage. You will be amazed how quickly you have played your set and it is all over. Get down from the stage covered in sweat but satisfied - you have played your first gig - congratulations...
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