As a singer/songwriter who is just starting out, sharing your songs with an audience (other than friends and family) for the first time is an exciting milestone. It is ultimately what you have been working towards. Getting your songs out there and seeing peoples´ reactions to them is priceless! Naturally, this adventure can also be nerve-wrecking. You might be nervous with regard to how the audience receives you, you might suffer from stage-fright or be insecure about how you sound up there.
Singing through a microphone to a crowd is indeed a lot different than singing in your home studio or living room! So, here are some tips that shall help you prepare for your big day and hopefully calm you down, so you can fully enjoy this!
Playing a 1 hour set from scratch can be overwhelming if you have no stage experience whatsoever. When starting out, it is recommendable to try out some open mic nights, where you can play anything from one to up to three or four songs to a crowd that is usually very forgiving. Crowds at open mic nights know that the artists are often at the beginning of their career and they understand that you might be nervous! It is a perfect setting to test the waters in front of a real audience (of strangers), but who are welcoming and encouraging. A bit like Karaoke, but more of the real deal ! 😉
Another tip would be to bring some friends or family members along that you feel safe around. Having them in the audience can help you rest your gaze on them, when you feel lost! They will also make you feel less alone and can help calm you down minutes before the show!
Having a support system is worth a lot!
When preparing for your gig, do make sure to record yourself (preferrably on video) while practicing. Not only will this help you evaluate and refine your stage presence, but the actual recording session forces you to focus and not mess up while you film and record yourself. It is a great way to put yourself in a situation of pressure and find out, whether your fingers get shaky or whether you make mistakes that you wouldn´t make without the camera rolling. Recording yourself is a great way to listen back and work on weak vocal performances, as well!
Ask for a soundcheck
When you arrive at the venue (well ahead of showtime) ask your sound engineer for a soundcheck. Most venues will offer this anyways, but sometimes at open mic nights things are a bit chaotic. Do insist on a quick soundcheck, so you can get an idea of how the room looks from the stage and how you will sound when singing through the microphone and hearing yourself through the stage monitors! This can feel weird at first, as you are used to hearing your guitar and vocals coming from where you stand naturally instead of from a PA system blasting things up in your face… So,a quick run through is recommended!
Pay attention to how things feel
Singing to a crowd in a noisy place from a stage can really throw you off, if you do it for the very first time! You might not be able to hear yourself as you usually do, so you might feel temptred to sing louder and start pushing (ignoring all vocal technique). However, remember that your sound guy will make sure you sound good! The audience perceives your sound differently, as they are standing in front of professional PA.
So, do make sure not to push or strain your voice. Instead sing like you always do! When practicing at home, make sure to really pay attention to how things feel! How much air pressure do you use? How do you produce loud and low sounds? Try to really develop muscle memory with regard to pitch, intensity and vowel modifications.
If you get into a situation on stage where you do not hear yourself well, give the audio technician a sign! This is something you should discuss with them before the show! A sign to show him he needs to level up your stage monitors or bring them down.
Relax and be gentle to yourself
This last advice is crucial! No matter how much you might mess up at your first gig (or how smoothly it will go), do not pay too much attention to the outcome! It is what it is !A first gig! You might do well or you might suck, but it is only one gig! There will be plenty of other ones, good and bad ones and it is important to live through both! You only learn by trying over and over, by making mistakes, by succeeding, then messing up again and so forth!
Do not expect too much from yourself with regard to this first live appearance! Most people wouldn´t have the courage to walk up on a stage and bare their soul to strangers by presenting their original songs or cover-songs they love! Remind yourself, that you are a great artist. Someone that writes and performs songs! Delivering these songs in a live setting is a new experience and only one part of your artistry. So, even if things do not go as planned, that does not mean you suck as an artist!
Trust me, a lot of artists you admire started out where you are. Think of Jim Morison who had to stand backwards ad he was too shy to face the crowd!
Whatever you do, however it turns out, it is OK! This is your first gig! How awesome for you to be soing this! Whoever doesn´t honor that, is not worth your music anyways!
Remember that the Song Brewery team is cheering for you!
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