gig crowd reach

When is your band ready to gig?

This blog is specially dedicated to “gig virgins”. Those musicians who have never done a gig and are just getting a band together for the first time.

Are you wondering When is your band ready to gig?

For young musicians, who have never gigged it can be a major question and a major issue. When I first started playing guitar and formed a band, we rehearsed for a year before we did our first gig. There were three main reasons for this

  1. We couldn’t actually play when we formed the band
  2. We had a massive turnover of members as we tried to get a line up together
  3. We didn’t have any songs. We wanted to play and write original material

Several members left because “it wasn’t going anywhere”. Others left because they were musically better than us. When eventually we had the required number of songs and felt we were ready, the lead singer and co writer of the band walked out. After much persuasion, I convinced him to “at least do one gig and see how it goes”. He agreed and came back. In hindsight, this was a big mistake. As I wanted a low key start to our gigging career, I hired a church hall and got a couple of other local bands to support us.

On the night, the singer never turned up. It was in the days before mobile phones. He simply disappeared. He had been my best friend from the age of four and we’d written all of the songs together. It was a shock. As it was, the rest of the band split the singing between us and it was “alright on the night”. It steeled the rest of us and we played as a four piece, without a singer for two years. I wouldn’t recommend it though.

As I now run a studio and have thousands of young musicians a year coming through, I’ve been asked the question hundreds of time “Do you think we are ready?”. I will always give bands who ask a listen and some advice. I have some simple rules which I tell them to consider.

  1. Do you have enough songs. If you are going to do a 30 minute show, you need to have at least 10 three minute songs of a standard that anyone would want to listen to. Most pop songs are 3/4 minutes. For a gig, every single one of these should have a proper beginning and end. A basic error some bands make is they gig when they don’t know how to start and finish songs. You must have enough songs to fill the time with a couple of spares.
  2. Is every member of the band really up for it. If any member isn’t, they may well let you down. It is stressful. they have to be 100% reliable. If they start making excuses and saying they can’t play on that date, every time you suggest an option, they probably don’t want to gig. Some people are simply bedroom players. Massively talented but not cut out for public performance. The band isn’t ready if you have someone who doesn’t want to do it ! Ask everyone to be honest.
  3. What sort of gig is it? Now this may seem like a silly question, but I know more than one band that has had a nightmare first gig because they chose the wrong sort of event to play. The classic one was a death metal band who got roped into playing their grannies 75th Birthday party. play a gig to people who will be receptive.
  4. Test the water first. If you think you are ready, get a few mates along to a rehearsal (just 3-4) and play the set,. See what they think.

If you are playing covers, it is easier to know if you are ready. So long as you’ve got enough songs which sound like the original to fill the time and you can deliver them properly, you are ready. If it is originals, it is a bit harder to know. I would always recommend getting a few live recordings and seeing if any mates who are into the genre like it. The biggest pitfall new bands make is playing songs which are overly complicated. Most people at a gig want to jump around and have fun. Songs that continually stop and start with numerous tempo changes are heard to mosh to!  And the best advice of all. Doing a gig is a big moment for all of us. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get nervous. Don’t be tempted to drink. It will ruin your playing. If you like a drink, get a case of beer for the after show party !

There are quite a few articles on the web about this subject – check them out. Here are a couple of the best and most helpful…

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