So we’ll dance and we’ll sing
and we’ll see how it all goes down
Drop my Pennies | Brother Fox
Once you have written a few songs, you need to give them a test run.
The most important reason for doing this is so that you can gauge if you are writing music that you are happy with.
You can guarantee 100% that your relatives will love your music no matter what it sounds like. But when you have strangers come up and comment about how much they love the lyrics, or the music, then you know you are on the right track. But more importantly, when you perform your own music, and it feels really good, then you can be extremely proud of what you have done.
Where to perform?
The best place to try out your songs is at an open mic night or at a songwriters meet.
An open mic night is where a venue allows you to write your name down and perform your own music or cover songs to the venue’s patrons. It’s unpaid and often produces a wide variety of music styles and levels of musical ability. It is a great place to meet new songwriters or find musicians that you could work with in the future.
Check your local area events calendar to see what might be out there.
If you cannot find an open mic venue, you will need to go further afield and see if you can perform as a support for another artist at their gig. This is often a little harder to do, but it doesn’t hurt to ask other musicians if there is an opportunity to perform.
If you can’t find a performer that will let you sing a few of your songs. Then the other big opportunity is to record your songs on your phone and post them to Facebook or to Youtube.
Before you perform the first time, there are few tips that will make your life easier and make you feel more comfortable.
The First things to do is practice. The second most important tip is to practice. The third is to practice even more. The fourth most important tip is to make sure your guitar is in tune.
Practice, practice, practice and tune your guitar. If you are playing an electric keyboard, then make sure the transpose is turned off otherwise you may be singing in a key that is impossible for you.
If you are really nervous about doing this in front of people, which is very common, then find a friend that can play the music for you so that you only have to concentrate on the words and melody.
Make your first time as easy as possible by knowing the lyrics of by heart and learning the chords without having to use a chord chart or lyrics sheet.
Most important, have fun.
Something that people often forget when they perform for the first time, is to ask someone to take a video of the performance. You may never want to look at it again, as you will probably not like the sound of your voice or you will find 101 different things wrong with your performance, but it is worth watching once to give you ideas on improving your songs and improving your performance.
If you are playing guitar, bring a guitar. Always have a guitar tuner with as well. There is nothing worse than a great song with an out of tune guitar. Bring a spare guitar lead even though it is often provided for open mic events.
If you do need to have your music or lyrics with you, bring a music stand incase you need somewhere to put the music where you can see it.
I am assuming that you are playing at an open mic night where the sound system is provided. This will save you the cost of expensive equipment and the knowledge of how to use the equipment.
One final important item that many guitarist forget is that their guitar may have a battery in it. Always keep a spare battery with the guitar just incase the battery goes flat. A quick battery change can save the show for you.
How you appear on stage and what you say and do makes an incredible difference in how your songs can come across to the audience.
Basic things like dressing appropriately, talking clearly and knowing your songs will all make it easier. But the most critical part of stage presence is confidence. People can usually tell if you are nervous and this can translate to an awkward reaction to your music.
Tip number one is to not make excuses. You don’t need to tell people this is your first time performing a song, or make excuses for anything. This can be very difficult if you are nervous, which is very common. But don’t make it harder by making the audience feel sorry for you.
Knowing your music is one of the easiest ways to feel more confident.
Remember too that many people will not have heard your original music, so they don’t have anything to compare the song too. If you make a mistake, often only you will know.
The second most important tip is to make sure the instruments are in tune. Not everyone will know why the music sounds wrong, but they will know it is not right. Make it easy for everyone and make sure everything is tuned before you start.
While you are performing, look at people, or look just over their heads if it makes you nervous looking straight at them. Eye contact is very important when talking and if the venue is small, eye contact is still very important to communication.
Just as important is the communication between you and other musicians. IT makes people feel more at ease when they see that the musicians are all comfortable.
Finally, you must become emotionally involved in the song. If it is happy, energetic song and you stand dead still with a blank look on your face, then no one will believe what you are singing. If it is an emotional song with a deep meaning and you sing it with a smile on your face then the audience will be even more confused.
When you have finished performing, you must ask for feedback. This is not just for your ego, although it always helps for people to tell you how good you are.
This is about you becoming better at songwriting and performing. As people what you can do better next time and don’t be offended by their response.
In the same way, watch your video back and analyse the good, the bad and the ugly and see how you can improve.
If everyone just tells you that you were great then you don’t have anything to work on to improve. Take each opportunity to learn, grow, improve and become better at your craft.
Just a little note on the word ‘Feedback’. In sound production terms, feedback is where the speakers produce that loud squeal that makes your ears hurt. Don;t get this mixed up with ‘foldback’ which is the speakers that point back at you so you can hear what you are doing. If you ask the sound engineer to turn up feedback, they will give you a strange look. Turn up the foldback and you will be able to hear yourself better.
Have you done the following?
- Find out where there is an open mic night
- Or ask other regular local artists if you can perform a song at one of their gigs
- Practice, practice, practice, tune
- Make sure you have someone there to record the performance on video
- Make sure you have someone there to take photos
- Make sure you bring ten friends that will bring a plus one.