5 Rules of the Stage for Live Performance Musicians
**Guest post from Jordan Gaw of Final Drive, a Metal band from St. Louis, MO.
As an independent band, we all play countless shows in small venues and DIY spots with local promoters and club owners. Communication, respect and networking (+It Is About Who You Know) are essential for getting the most out of every gig. Gaining new fans, establishing relationships and executing an amazing show, that not only sounds, but runs smoothly, is your mission (should you choose to accept it).
When you get to the gig, prep for your performance, get on and off the stage, keep in mind these 5 Rules of the Stage, and seize the opportunity you’ve been given. Remember we’re all in this together.
1. Survey & Prep.
When you first arrive at the gig, find your contact, establish the load in door, equipment & merch areas (+Get Your Merch Printed for Less). Sometimes, when the stage is big enough, back lining your guitar cabs can come in handy. Most of the time there’s a pre staging area where all the bands' gear can congregate in order of each performance slot.
Once you’ve completed your load in, start putting together any guitar rigs and drum equipment that you can. Remember, the quicker you get on stage, the more time you’ll have for sound check, and assembling your drums pre show can save you a ton of time.
Now introduce your group to the sound person(s), learn their name, be cool because he’s/she’s your everything once you hit that stage. Nothing worse than pissing the guy or gal off before the lights even go down. Remember, they’re the last line of defense between a great sounding show and a terrible one. After you’ve loaded in, prepped as much as you can and met with front of house sound, settle into your merch area and start networking with your fellow bands.
2. Coordinate Stage Set Up.
It’s go time, the band before you plays the last note, sound guy flips his iPod on and you begin your stage loading. With all the preparation from Rule 1: Survey & Prep, you might even have time to help the band before you move things off the stage. Remember, they just played a blistering set, give ‘em a hand.
Now, try and work as a chain. Help your drummer on, after all he most likely will have quite a few pieces. Singers, help your guitar players. Guitars, have all your effects pedals together, maybe even on a board all wired up; get on that stage, ready to go, as fast as you can. (Note to drummers: set up all your stands, with cymbals prior to set change.)
Help the stage hands out with any mic placement, number of vocals, anything you can do to make the set up move as quickly as it can. Having a printed out stage plot can’t hurt either. Don’t forget, the sound & light engineers are working all night, every band, make their life a little easier, it ain’t just about you.
3. Get a Proper Soundcheck.
Granted, sometimes in the mad dash of getting on stage the time for a “proper” soundcheck isn’t always there and at times, there are occasional show delays. However, if you have followed the first 2 Rules you should have plenty of time to get your stage sound where you need it to be. Singers, command the stage. Make sure anyone that doesn’t have a mic to talk back to FOH (or if you’re privileged enough to have a monitor engineer) gets what they need. Communicate for them if you have to. Then play a few bars of a tune, get the feel for what it’s gonna actually be like and clearly relay your requests.
Sometimes it has to be done, but try your best to refrain from monitor adjustment requests after your performance has begun. The crowds hate it, unless of course you have a monitor engineer off stage that you can communicate to without the crowd knowing. Bonus: Know your stage area names! (i.e. Stage Left: The area of the stage to the left of center stage when facing the audience.)
4. Engage, Execute, Entertain.
During your time on that stage, sometimes more, sometimes less, every second counts. Enjoy it! Bask in the feeling and reflect that energy back to the audience. No matter how difficult it is, if there’s 1 or 1,000 people there, perform like it’s your last. If you’re having the time of your life, so will the crowd. After all, everyone is there for some good ol’ fashion live entertainment. Treat it as such.
Frontmen / women, take note of all bands performing, so you can give shout outs, and if your gonna do it, do it for everyone. Nothing looks worse than to call out just a couple while leaving the other bands out. Have some grasp on the show you’re a part of.
Now “Ham it up” as my mother used to say. You’re there to entertain!
5. Get the Hell Off the stage!
You’re done, it’s over, you’ve finished your set. Now GET THE HELL OFF THE STAGE. There is nothing worse and I mean nothing! than farting around on the stage once you’ve completed your set. Drummers, don’t start tearing down your stands and slowly putting away your cymbals one by one. Guitarists, you don’t need to wind up all your precious cables while neatly placing them in your cases. NO! Just get your gear off of that stage, and do it NOW! Remember, you’ve got another band anxiously waiting for there stage time and the clock is ticking away at their soundcheck window of opportunity. There’s PLENTY of time after you get off the stage to neatly teardown and put away your gear.
Well that wraps it up for these 5 rules of the stage. While there’s a ton more that goes into a show, by following these 5 simple rules, you can truly get the very most out of every gig you play, while being respectful to all the other musicians trying for a successful night as well. We’re ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, let’s act like it.
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