April 10, 2018
Whether you are starting out on your career path as a musician, or you just want to take your band (or yourself) to the next level and play some shows, knowing the basics which are expected on every gig is crucial. Of course, you will need to be a good player too. But the players who get the first call are the ones who understand the job at hand. In this series, we will explore the basic expectations demanded of a professional musician.
How Well Do You Know Your Instrument?
You are already an advanced player, so you're confident that you really know your instrument. Regardless, you've decided to take this seriously, so set aside some time to evaluate yourself in the following areas and address anything that needs work. Beyond honing your playing skills, make sure you know every note/chord on your instrument and can cover the chord voicings that fit the style you will be playing.
Practice relentlessly with recordings or a drum machine until your time is not only rock solid, but you can also make the groove chug without dropping beats. Every style has characteristic grooves and chord voicings that you will want to be familiar with, as well as a standard repertoire that most of the players know by ear. Even if you play a rhythm instrument, make sure you can improvise if called upon to do so. To get started, try modifying the rhythm line or vocal melody, then experiment with ways to make it your own. Once you have mastered the style, practice the repertoire until you can do it on autopilot. Can you play through the set while carrying on a conversation or watching a television show with the volume down? Can you play it in the dark? When you step on stage, you will have a lot to think about besides playing the songs. Drill them until they are boring; the night of the gig you'll be glad you did.
Learn to Be an Entertainer
It is important for your band to sound great. You also have to put on a show. The audience is used to multimedia on demand. Many bands even invest in multimedia equipment to bring that content into their shows. While you may not want to go to that extent, you still need to present a visually entertaining show. Putting up mirrors in the rehearsal room might seem like vanity, yet nobody becomes a great performer without knowing how they look. On stage you don't want to stare at your hands when the audience is out in front of you. Practice looking out into the audience by imagining the room is divided into sections; center front, right rear, middle left, etc. While you are performing make sure you look out at each of these sections and interact with the people there. Direct your attention at the group while acknowledging them. Smile. Once you master it, everyone in the section will feel the connection personally. You might be surprised how often you will be blinded by stage lights and unable to see the audience. When this happens, just imagine your sections and perform to them as usual. Remember to smile. This enables you to interact with many people even if you cannot see them.
If you are the lead singer, work out some stage banter in advance. Be creative; everybody knows those old Ace Frehley routines and they're great! But they are anything but original. Make up your own banter and remember that it is important to consider your marketing objectives when you do. You might be surprised how chatting about the new album on stage can drive CD sales after the show. Original shows require a different style of banter than cover gigs as well. Don't cheapen your original show by injecting one-liners from your club act. The same thing applies to gestures and hand signs; metal horns and peace signs aren't going to help set your band apart. If you don't know what to do with your hands while you're singing, ask someone who knows American Sign Language for suggestions based on your lyrics. Now that's communicating with the audience!
Reflect and Correct
Musicianship and entertaining are essential skills for any working musician. Before you decide to play in front of an audience, take however much time you need woodshedding your music and your show to make it a success! In future articles, we will review the professional musician's imaginary guidebook and learn the details that make the difference between amateur and professional musicians. You may already be familiar with them. To get the gig, you will need them to be second nature. For now, polish your musicianship and presentation to perfection, and ask yourself how you can improve each area regularly. A professional musician is confident in their playing ability and showmanship. Make them a priority and when your opportunity comes, you will be ready to really shine!
November 06, 2023
One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
October 30, 2023
Some of the great guitar-playing artists were self-taught – which means a great many of them use weird tunings. That’s probably no coincidence – using alternate tunings is a great way to come up with a unique sound. So, let’s look at a few of the most common uncommon tunings you could try with your guitar – or your bass.
October 23, 2023
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5