How To / My Music

Singer songwriter tips for that first gig

After doing the nearly unimaginable: preforming my own songs in front of a public audience, I bit the bullet and listened back. While painful (for me, hopefully not the original audience), I learned so much I want to remember for future gigs. And since you can only play your first show once, I’m now an expert on first shows, ready to share and help anyone dreaming of or already planning their first live performance.

1. Ask a friend to record you, stealthily. People asked me to go live on Facebook and since I was already dangerously close to puking, I couldn’t handle the thought, let alone plan it. Luckily, a friend thought to record each of my songs, from a phone in his pocket. He then sent me the files, privately. Like a PRO. He let me decide what and if I wanted to share. Had some remote friends and family not asked to listen, I would have kept them private. But if you do share, you can use them as motivation to keep practicing.

2. Listen back. Holy moly this is almost as hard as playing. At least my nausea came back. But once I got over the nerves, I realized I could learn a lot from these by listening for that gap between what the audience heard and what I thought I played. So it’s not about what I’m hearing in the recordings – it’s lining that up against what I remembered. So listen the next day.

3. Avoid soda water and other carbonated beverages several hours beforehand. I was paranoid about burping while singing. It happens at home aaallll the time. But I’m happy to report my first set was burp-free.

4. Strategize your set list. If you can, squeeze in a shout, holler, yell, belting song up front. Or do 20 jumping jacks in the bathroom right before. I did NOT do these things and my first 2 songs were strained and off-key. I was soooo nervous. I did some voice warmups on my ride over to the venue, but that didn’t combat my nerves. When planning my set list, I thought I’d need a few mellow songs to warm up + I picked my weakest songs … Thinking I’d be warming up and folks would still be trickling in. Talk to other musicians and learn more about how they plan a list. I’m definitely going to do that before I try again.

5. Practice your banter at home. Don’t mumble. Don’t race. Silence is OK.

6. Practice with a PA/amp and headphones at home to get used to hearing yourself as others will hear you.

7. Start slower than you think you should. If you’re nervous, you’ll likely race through a song, thinking you paced it perfectly. Or, since I didn’t try it, I’ll practice with a metronome and see if there’s an app that can vibrate to a beat I can try while playing.

Photos from friends,

Set on SoundCloud,

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