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View Full Version : Holy Shit! I just got a gig and I'm terrified!


Cort
04-26-2011, 06:34 PM
So I've been dabbling with the guitar for a few years, nothing serious, just a hobby. I only play instrumentals because, well, I can't carry a tune in a basket. Seriously. I sing, dogs heads explode. Anyway, a friend of my housemate came round this evening and we got chatting and he mentioned that he's in a band that plays some local bars. He played a couple of his songs and I was pretty impressed. They're very cool. They've got kind of a bluesy feel and the guy sings a bit like Joe Cocker. Anyway, at his insistence I played my favourite song, which is Ocean (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xZw9D9c18E) by the legendary John Butler. The song is intended for a 12 string. I've only got a 6 strong, but it translates pretty well, IMO. Anyway, the guy liked it so much that he's offered me a supporting slot at his next gig this Friday. I'm not being paid, but I don't care. This will be the first time I'll have ever played in front of an audience.

Anyway, I was really flattered at first, but now I'm pretty scared. I reckon stage fright might be a problem. By all accounts it'll probably be a pretty large crowd (about 100 people, he said). I'm only planning on playing that one song (indeed, I only know a couple of others) but still, I'm quite nervous about it. Have any resident doper musicians got any tips on how to handle playing live the first time?

Diogenes the Cynic
04-26-2011, 06:46 PM
1. Practice the songs until you can play them in your sleep (should be easy for since it's only one song." Basically you want to get that muscle memory to where your hands can play by themselves and you don't need your brain.

2. Here's a tip to help you mentally while you're playing. Don't look at the faces of the crowd (which might be difficult anyway, depending on the lights). Look over their heads to the wall at the back of the room. You'll look like you're looking out at them, but you won't really be seeing them.

3. Once you start playing, auto-pilot generally takes over and you're ok. If you mess up, don't stop, just keep going. Chances are nobody outside the band is going to notice anyway.

Snowboarder Bo
04-26-2011, 07:18 PM
Dio has some good advice there. Grats on your gig; let us know how it goes!

twickster
04-26-2011, 07:18 PM
I'll move this over to Cafe Society, where the performers hang out.

twickster, MPSIMS moderator

woodstockbirdybird
04-26-2011, 07:29 PM
3. Once you start playing, auto-pilot generally takes over and you're ok. If you mess up, don't stop, just keep going. Chances are nobody outside the band is going to notice anyway.

I think this is the most important one, and everyone starting out should hear it. Don't ever stop. The audience, 99% of the time, isn't going to be able to tell you've screwed up - until you stop in the middle of a song.

Also, once you've got your part committed to muscle memory, a beer or 2 can help take the fear away without your having to worry about being too impeded to play.

Diogenes the Cynic
04-26-2011, 07:35 PM
Keep it at a beer or two, though. Drinking can start to have diminishing returns if you overdo it. I know that from hard experience. It's good to take the edge off, but don't get soused until after the gig.

mack
04-26-2011, 08:21 PM
2. Here's a tip to help you mentally while you're playing. Don't look at the faces of the crowd (which might be difficult anyway, depending on the lights). Look over their heads to the wall at the back of the room. You'll look like you're looking out at them, but you won't really be seeing them.

My one guitar gig (I've done hundreds as a drummer/percussionist/bassist) I played a song I wrote at a friend's wedding. Just me and the guitar and my song, big moment, don't screw it up! I had the song down cold, looked out over the tops of everybody's head, no problem, then for some reason I made eye contact with someone. I liken the effect in my mind to what happens starting at about :55 in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcqmvGVH9c0&feature=related). It actually wasn't that bad but there was a moment of panic there. I got back on track and came through it fine. The whole episode probably lasted a second.

One thing you don't want to do is keep everybody waiting while you sort out some technical glitch, so have things as ready as possible before going up on stage. I don't know how possible it will be to run through your song during a sound check but that will help you know what it's going to sound like on stage. It will probably be a lot different than what you're used to.

Diogenes the Cynic
04-26-2011, 08:35 PM
One thing that can screw you like nothing else is not having a good stage monitor. If you can't hear yourself, it's hard as shit to play. But hopefully you should be able to take care of that at sound check. That's only been a problem for me at shows that were multiple band cattle calls sharing the same monitors (My band got totally boned at a Battle of the Bands once. I couldn't hear anything through the stage monitpors but the snare drum. We still managed to somehow come in third, though. That's where the practicing until you can play a song comatose comes in handy).

Lukeinva
04-26-2011, 08:38 PM
Make sure you are impeccably in tune.

Blut Aus Nord
04-26-2011, 08:47 PM
Take your time. Being nervous makes you play like you're on speed, in my experience. If you feel like you're playing too slowly it's probably just right. That is if you're playing solo; if there's a drummer obviously you have someone keeping time for you.

Diogenes the Cynic
04-26-2011, 08:55 PM
If you have a drummer, it's a really good idea to focus on the bass drum to keep yourself in time. Blut is right, being nervous can make you really rush your tempo.

lisiate
04-26-2011, 09:25 PM
Dude you can do a respectable cover of Ocean? I've got a standing bet with a mate for a$1,000 if I can do a decent job of it - he's not likely to lose his money in the foreseeable future.

Doug Bowe
04-26-2011, 09:28 PM
The audience wants you to be good. They didn't show up to see someone that would make them uncomfortable. They're rooting for you.

tdn
04-26-2011, 09:32 PM
1. Practice the songs until you can play them in your sleep (should be easy for since it's only one song." Basically you want to get that muscle memory to where your hands can play by themselves and you don't need your brain.

2. Here's a tip to help you mentally while you're playing. Don't look at the faces of the crowd (which might be difficult anyway, depending on the lights). Look over their heads to the wall at the back of the room. You'll look like you're looking out at them, but you won't really be seeing them.

3. Once you start playing, auto-pilot generally takes over and you're ok. If you mess up, don't stop, just keep going. Chances are nobody outside the band is going to notice anyway.

Wow. Really good advice. Especially #1.

I remember when my conducting instructor told me to get up in front of his orchestra. I was totally taken off guard, and I was so nervous that I was shaking. Seriosly, they were laughing. But my arms and hands had practiced to the record so much that they really couldn't screw it up. They were so trained to the music that it didn't matter that my mind and legs betrayed me. My arms just did the right thing.

Tip #2 was useless, as I had to look them in the eyes, and it made me more nervous. At least there was no audience!

don't ask
04-26-2011, 09:38 PM
Just count your breathes. Try it right now. It will instantly calm you down. If you start thinking other shit just start counting again.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
04-26-2011, 09:42 PM
Congratulations, and have yourself a blast!

Trust your preparation. This is easier to do when you're more used to playing in public, but even now - go back in your mind over everything you have done while learning your piece(s). Every time you sat and worked through that shift, that barre, that gliss, you were preparing to play in this situation, you just didn't know it at the time. Think of the Karate Kid - wax on, wax off - and you're on your way.

If you get a chance between now and Friday, play for some of your friends, co-workers, whatever, just to get yourself used to that little wave of adrenaline...

Diogenes the Cynic
04-26-2011, 09:53 PM
Wow. Really good advice. Especially #1.

I remember when my conducting instructor told me to get up in front of his orchestra. I was totally taken off guard, and I was so nervous that I was shaking. Seriosly, they were laughing. But my arms and hands had practiced to the record so much that they really couldn't screw it up. They were so trained to the music that it didn't matter that my mind and legs betrayed me. My arms just did the right thing.
Practice is really the key. The old joke is right -How do you get to carnagie Hall? Practice. practice practice. It might sound trite but there's a reason it's trite. Muscular memory is real. I'm surprised sometimes at the way my fingers can remember how to play pieces that I haven't played in years and wouldn't be able to notate anymore for the life of me.

I once had a bass player/manager who used to run the band like military drills - forcing us to play songs over and over and over until they we almost literally could play them in our sleep. As tedious and boring as it was, it really paid off. It made it nigh on close to impossible for us to fuck up during gigs.

Mixolydian
04-26-2011, 10:08 PM
The audience wants you to be good. They didn't show up to see someone that would make them uncomfortable. They're rooting for you.

What I came in to post (much different than participating in a competitive sport in front of a crowd, where maybe 1/2 want to see you screw up).

With regard to the "don't stop" credo, remember that it's not practice; practice is everything you've done up to now to prepare you for this. Let it flow and don't dwell on any minor glitches. Like Dio said, very few if any will catch them, and if they do, they won't tell you about it anyway :D.

In addition to the rest of the good advice others have offered...

Don't overthink it.

Have fun!

Maiira
04-26-2011, 11:09 PM
The "don't stop if you mess up" one is important. Also, don't let your audience SEE that you've messed up. If you flub a note here and there, don't wince or make a face. Just continue playing like you meant to do that, and it's likely the audience won't even notice. And yes, practice, practice, practice.

You'll be fine. Good luck!

Bryan Ekers
04-27-2011, 06:48 AM
Just remember - the audience is more frightened of you than you are of them.

An Arky
04-27-2011, 08:35 AM
All good advice in this thread, so I don't have anything to add, except that you should know that waiting to play is the hardest part, the gig will go fast, and you'll feel great afterwards. Good luck!

stpauler
04-27-2011, 08:50 AM
The first time I performed in front of an audience I fled the stage as if bees were swarming me. Don't do what I did. When you're done, say thank you. Even if there's no applause.

Súil Dubh
04-27-2011, 08:53 AM
Keep it at a beer or two, though. Drinking can start to have diminishing returns if you overdo it. I know that from hard experience. It's good to take the edge off, but don't get soused until after the gig.

YES.

Yes, yes, yes.

Definitely have a drink or two to loosen yourself up. (If you're a drinker.)

Every drink you have robs you of precise reaction time and rhythm, but if you go on stone-cold sober and nervous you can end up playing stiff and lousy anyway.

Drink enough to lube your muses, but not so much that your moves get looses.

WordMan
04-27-2011, 09:11 AM
Drink enough to lube your muses, but not so much that your moves get looses.

This is hilarious.

Best of luck Cort - I am sure I have other advice, but the stuff posted so far makes great sense.

Oh - and remember: if you just hit a chord like you're checking the tuning of the guitar, you can mask the sound of your farts :D

tdn
04-27-2011, 10:20 AM
Just remember - the audience is more frightened of you than you are of them.

Especially if your guitar is a velociraptor.

Misnomer
04-27-2011, 10:31 AM
Follow all of the advice you've gotten here, and congratulations! :cool:

The only thing I can think to add is that nerves are completely normal: don't try to overcome them, or feel that you shouldn't have them, because that will only make things worse. Just try to figure out how to go with them/make them work for you.

I've been performing (various genres, in various settings) since high school but am currently working toward getting my first "real" jazz gig, and I know that when it happens I'll be totally nervous even though I've been performing jazz for about two years now!

I'm only planning on playing that one songDoes your housemate's friend know that? I'm sure the answer is "yes," especially given that the gig is in two days, but this jumped out at me...

Khadaji
04-27-2011, 12:02 PM
No advice, but stopping to wish you luck!

tdn
04-27-2011, 01:00 PM
Stage fright never really goes away. You can get used to it given enough time, but sometimes it comes back strong.

I played all through high school and college, in everything from stage bands to pit bands to bars. Hundreds of gigs, at least. A few years after college, after not having played in front of people for a while, I went to a friend's wedding. I was checking out the band at the reception, and noticed that the guitar player was my private instructor from college. I went over to say hello, and he handed me his guitar and walked away. Suddenly everyone's eyes were on me. And half of the people there were musicians, and expected great things of me. I was so nervous I couldn't lift a foot to stomp on an effects pedal!

It took me about three songs to finally relax.

gaffa
04-27-2011, 01:36 PM
Is it just me, or does nearly every piece of advice offered in this thread apply to having sex as well?

Misnomer
04-27-2011, 01:40 PM
Is it just me, or does nearly every piece of advice offered in this thread apply to having sex as well?Performing is performing. ;)


(Somewhat related, I have often said that it's harder to find bandmates than it is to find a boyfriend/girlfriend...)

BigShooter
04-27-2011, 03:58 PM
A little word of warning - if you get nervous easily, don't eat a meal before you go on. :D

Back in '01 I think, my band had an opportunity to perform for a LIVE (:eek:) Bud Light commercial that was airing in the southwest USA during the season finale of Friends on NBC. Quite a large TV audience. It was quite a production. The hippest club in town was rented for the entire day. A large stage was set up in the club. We were provided with a catered band trailer, makeup and hair people, and all the beer we could drink (which even though it didn't cause any problems, probably wasn't the best idea on the part of the Bud people :D).

Anyway, I had never had any stage fright issues before, but something was different with the cameras. Even during rehersals that day I got the butterflies, but I figured I'd be able to hold it together for the live shoot, so we went and had a little dinner while the production crew put on the finishing touches. At about 2 minutes to air time, I turned to my band manager and let him know that I needed something to puke in :eek:. Needless to say, as they were counting down the last ten seconds to air, I was wiping puke from mouth and guitar with a napkin. I pulled it together in time - but it was SOOOOOO close...

SCSimmons
04-27-2011, 05:48 PM
At about 2 minutes to air time, I turned to my band manager and let him know that I needed something to puke in :eek:.
Now that's an awesome post/username combo if I've ever seen one.

ministryman
04-28-2011, 07:55 AM
So I've been dabbling with the guitar for a few years, nothing serious, just a hobby. I only play instrumentals because, well, I can't carry a tune in a basket. Seriously. I sing, dogs heads explode. Anyway, a friend of my housemate came round this evening and we got chatting and he mentioned that he's in a band that plays some local bars. He played a couple of his songs and I was pretty impressed. They're very cool. They've got kind of a bluesy feel and the guy sings a bit like Joe Cocker. Anyway, at his insistence I played my favourite song, which is Ocean (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xZw9D9c18E) by the legendary John Butler. The song is intended for a 12 string. I've only got a 6 strong, but it translates pretty well, IMO. Anyway, the guy liked it so much that he's offered me a supporting slot at his next gig this Friday. I'm not being paid, but I don't care. This will be the first time I'll have ever played in front of an audience.

Anyway, I was really flattered at first, but now I'm pretty scared. I reckon stage fright might be a problem. By all accounts it'll probably be a pretty large crowd (about 100 people, he said). I'm only planning on playing that one song (indeed, I only know a couple of others) but still, I'm quite nervous about it. Have any resident doper musicians got any tips on how to handle playing live the first time?


The advice I would give you is this:

Just do it. Let the music take you away, and enjoy it..

I have nearly knocked myself out before going onstage to play drums. leaving a golf-ball sized lump in the middle of my head, and looking like a windup monkey during my solo.

I have had my rhythm guitarist walk off stage after an onstage fight with my lead guitarist, but not before screaming obscenities into the open mic..

I have forgotten the last stanza of Hotel California (and had the crowd sing it - nice recovery, eh?).

It's music. It's memories. It's fun.

Rock on!

BTW, can you tape it so we can see?

Mister Rik
04-28-2011, 12:57 PM
In addition to what everybody else has said:

Wear sunglasses. They provide a simple "disguise", and it's astonishing the way the illusion of separation from the audience can relax you.

tdn
04-28-2011, 01:07 PM
All good advice in this thread, so I don't have anything to add, except that you should know that waiting to play is the hardest part, the gig will go fast, and you'll feel great afterwards. Good luck!

Bolding mine.

Oh hell yeah. It may just be a blur. You might not even remember it.

I know someone who played organ in a church many years ago. She'd remember sitting down at the organ, and getting up from it, but would have no memory of actually playing. She was completely dissociated the entire time.

I remember the first recital I did in college. We rehearsed for probably two months. We played those songs so many times that we were sick of them. When the actual recital came, it was like BOOM that song's over, and I was barely aware of playing it, and we'll never play it again, BOOM, the next one is over, we'll never play that again either, BOOM BOOM BOOM we're done and the audience is leaving. It was kind of sad.

moldybread
04-28-2011, 01:26 PM
My ritual before going on stage is as follows:
Get to the gig early to get used to your surroundings a bit.
Drink a rum n coke or two (weak if possible)
15 minutes before stage time do some stretches or warm ups.

When you get on stage try to remember to keep calm and breathe and dont rush through
the material. Im the drummer so If I play off tempo the whole band does.
After the first 30 seconds of playing all the nervousnes goes away.
Im not shitting you either when I say 30 seconds.
(For most musicians anyway)

Most importantly remember to enjoy it man! If you dont enjoy it the audience wont either.

oh yeah last step. After you get off stage and everyone throws flowers at your feet?
DRINK!!!!PARTY!!!

moldybread
04-28-2011, 01:29 PM
Bolding mine.


She'd remember sitting down at the organ, and getting up from it, but would have no memory of actually playing. She was completely dissociated the entire time.


SOOOOO True Kind of eerie!

Jaledin
04-30-2011, 12:26 AM
God damned I thought I'd have had something to add, but it's all covered.

(1) Have fun. Socialize (not too many beers).
(2) Fuck knowing your part -- that's 101 -- know the *tune*.
(3) Trust in your bandmates being up to their game, whether they are or they aren't -- always count on them, and always count on being able to carry the show by yourself if your shoudl have to.
(4) Have fun. After load out, drink some beers (if you're not driving) and get to know your audience.

Shirley Ujest
05-03-2011, 06:07 AM
Break a leg!









Nice song, but he needs to cut his nails. eweeeeeeeeeeee

fighting ignorant
05-03-2011, 09:46 AM
Is it just me, or does nearly every piece of advice offered in this thread apply to having sex as well?

Hmm ...

practice a lot on your own - yes
don't look at the other people involved during the process - depends
if you mess up, keep going, no one will notice - *definitely* depends
break a leg - no

SCSimmons
05-03-2011, 11:23 AM
So, 'this Friday' has come and gone--how'd it go?

Sam Stone
05-04-2011, 12:02 PM
Here's one of my favorite sayings about pro musicians:

The difference between a pro and an amateur is that an amateur practices a song until he gets it right. A pro practices a song until he can't get it wrong.

Jaledin
05-04-2011, 04:32 PM
The difference between a pro and an amateur is that an amateur practices a song until he gets it right. A pro practices a song until he can't get it wrong.

Haven't heard this one. It's a good one. I think I mentioned on a thread about anxiety that I used to pound a pot of coffee to try to get into a panic attack and force myself to play a set in my apartment. I no longer have panic attacks, but I still stress myself when practicing all the time, by over-drinking coffee, even practicing drunk (and recording myself), talking on the phone, all kinds of stuff.

It's been a good habit for me, anyway, to get into. Doesn't help me get down the "Minute Waltz" (as prep to playing the "Black Minute Waltz) though. :(

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