Open Mike Night Advice (Music)

A little over 10 years ago I bought a guitar and started down the slow road of teaching myself to play (and pretty much music in general). I set myself a goal to get out and perform by the end of July. It’s now the 26th. Eep. It’s gonna have to be this Thursday night. Gulp.

I’ve got the songs ready (all 2 of 'em.), my SO is doing the majority of the singing as he can carry a tune and likes getting out and performing, I’ll be playing acoustic guitar. We’ve got the place mapped out, we’ve talked with a friend that performs there for the open mike and does regular gigs at the coffeehouse as well. She said to bring a cord for the guitar and explained the sign-up process…

So what else should I know/be ready for/do etc, etc?

Best of luck! er, break a string or something!

Seriously - change your strings today or tomorrow so they have a chance to stretch out and stay in tune for Thursday night.

Bring an extra set of strings.

Sounds like they supply amplification for vocals and guitar - confirm this, and make sure you or someone you know knows how to work the controls.

Pack your “stuff” bag the day before - bring extra strings and string-changing tools, your tuner, some duct tape (you never know when you’ll need it - seriously), a few pens, a flashlight, an extra chord, a screwdriver set (okay, I play electric - it may not matter as much for you), extra picks if you use them, the song lyrics and music and a Swiss Army knife.

Go through a “worst-case scenario” exercise - write down everything that could go bad or embarrassingly, then decide which ones you can prepare for. Foretting the lyrics? Well, bring 'em along on a piece of paper and tape it someplace inconspicuous. Playing too fast? Figure out a count that sets up the right pace for you - like “1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4” - being nervious and wired and playing too fast is a common problem…

Go in with reasonably low expectations. You will make mistakes - it’s live, that happens. Some people will NOT pay attention, will laugh at a joke told at their table or do SOMETHING to be both distracting and disrespectful - I had a group break into “Happy Birthday” while I was performing the first song I had ever written and shared publicly.

Make sure it is recorded and/or video’d - you will want to see it again, and you will learn a lot listening to and watching yourself.

That’s all for now - when I do all this prep, it calms me down, because I know I have given it my best shot. Review this and other posts that others will share and pick the few things that will help you, not freak you out. The whole point is to enjoy the experience and have fun and share your music.

Go get 'em.

You should probably stick to bringing the chords you know, and just pack an extra cord. If you do bring an extra chord, make it the E-flat (diminished ninth). It’s a man’s chord; you could lose a finger.

Seriously, though. Whether or not you’re singing or speaking, make sure your voice is warmed up. A lot of first-time performers are so nervous before their set that they clam up, forget to talk to anyone, and the first words out of their mouth can squeak in a most embarrassing way. Take your time speaking into the microphone.

Even though I’m pretty experienced, I tend to rush. That goes for briefings, speeches, songs - whatever. So make sure you know the tempo of your song down cold, and try not to rush it. The audience might not care, but your fingers and the singer’s tongue will both be better served if you relax and take your time.

A senior in a college a cappella group I performed with once shared a secret with me: all of their freshmen do a shot of something strong before their first show. This calms their jitters and tends to stop them from making “nervous” mistakes.

Are you sensing a theme yet? The more relaxed you are, and the more you can just hang out and enjoy it, the better your set will be. In one sense, you’ve got a really hard job, because it’s usually not until the third or fourth song that the audience begins to “give back” to you. In the other sense, you’ve got it really easy: the audience is almost certain to focus on the singer and not the guitarist.

So kick back, relax, and give 'em hell. Break a leg!!

For the love of God, don’t do Margaritaville, Brown Eyed Girl, or any Dave Matthews song. :slight_smile:

Ooops. Nice catch, Jurph :smack: Good advice, too.

Just get out there and do it and try to have fun.

The more fun you are having, the easier it is to get the crowd to pay attention.

You will be nervous, but that’s OK…it will go away eventually (maybe not until you are done though!).

Video is a great idea. When I played my first open mic last November, the video was key for me. I was nervous and thought it went poorly, but when I watched the video, the mistakes I made did not seem as big a deal as they did at the time and it sounded better than I thought it did. This gave me confidence to keep at it.

You may make mistakes, but if you do, just try to right the ship and keep going. I would advise against stopping the song altogether…I think it is always better to keep it going.

Good Luck and Have Fun. If you have fun, then all else will fall into place. :slight_smile:

Just have fun and enjoy it. The nerves are always much worse before you get on stage than any other time. Once you get the first song done you can relax and then just go with it. It’s a great experience to perform and especially with you SO! :slight_smile:

Practice, practice, practice.

And rehearse.

And then practice some more. Until you can play the song in your sleep. Until you cannot get it wrong. No false starts or missed verses. Perfect every time.

What people have said about getting your performance taped, if it’s your first time on stage it will zip past in a flash and you’ll remember nothing about it.

You are off to practice now aren’t you?

Good luck (which you won’t need because you’ve practiced so much) and you will let us know how it goes woncha :slight_smile:

Buy an inexpensive guitar tuning meter. I used to think those things were ridiculous, since how could any guitarist beyond the first lesson not know how to tune up?

Then I came to a gig where a pianist-singer had invited me to play along, and found it REALLY hard to tune my guitar in a noisy place without that visual display.

Uff da! It’s all done. Thanks again for all of the input, I followed a lot of it.

One more interesting tidbit that I learned right off the bat. If you’re going to go out and perform at an open mike, don’t have a lebanese lunch with a lot of garlic beforehand. 'Nuff said there.

On Tuesday I replaced my strings like Wordman suggested. We had been rehearsing for about an hour at a time everyday since last Saturday. The two songs we were doing were Janis Ian’s “Dance With Me” with some updated lyrics that we stuck in there and BNL’s song "Some Fantastic. Steve did the lead vocals on both and I did back-up vocals on the Ian song. I also got him a gourd shaker for a little more oomph on “Some Fantastic”. For some reason, I kept forgetting the chord progresssion on the Ian song so I decided just to print out the chords and tape 'em to my guitar. The case was packed, strings, stringwinder, tuner, wire cutter, picks, an Ebdim9 chord, some extra tape, a cable, and a camera. I overpacked and didn’t leave enough room for luck.

We arrive a bit early and grab a table big enough for us and our friends that are coming down too. This cafe has an interesting way of signing up. There’s a guy that watches the order of people coming in. Around 20 minutes before the start of the night, he goes over to the people, in the order they came in, and then ask them to sign up in the order in which they want to. We sign up for fourth place and my face gets a bit flush. A little bit of pre-stage jitters I reckon.

The opening singer is really amazing. A voice a lot like Ani DiFranco and a guitar style to match. I started to panic a bit, I really didn’t want to follow someone really good. Eep! The next two people up helped that out. So we were fourth and after the third person is done we head up to the stage only to be stopped by the guy running it. It’s his turn so I realize I should take my guitar out back and either smash it so I don’t have to go on or tune it. I tuned it and came back inside.

We got up to the stage and I plugged in. Strummed the guitar a couple times to make sure I’m in tune. Yes, I am. Checked the mike, check, check. All is good and we do the first song. A couple gaffes with the picking and the lyrics but we’re having a good time. It’s mostly a picking song but there’s a bit of a hard strummin’ instrumental part I do that with a little adrenalin goes well.
Now it’s time for song two, I pull out my pick and strum the guitar, only to notice that the guitar has completely gone out of tune. EEK! I ask our friend Becca to bring up my intellitouch tuner and then I tune for a bit and try to keep the chat going so I don’t look too bad. So, I get the guitar in tune, we play the song, I almost chicken out when it’s time for me to join in vocally but I pressed on and started to just have fun with it. The song ends and we scurry off stage.

I really had a good time. I’m glad I was reminded by all of you to just go out and have fun. We made a couple mistakes, we even changed a verse with a chorus and didn’t even notice it until later. The adrenalin from the strumming and picking took its toll on my thumb where apparently I was going a bit too hard and I got a cheese crater effect. We got some good pics taken by friends while we were up there, and I’m actually glad there was no camera recording us. Soundless pictures are better for now :wink:
Thanks again!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the sound system. I’ve seen these before in magazines but never in person. They had this Bose PA system which was just a vertical speaker tube if you will with a subwoofer that was placed behind us. It was used as not only the regular amps but the monitors as well. Very cool stuff.

Funny you mention those. I’ve found the most well-received ‘amateur performances’ are those in which cover (non-original) versions are obscure to the point no one in the audience even knows they’re someone else’s material.

Yay stpauler!!!

Sounds like you kicked some open mic ass! That is wonderful.

So - do you have the bug? Do you have to do it again?

Yup, I totally have the bug now. I feel more comfortable now that I know that it doesn’t have to be “studio recording perfection” up there and can still be a lot of fun. I think I’ll start doing it once a month now that I’ve finally (after over ten years) got out there and played. :smiley:

The best part is that the more you play now, the better you will be. But at the same time, the more you play, the more fun you’ll have. So each one will probably sound better and be more fun than the first. Congratulations!