7 Ways to be a GREAT Live Band
There are so many great live bands. They have gotten that way, not by accident but by playing show after show. Experience adds up, as do those situations that happen live that will help you to hone the craft and become a better band with each show. Experience grows confidence as you know what to expect and how to handle when your expectations are not met, which is often. There is nothing like playing live and being a GREAT live band. Here are some pointers that will get you moving in the right direction and almost seem to give you experience without the experience.
- Set up at practice like a show. Cabs next to your drummer and facing out. Just like a stage. You’ll likely have to do something about a monitor for your drummer. Overall this will get you used to relying on each other for cues and for situations where you can’t always hear everyone.
- Practice facing away from your drummer. There is a lot to be said about facing away from the person that keeps the time and tempo. Your drummer should be rock solid and be able to know where they are in a song without being able to hear everyone. So often in live situations, the monitor mix is bad, and your poor drummer is going off where they think they are and watching the back of the guitar/bass players hand. Tricky game. Practice those situations at practice and it’s like gaining the stage time of those bad mixes.
- Always have a backup. Guitar and bass players, that means an extra guitar or two. Drummer, how about extra sticks and a backup snare? Extra bass pedal? Just checking. Extra gear can def be a hassle… Until the day when you need it. There are countless times when that extra guitar and a string change got me out of a broken string, bad jack, even some faulty wiring after a pickup change. Being prepared shows that you are professional and know what you are doing. Also, that the show will go on as planned because you were prepared.
- Play the set at practice like a show. Lay out your set list and play it like a show. If you run 2 songs together at a show, write it that way on the set list and do it at practice. Write in “Talk” where your person with the mic talks to the crowd, so everyone else on stage knows when they can grab a swig of whatever and quickly check tunings. Make notes of the things to mention like an upcoming show in the area, release coming soon, or buy our merch we got printed by MerchLive.com. Making notes will help to make sure you know the other bands names and important people when you thank them all during your set. And make sure you thank them.
- Talk and interact with people off stage. This one is SO important, and many bands miss this opportunity to connect on a personal level with the people that came to see them. Yes, this is part of being a great live band. Being personable and teachable. It’s an incredible way to get feedback. People will happily tell you their opinion. So be ready for the good and the bad. They will laugh at you as they talk about that song you almost fell and lost your place with a few bad notes. But they will also tell you about the feeling they got when you played “Place song title here”. THAT’S the feedback that makes all of this worth it. When someone connects to the music and then tells you about it after the show.
- Be prepared. This goes hand in hand with #3 of always have a backup. Use the boy scout tradition and always be prepared. Bring a toolbox that has the simple tools for general instrument repair and maintenance. Soldering gun with solder, extra cable ends and jacks, maybe some wire, do we even have to mention duct tape? We KNOW you have that, right? Look at what could go wrong and fill the tool box with ways to fix it. While you’re at it, bring along some tools and hose clamps for quick road fixes of the band van as well.
- Keep track of your cords on stage. Here is a simple trick to never have tangled cords on stage. My band, like many others, didn’t have wireless systems, but all of us out front moved around a lot and got cords tangled BAD. Once we figured this one out, tangled cords on stage never happened again. Cords tangle when they cross over each a couple of times in the same direction. Explaining this can get confusing so we’ll just use an example. When you switch side of stage and cross cords, you must make sure you cross back the same way. If the singer is in front of the guitar player when they pass, the singer should still be in front when they pass back, and the cords don’t “roll” together. We had a rule that our singer would always pass in front, then the guitar player, then the bass player. No one in the crowd has any idea but if we paid attention to how we passed each other on stage, no more tangled cords.