This week: Seven tips for practicing for a gig – especially for the first gig with a new band.
1. Dress in actual gig clothing.
If you are planning on wearing anything other than street clothes (or clothes you haven’t worn at a gig before), run through your set wearing the clothes and shoes you will be wearing on stage.
You don’t want to find that the heels are too high, you can’t breathe well, you feel overexposed or overdressed, you are too hot, or your arm movement is restricted only when you are live on stage!
2. Practice song transitions.
Practice transitions as an entire band. Can you as vocalist find your key if the song starts only with percussion and no chords? Does anyone have to switch instruments or change tuning? Does everyone know who is responsible for starting the next song? Do you and/or the band want to plan any overlap in songs or any seamless transitions, where the beat continues from one song to the next?
3. Plan and practice stage positions.
Many bands don’t have rehearsal space to practice moving around stage, but if you do have any room at all to move, then do plan and practice stage positions. The movement needs to become something automatic, not something you think about.
I recently read a part of Shania Twain’s autobiography which said that she had her band practice so hard for a tour that by the time they were ready to take it on the road, the keyboard player could do a crossword puzzle while still playing the show. I’m really not sure how that works, but…
4. Never play just the beginning of the song.
By this, I mean: Never play from the beginning of the song until a trouble spot in the middle, and then stop at the trouble spot, and start from the beginning again. If you do that, you are practicing to perform a successful beginning of the song, followed by a mistake in the trouble section.
Instead, if you have a trouble spot, don’t stop! Continue playing, make a mental note, and finish the song. Then, come back and fix the trouble spot by starting a few bars before it – not starting from the beginning of the song.
And once you get it right, play it 3-4 times right. You need to practice what you want to happen on stage. If you play a trouble spot wrong 5 times until you get it right just once or twice, chances are you’ll still have trouble on stage.
5. Fix mistakes from the end of the song backwards.
That is, fix the last mistake first (the one that happens closest to the end of the song). Then fix the preceding mistake. This unusual idea benefits you by allowing your mind to focus on only one trouble spot at a time. If you try to fix five trouble spots by being aware of them all while you run through the whole song, you may be preoccupied with future trouble spots while playing through an earlier one.
6. Practice between-song announcements.
Unless you’re a natural emcee, it’s not a bad idea to practice announcements during rehearsal. It feels weird for sure, but you’ll get better. And you may uncover some issues with song intros overlapping announcements.
7. Practice band introductions.
At a minimum, make sure you’re saying everyone’s name right and not missing anyone. I was glad to practice this in rehearsal last month and get a critical mistake out of the way. The bass player and the venue booking agent share the same first name, and I called the bass player by the venue booking agent’s name… but only in rehearsal.
I’ve also come up blank at the critical moment on stage when it’s time to introduce one band member or another… even for people I’ve known long enough that it shouldn’t happen. Practicing band intros helps.
Even better if you can practice band introductions over a song, and practice each musician playing their riff after their name is called, and then practice getting back into the song.
This is only the beginning. Share your tips below! Can we get to 30 tips total?
(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn