Performing in front of a live audience is an amazing feeling! But to ensure a smooth, no-stress gig, preparation is key. If you’re looking for tips for your first gig — or just need a refresher — check out this advice from Saint Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L...
For the performing singer, there’s nothing quite like having practiced your butt off for three weeks, spraying your throat every five minutes with that throat spray for singers, and running through your customized voice exercises, only to realize as you walk through those venue doors that you forgot your microphone at home.
As the lead singer of two Saint Augustine, Florida bands, I know that I’m part of a team. But I also know that I need to be responsible for my own stuff, and what exactly we need as performing singers, whether you’re a solo act or in a group, can get pretty specific. Whether it’s your first gig or you’re an experienced performer, you need to be prepared. Here’s my list of what every singer needs to pack in his or her gig bag.
Throat Coat Tea and Honey (single-serve packets)
You might be skeptical of special teas and potions for the voice, like I once was. But trust me, after singing in a dry room for two hours, you’ll be thankful for the lubrication!
My microphone is a Shure product. It’s not expensive and sounds great. What’s important is having your own, especially if you ever put your mouth on it. Germs, anyone?
This is super important for protecting the investment that is your microphone. Strong wind, a drop on the floor, or even blowing air into it can cause damage. Your wind screen can prevent this.
OK, so you might not need to pack this in the gig bag, but be sure to take it. If you’re running late, you’ll want to let the venue know.
Even if you’re the kind of performer who runs all over the stage with a cordless mic, you’ll need to keep that mic in a safe spot between sets. There might even be a song you’ll want to try with the mic in its stand!
Even though I personally recommend drinking tea with a thicker consistency than water during performances, water will hydrate the body before and after you sing.
I was skeptical about this one for a long time. But a music producer recommended them, and now, I always pack them in my gig bag. The salt reduces mucus, the oil lubricates, and the crunch helps relieve stress.
If you have any merchandise for your act, like T-shirts, CDs, cards for free downloads of one of your songs, or even just business cards, you’ll want to pack them in your gig bag. You never know who you’ll meet at a show, or what fans will ask for!
Recently, my band had to make a really stressful and last-minute run to the local hardware store 20 minutes before show time, because our cords weren’t long enough for the new venue. Be prepared with a 50-foot extension cord. Oh, and make it an outdoor one, in case it rains!
Not There Yet? Here’s How to Get Gigs
Word of mouth is said to be the best way to get gigs for bands and musicians. But since the Internet is where so much is communicated nowadays, word of mouth means having a great social media presence. Make sure that you have a fresh, updated Facebook page with videos, reviews (even from teachers and fellow musicians), audio, and lots of photos of rehearsals and formal band photos, too. Make sure that you have a YouTube channel, so that potential clients and fans can watch you perform. Even if you only post great band practices, people can still get a feel for your sound! You can also make your own website for free at Wix.com, where you can post past and future gigs. (Here’s a great post from Wix about setting up your music website.)
Next, search your local paper or Google local open mics — these are a great way to get exposure and meet other musicians! You can also build a profile for free at websites like GigMasters and GigSalad. They’ll send leads for gigs right to your email and charge a small fee. Here’s a great round-up of those and other websites for finding gigs.
Tips for Your First Gig
Gearing up for your first gig? Congrats!
- First, get as many details as possible from your gig contact, who’s probably the person who scheduled or hired you. Make sure that you know exactly what you’ll need to bring, what the venue already has and is willing to share, how early you’re allowed to set up your gear, how long you’re expected to perform, and a number for your contact at the venue on the day of the event, just in case you get caught in traffic or tied up, and you need to call ahead.
- Second, if it’s possible, go to the venue yourself to check it out. How much room is there? (This’ll also help you feel more comfortable when you actually perform in the space.)
- Third, rehearse as much as your schedule allows, and try to practice in the same physical set-up that you’ll be in the venue. Here’s a handy checklist for preparing for a gig.
- Fourth, relax, but not by telling yourself not to be nervous… instead tell yourself that the nervousness is only excitement. It really is all about perspective and attitude.
All this considered, the most important thing to bring to a performance should be so big, that you couldn’t fit it into any gig bag. That thing is your amazing self-confidence. Remember that excitement you were feeling earlier? One of the best tips for your first gig is to use that excitement as extra energy. Because, let’s face it, you could drink all of the finest teas in the world and own the best microphones, but if you don’t believe that you belong up there, singing, you’re toast.
Photo by Anaïs