We talk you through 9 first gig essentials, band tips and offer useful advice for bands that will help you fight first gig nerves, and help you gig with minimal fuss!
Whether you’re about to play your first gig, or you’re just starting out on the live circuit there are a few gig essentials and band tips that you should know about. So, we’ve put together a bunch of tips and advice for bands that will help you reduce the chance of any issues cropping up.
Your first gig is your chance to make an impression on fans whether they’re friends or family or a bunch of complete strangers. You need to make sure you’re prepared with the right equipment and most importantly, the right attitude!
Here’s 9 first gig essentials and some advice for musicians I wish I was given before I started touring. They will help you when it comes to dealing with stage fright as you’ll know you've done everything to ensure the gig goes smoothly, giving you the space to figure out what makes a good live performance and basically make a good impression on other bands and the people that have put the gig together.
1. Bring Your Own Gear
When it comes to advice for bands, rule number 1 is bring your own gear. This applies to every gig you play unless otherwise agreed beforehand and one of the key band tips. There are a few reasons why you need to bring your own gear to your first gig or any gig for that matter. First off, you’re used to playing your own equipment, so you know how your guitar works, feels and sounds like through your amp. This applies to bass players and drummers too. You’ll potentially run into a problem if you think you can just turn up and use someone else’s guitar. Besides, how clean are their strings? Is the jack faulty? Do they use a weird tuning? You just don’t know, so it’s best to only rely on yourself and YOUR gear.
Secondly, it’s just rude to assume you can turn up and use someone else stuff! Of course, there are times where you may have agreed to share an amp or drum kit shells, which is fine if its pre-agreed. But there’s nothing worse than someone asking you to use your gear that you’ve spent money on and then blowing it up whilst they’re playing leaving you with nothing for your gig!
Bring. Your. Own. Gear.
2. Bring a Spare Guitar
String breaks happen, guitars can develop faults at the most inopportune times and other issues can arise. It’s best to always bring a spare guitar for your set.
What happens if you break a string during a gig and you’ve only got one guitar? You’re not going to restring it mid-set are you? You’ll have to cut your set short unless you can switch guitars quickly.
Always bring a spare guitar with you. It’ll help the gig go smoothly and you can deal with first gig nerves easier if you know all your gear is good to go.
3. Bring A Tuner
You may not need a full pedalboard for your setup and that’s ok. It’s not ok to play a guitar out of tune. Bring a tuner with you, preferably a pedal tuner that mutes your signal while you do it. This ensures you’re playing in the correct tuning, thus your singer or you are singing in the correct pitch and the song actually sounds good. Again, don’t expect anyone to have one that you can use.
We've compiled a list of the best guitar tuners in our blog.
4. Practice coiling your cables and packing your gear down/setting up
You only have a small amount of time to set up your equipment and pack it down. Practice coiling cables, setting up your pedal board and packing down. This ensures you can get on stage on time and be able to play your full set. Usually there’s a 15 minute changeover between bands then you have your 30- min set. If you go over the changeover time that will eat into your set time. If you take too long packing down, that will eat into the other bands set time - which is not good. Practice everything from tuning your guitar, setting your amp up to coiling cables.
Side point - buy quality guitar cables!
Poor quality guitar leads are made from poor quality materials. this means they’re likely to break on you or start to become crackly over time. It sounds terrible when you’re playing a gig and the guitar lead is either cutting your signal or becoming crackly. To combat this, I recommend that you buy decent guitar cables that ensure your sound is kept intact. Of course, accidents can happen and decent cables can break or come loose, but buying good quality stuff is one of the fundamental gig essentials and band tips that will stop many sound related problems before they arise. Check out a full range of guitar accessories and cables here.
5. Nail Your Set List
This should go without saying, but you need to know your songs and your set list back to front and inside out. Practice makes perfect of course, but even the most well-rehearsed set list will only get better after playing gigs. There’s something very different about rehearsing and performing. For example, a song that you love might not necessarily land well with an audience, so it pays to have a few different songs that you can rotate in and out of your setlist.
One or two songs you have might not work well with your set or the band you’re playing with, so you should have a roster of about 7-10 songs that you can choose from when performing.
6. Don’t Go Over Your Allotted Set Time
Whilst we’re on set list construction, it’s good to keep your set list to the agreed time. If you’ve only got 30 mins, then only be on stage for 30 mins. This is a big rule and a matter of professional courtesy. You should rehearse your set so that you’ve got it down to the agreed time and make sure you’re on and off stage at the agreed times so the other band can play their set.
It’s rude to go over your allotted time as it will cut down the amount of time the band after has on stage.
One of the best band tips I ever received was to practice playing through your songs, the gaps between and the amount of time it takes to pack your gear up. This way you’re closer to turning your band into a well-oiled machine.
7. Use Guitar Cases or gig Bags
Protecting your guitar from damage should be high on your list of priorities, especially before a gig. Chances are you’re going to have to store your gear in a room before your set, and other bands will be too. A guitar or instrument out of its case is probably going to get knocked over and get damaged. It might be an accident, but “sorry man” is not going to fix a broken guitar neck.
So, with this in mind you should protect your guitar with a guitar case or guitar gig bag. These are absolute gig essentials. Don’t turn up to a gig with your guitar in a plastic bag, please! Accidents happen, so protect your gear.
This is one of the major things I wish someone had told me when I was looking for the best advice for bands and musicians.
8. Bring Spares
We’ve already talked about bring a spare guitar, but it’s also good to bring spare accessories too. We recommend bringing spare plectrums and cables to a gig if you’re a guitarist and spare drum sticks if you’re a drummer. Breakables like that are called breakables because they, well, break. So, it’s good to have a few spares if your cable starts freaking out and not working, you drop your plectrum somewhere on stage or your snap a drumstick mid gig.
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need about 5 plectrums and at least 2 spare guitar cables to gig effectively and make sure you can fix a problem and act fast should something crop up. One of the most useful band tips for groups starting out.
9. Have Some Merch/Free CD’s/Business Cards/Flyers to Hand Out
Hopefully, people liked your sound. If so, they’re probably going to want to listen to demos or catch you at another gig or even wear your bands t shirt! So, with that in mind you should have a CD ready to hand out, a flyer with your bands site on so they can listen to tracks, or even a flyer with a Spotify link if you’ve got that far.
Chances are you’ve not put anything on Spotify, iTunes etc. yet, so make sure your social profile is up to date on Facebook, Instagram etc. so people can see what you’re up to and get snippets of your music and catch when you’re next playing. This is one of the biggest pieces of advice for bands that will actually help you get more people at your gigs and more fans!
Want more? Watch Dagan's first hand advice for bands!