Gig Tips - Group 1
2. Use giant rubber bands around the cables and loose tools when storing them, they'll last longer. Make big rubber bands out of old inner tubes from a motorcycle or bicycle. Cut one inch cross sections for microphone cables, two inch wide pieces for heavier cables.
3. Give the drummer a pair of ear plugs for his birthday. He'll love you for it. The poor guy sits right between all the amps.
4. Leather belt buckles help prevent scratches on the back of your axe.
5. When you restring your Les Paul, pull the strings gently through the stop tail piece. If you yank them through the holes quickly the ball ends will smack down against the body and mar that pretty flame maple.
6. Neon bar signs and ceiling fans can wreak havoc on your tones. Get a line conditioner and use it as the main source for all the bands 110 volt feed. You'll understand why after you use it in that dumpy bar with lame wiring.
7. Make it a point to use the pickup selector switch more often. Force yourself to use the tones that are unappealing and then do something righteous with them. It will make you a better person.
8. Switching to a heavier gauge string set has cured many a gigging guitarists frustration. If your axe sounds great at home but horrible at gigs, those skinny little strings may be the problem. That adrenalin rush that comes with gigging might also be a factor.
9. Don't assume that you will play your best by setting your axe up like your favorite guitar hero's axe.
10. Open reel recorders are still a good bet for obtaining good quality live recordings on a tight budget. A decent 4-track can still be found at the pawn shop. Use two channels for left and right microphone inputs, and the other two for direct in bass and P.A. Here's an article about how to make a demo from a recording of your next gig...
11. Nylon zip ties are just as valuable as duct tape. Use a zip tie to repair the broken handle on your guitar case. Use them to bundle the cables running across the stage. Endless possibilities.
12. Some pickups keep losing their height adjustment as you play. They unscrew and creep down into the body because every time you hit them with the pick they wobble. Stretch a rubber band around the edge of the pickup and slide it down against the pick guard or mounting ring. The pickup won't creep down anymore. Hint: use a bent paper clip hook to help maneuver the rubber band into position. Thick rubber bands work best and they come in custom colors.
13. Keep your guitar's neck straight. If you change to a heavier gauge string set you'll probably need to tighten the truss rod a bit ( one eighth to one quarter turn only ). Truss rod adjustments sometimes don't settle in until many hours have passed, so be patient and never twist more than a quarter turn at any one time. Sight down the edge of the neck from the end of the body to view the results. Once the neck has achieved straightness check it every month.
14. Bass players-if you play with a pick for the fast licks and with your fingers for the warmth, try using a thumb pick. No more fumbling to grab your pick in the middle of a song. Thumb picks don't interfere with slap or pop techniques either.
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Gig Tips - Group 2
2. The drummer doesn't always need to be located in the middle of the bandstand (just an opinion). We've sometimes solved our acoustics (p.a.) problems in smaller club gigs by moving the drums off to one side.
3. Don't underestimate the power of background vocals. Backup vocals that are well done can improve your bands sound and popularity with just a small amount of effort invested. Simple ooooh's and aaaah's sung in harmony is a good place to start polishing your backing vocal techniques. Once you get the hang of it you can actually start learning some words.
4. Another vocal idea: two singers sharing one microphone helps to emphasize the band members' friendship (or perceived friendship). It LOOKS good. The Beatles did it. Many successful groups do it.
5. Learn some effective dynamics. Practice the art of flowing from low volume to high volume and back to low volume. Fill the quieter passages with acoustic guitar or mandolin or piano or flute. It's an easy way to sound more professional. Practice tempo changes. Sometimes less is more: there are times when one of the guitarists can simply stop playing for one or two measures. This allows the audience focus to shift towards another player or singer and adds a hint of drama to your performance.
6. Don't set your drink on top of your amplifier, or the p.a. cabinets or the bass player's guitar case or next to the bass drum or anywhere! Finish your drink and then make sure that someone in the audience can see you holding an empty longneck. 7. Re-arrange your set lists often and find out how well your songs work at different times during the gigs. Add new songs on a regular basis. Two new songs a month should be easily attainable to most bands. We're talking about good quality songs that demand the band members' steady improvement.
8. Warm up before the gig. Going on stage cold can ruin you for the whole night, and it could destroy the first impression you make upon your audience.
9. Create a "warm up" set list for use as the first set of the gig. Include your most reliable and easy to perform tunes. Playing your easiest GOOD songs for the first set is an effective way to prime the band for the get-down boogie tunes that come later in the night.
10. Learn to make the most of any gig you play. Occasionally the first set will be played to an empty club. This is a good opportunity to try out your newest song for the first time on stage.
11. Often times an audience member will ask if he can "try out" your axe. You'd better learn to deal with this matter early on in your gigging life. "Paying your dues" doesn't require broken guitars or keyboards covered in barf.
12. If your band is serious about having impressive vocals then good stage monitors are a must. Don't scrimp on monitors or the amps to power them. Some people seem to think colored lights are more important than sound quality.
13. No one wants to wait while you change a broken string. Keep a spare guitar on stage at every gig. The cheezier the spare, the better (only if it's in working condition).
14. When you've got fifty songs on your set list you're ready to play a four hour gig. Repeating a song is a no-no.
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Gig Tips - Group 3
Small stage, small gig, small equipment.
Small gig, big amps, amps facing the wall.
Every gig-The vocals must be audible.
2. Still having tuning problems? White plastic nuts. Bad news.
3. Replace or repair that crackling, popping guitar cable before you blow your amp. Clean your pots and switches once or twice a year. Don't over tighten screws against plastic. Don't over tighten ANY screws.
4. Make adjustments to your axe early in the week so the guitar will have time to "settle in" before your gig. Don't change string gauge the same day of the gig, you'll meet with disaster.
5. Break another string on your Strat? Be sure to remove the old ball end stuck inside the bridge casting hole. 6. Need to quickly raise the action of your acoustic? Slice a one eighth inch wide strip from the edge of an old credit card and slip it in under the bridge saddle. Trim the shim to fit loosely, or use a flat toothpick instead. Thin credit cards work best. Will this affect the tone? Yes.
7. We've used several different magnetic pickups for acoustic guitars, and every one of them sounds better when the axe is strung with nickel wound strings. Even the pickups that are optimized for bronze strings sound better with electric guitar strings. Give it a try. Get the correct gauge string set with a wound g, or pick your own custom gauges to match the open tunings you prefer.
8. Finger picks can breathe new life into your finger pickin'. They are a bit awkward at first, but you may grow to like them.
9. When you sing, keep your face in the microphone. Every time you look down at the guitar neck your vocal part drops out of the mix.
10. If a fight breaks out in the audience just keep on playing. It's the traditional thing to do. Besides, your axe could be considered a deadly weapon in a court of law, or it could shield you from flying projectiles.
11. Are your best songs all in the same key? It's a fairly common occurrence. Now you have something new to work on.
12. Even the axe dudes who know better forget to bring spares to the gig. I think it's contagious. Spare strings, tubes, tools, batteries or anything else you might need should be immediately available.
13. Remove the whammy bar and strap before you close the case.
14. Everyone knows that strap locks are wonderful. So why don't you have yours? (Good grief! A vintage Les Paul, no less. And he jumps around like a wild man.) They make a great gift. Send me a pair.
15. While on the subject of gifts, a good stomp box would make almost any electric guitarist happy. Try a harmonizer or octaver or something weird. Avoid distortion pedals unless you know exactly which model your little axe dude or dudette prefers.
16. Happy Holidays!
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Gig Tips - Group 4
2. Do you still play by ear? Real men don't need tabs or staffs. That means you still learn songs by listening closely. Well, listen more closely. Use headphones. That riff you've been struggling to learn is really two guitars.
3. Still breaking strings on your Strat too often? Some Strat and Strat style bridge saddles can shift to the left or right when you change strings, or even with heavy whammy use. Make sure the saddles stay aligned correctly. This tip was sent in by Ranger Karl, thanks mucho: "Also check for burrs and grooves on the saddle and especially on the rim of the through-body hole. Have your repairman take a jewelers file to it or use fine emery paper wrapped around a q-tip stick or small shaft screwdriver."
4. Understand this: You are not required to play all six or seven strings all the time. It (usually) only takes three or four notes to make a chord. Once you get the knack of using only what's needed your SOUND will quickly improve and your speed and comfort level will increase.
5. This is no secret: Pawn shops are a good source of gear at bargain prices. Especially those shops located near military bases. The bad news is that most amps, axes, effects etc. are broken in some way. That's why they're in the pawn shop. The good news is that with some careful analysis you can discover the real damage at the shop. I've gotten good amps for fifty bucks plus the cost of a new fuse, input jack or preamp tube. The Ibanez Artist pictured on our website cost me a little over $100 (The problem? The truss rod had been over tightened and the strings were pulled down against the frets. Took one week to get it straightened out.) Use the fact that it's broken as a bargaining point, but only if you are sure the needed repair is minor. For sure, keep your mouth shut if you know the problem is small. Tell the salesman that your target item needs many dollars worth of repairs and he's lucky you offered twenty bucks for that trashed out old Flying V. If this sounds immoral or dishonest to you, then you have NO business inside a pawn shop. Of course, not all pawn shop personnel are vintage ignorant. But some are.
6. Play a C chord in the first position. Now learn to play barre chords using the C finger positioning. You'll discover this is one secret to making many songs sound right. Again, you don't have to use all six strings. Play a first position C7. Slide it up the neck 'til it becomes an E7. You don't even need to barre. Now you have a very useful blues chord.
7. If you plan on changing to a drop D tuning during a gig, don't use a whammy equipped axe. Ignore this advice and your band mates will hate you.
8. Sure, it's a good idea to smoke a cigarette between songs. *Drink heavily during the gig too. No one notices. Most bars keep a box of rat poison in the back room. Go for it, bro!
9. Two of your band mates do all the setting up, tearing down and hauling of the equipment, but you are the star of the show. Who deserves the extra ten or twenty bucks per night?
10. The drummer and lead guitarist are the only two people who can ever hear themselves on stage (just an opinion). This doesn't necessarily mean they are playing too loud. That's why you NEED a friend in the audience to clue you in about the volume balance between instruments, or better still a good sound man. Don't rely only on your on-stage perspective of the mix when adjusting amp volume. If everything is mixed through the p.a. this shouldn't apply to you, unless the monitor mix is screwed up.
11. Cord reels are the best way to organize your microphone cables and extension cords. Just keep plugging the end of one into the next as you roll 'em up. Surely you already know the value of a good hand truck with bouncy tires. Both are useful tools that can shave minutes off your set up and tear down time.
12. Most bands have set lists. Follow the list...no problem, right? Sometimes it's wise to READ the audience (some musicians would call it PANDER to the audience). Often one band member will emerge as a master of calling the right song at the right time. Don't allow stubbornness, ego, routine or power trips to waste this persons unique ability.
13. Never cease working on your original tunes.
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Gig Tips - Group 5
2. Give your guitar cable some strain relief. Protect the input jack by running the cable over and up between the strap and body. The strap button will then bear most of the load.
3. Joe Cocker has seizures on stage and looks good doing so. Aretha Franklin's eyes roll back in her head, her eyelids flutter and she radiates even MORE spirit and soul. Unfortunately you and I look like goofy dopes when we bliss-out on the music. Wearing sunglasses on stage can: *Hide the terror in your eyes. *Enable you to stare directly at someone without their knowing. *Prevent your seeing the guitar neck, stompbox or microphone when the lights are down. *Make you appear younger and more important than you really are. *Conceal your identity. *Make a fashion statement.
4. Some people simply cannot perform on stage without being surrounded by stacks of paper; sheet music, lyrics, page upon page of mysterious code. They refuse to give up their security blanket. This may be acceptable in funky clubs, but never in a concert situation (unless the music is truly orchestrated). Memorizing your parts is an important part of the game. Get with it.
5. Bad singers and three ways to deal with them. *Teach them to sing. *Forbid them to open their mouths. *Kick them out.
6. If you invite a harmonica player up to sit in on a few tunes and he's using one of the vocal mics, don't forget to turn down the gain on his channel. Nothing can compare to a too-loud harp for causing nosebleeds in the first three rows.
7. Is it just my imagination, or do flat wound strings die before the first song is over?
8. Do your homework! That's the most important task in learning a new song. Then, at the next rehearsal you'll most likely be the only one who plays it right.
9. Lemon oil. Rub it, don't drink it. It's probably a good idea to clean your axe more often than once a year. Especially if you drool and perspire while playing. On the other hand, if you find yourself cleaning it too frequently, you might consider practicing instead. Use a small,dry paint brush (width 1" to 1 1/2") to clean the dirt from between bridge saddles and tuners. Synthetic bristle brushes will scratch paint and plastic, use only soft natural hair bristles. 10. We've run across a number of "fake" fretless bass guitars over the years. They were originally fretted basses that had had the frets either filed down flush with the fretboard (o.k.) or completely removed (bad idea). Although this type axe is adequate, a real fretless would be a better choice. Three common problems: *They required an unusually high amount of neck relief (upward bow) in order to avoid excessive string rattle. *The string slots in the nut had not been re-cut (deeper) to compensate for the missing fret height. *When intonated properly, the dot markers were no longer in the right location.
If you NEED accurate dots you can try marking new dots along the upper edge of the neck using a black felt tipped marker for light colored necks, silver marker for dark necks. The new dots should be located in the space between the original dot and the fret. Felt marker will rub off after a few hours of playing. Use nail polish for a semi permanent slop job. NOTE: We recommend that you DO NOT DO THE DOT JOB. Damage to the finish could result. Expert repair is always the best option. It's our opinion that possibly two out of every ten fake fretless basses are well-done enough to justify the effort invested in the modification.
11. Microphone stands WILL be knocked down by the wind, believe it. Heavy, wide bases are necessary if you're using boom attachments. Some gusts can make amps tumble and cymbals fly. Heads up when your gig is outdoors.
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Gig Tips - Group 6
2. Are the latches on your old guitar case loose as the sax player's morals? How many times will you let your axe plop to the ground before you fix it? You can tie a belt or bungee cord around the case, or be a big spender and buy some 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick weather stripping (depending on how loose the latches are). Run the stripping along the inner edge of the lid where the bottom rim seals against it. Test a few short bits of stripping first for placement and to see if they stick to the hair. If the stripping adhesive doesn't stick well, don't waste your time. If the hinges are also loose you can probably run the foam completely around the inner edge, otherwise just run it along the outer edge. If you make things too tight the case might explode.
3. Fix the broken handle on your guitar case with a plastic zip tie. Most plastic handles break at the pivot points. Drill a 1/8 inch hole through the handle slightly above the hinge pivot. If you don't have a drill then just ream a hole through the soft plastic using a medium-small flat blade screw driver. Now insert a zip tie through the hole, wrap it around the hinge axle and zip it up snug. 4. World's Most Uncomfortable Gig Situations: *Small stage. If you play club gigs you should expect cramped territory to be a regular part of your diet.
*Large stage. A small amp on a big stage looks almost laughable and will probably be taxed beyond its capabilities. If the band is spread out across the entire width, players on oppsite ends of the stage may not be able to hear each other. This is the time to mike all the instruments and pump it out through an excellent p.a. system. When the monitor mix is right you'll be able to hear the other cats.
*Facing a hard wall. Whether the wall is eight feet in front of the band or sixty feet away, you are confronted with a powerful slapback (echo) that becomes more horrible as the volume increases. At its extreme you may find yourself playing in-time with the echo rather than with your bandmates.
*Wrong volume level. Regardless of how much someone raves about your band at the club, when you show up to play at their pool party the first request they make is "turn down". Worse yet, you show up for the gig as an acoustic duo and the party folks were expecting some serious dance music.
*Outdoor gig, playing in direct sunlight during the hot months. Heat stroke is a very real possibility, especially for we anemic looking nightowl-type musicians.
*Outdoor gig, rain and wind. Consider the possibilities.
*Strumming songs around the campfire is great fun, but bugs are attracted to fires. On the up-side, you will have several opportunities to rescue the girls from scorpions and centipedes. The down-side, moths WILL fly into your mouth during the song. You never know what might be crawling up your leg or into the sound hole. Beetles inside your acoustic guitar can cause buzzing, dead or alive.
IMPORTANT Letter to Guitar Chasers:
In your piece about singing around the campfire you refer to insects etc. In another piece on the same topic you refer to insect repellent.
TELL PEOPLE NEVER, NEVER, NEVER - GET INSECT REPELLENT ON YOUR GUITAR - IT MELTS THE FINISH!!!!!
This happened to me at an outdoor singalong. I was playing my brand new Gibson Hummingbird and my wife put repellent on my right forearm which melted the nitro.
5. Someone wants to steal your pay and equipment. Don't place yourself in a vulnerable position (like loading the gear alone, outside the back door of the bar after last call.)
6. Many Stratocaster necks have the truss rod adjusting screw slots located at the front end of the neck (up against the pickguard). There is usually a small indentation in the pickguard that appears to give good access to the adjuster. Don't believe it. Remove the screws from the pickguard, lift it slightly and slide it away from the neck, then make the truss rod adjustment. When replacing the pickguard make sure the wiring falls back into place in the routing or you'll end up with a bulge in the plastic.
7. Don't assume that a particular song is not right for your band ("So what if we don't have a horn section? I'll just crank up the Wah Wah."). Give each tune an honest try, especially if one of your bandmates has already taken the time to learn it. You may discover that your group can pull off the impossible. Pay close attention to the audience reaction, they have the final say.
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Gig Tips - Group 7
2. Save the celebrity invitations for the real celebrities. Don't invite your brother in-law up to sit in for a set and pretend he's someone famous (unless he really is). You may regret the whole scene, and there's nothing proper you can say to your audience as they stampede the Exit.
I've seen a courteous invitation turn into an outright ambush of musicians trying to weasel their way onto the stage. The show is YOURS, not theirs. Your group is getting paid to act professionally. Do it. 3. Jamming Etiquette. This one goes out to each member of every cover-band. Butt Out. Listen to the original tune and then make an honest effort to remain true to the musical blueprint. Here's what I mean:
*The song is "Badge" by Cream. The lead guitarist should play the lead solo, but NOT the short solo intro into the lead. Because the two parts overlap, the pre-solo intro belongs to the rhythm guitarist. There is no way one guitarist can play both parts and do it correctly (like the studio recording). Butt out. Here's another.
*The song is "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones. When I listen to the cd, this is what I hear: During the verse Mick is singing, the drummer is drummin' and the lead player is riffin'. No one else in the band makes a sound until the chorus. I've never heard a cover band do the song correctly. Hmmmmm...... Butt out.
*The song is "Gloria" by Van Morrison and Them. I've heard this song performed so many different ways, I can't recall what the original even sounds like. I find it amazing that bands are still butchering Gloria after more than three decades. The same goes for dozens of other decades-old favorites. Either do it right or forget it. Butt out.
These are just a few time-worn examples of the point I'm trying to convey: Don't modify a song, and then scratch your head in bewilderment as the audience throws rotten tomatos in your direction. Of course if you modify a song and call it your version, the audience will throw beer bottles rather than tomatos. Naturally there are many exceptions to this rule.
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Gig Tips - Group 8
Actually, it is a good thing to learn songs you may dislike. It gives you a new perspective, and some songs are fun to play even if you hate them. Doing so contributes to your being a better musician.
3. While on the subject of songs, let us discuss the sympathy song. Most of you will probably relate:
The drummer sings like an anteater, but he very much wants to sing his favorite Boy George tune. Out of sympathy and goodwill, the band allows his performance routinely. Big mistake. If the song stinks don't put it on stage, no matter how cruel it may seem. Don't be cruel to your audience (first and foremost). Yes, I'm aware that not every song can be a winner. But you should strike the stinkers from the songlist as soon as possible. The saddest part of this whole issue is that the drummer doesn't even know he has a problem.
4. Electric guitarists; you realize of course, that sometimes you should back off the volume a bit and allow the acoustic instruments to shine through? This is especially true for acoustic piano solos.
5. Flexible wooden stages are not good places to jump around on. Drums slide, mike stands fall, amps wobble and much noise occurs.
6. Electric Strings: 12's or larger- You are an Iron Man. 11's- Are best for me. 10's- Are probably the most common nowadays, but I like 9's more than tens. 8's or smaller- Very strange.
7. O.K. So you've got this cool stereo effects processor, and you're still running it mono through your mongo-kong amp. Have you even tried it out in stereo? Look, for less than 150 bucks you can score yourself a couple of ten inch or twelve inch combo amps (used) at the pawn shop or through the classifieds and experience the thrill of wide stereo chorus and echo. Solid state amps are just fine with fx processors, and the sound will be a groove even if the two amps are completely different from each other. Make certain they both work before you buy.
8. How on earth do you people manage to sing with a smooth voice while your arms and legs are flailing around? I can't even hit the stompbox button without my voice faltering.
9. "You really screamed that song out good, dude." "Oh wow dude, you mean you weren't supposed to be screamin'?" "Better turn up your monitor, dude." "Wow dude, you have no monitor?" "Heavy." ....."Dude."
10.How many slow songs per set? That depends on the gig and audience mood. Usually one slow song is all it takes to bore the listeners in a lively dance club. But if your gig is at the Military Wives Gala, two slow songs in a row can get the party hoppin'. As we have recommended before, it is sometimes advantageous to read the audience.
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Gig Tips - Group 9
During my lifetime I have purchased an almost equal number of new and used guitars. With few exceptions, the used instruments have been the more satisfactory experiences. A low cost, medium quality used axe is an excellent platform for learning about replacing worn components, altering tonal characteristics, experimenting with string gauge and bridge adjustments and the inevitable trial and error lessons including stripped screws, cracked plastic and twisted necks. Yes, I want a new guitar too. But I'd rather have two used axes for the same money. Don't interpret this as a recommendation of any sort.
As an experienced guitarist you already have a fairly accurate opinion of what is needed to make your music sound right. Your choice of instruments will be based upon feel and tone more so than appearance, maybe.
As a new player your decision will be based upon your current hero's axe or possibly that purple sparkle paint with glowing skull inlays. This isn't intended to be an insult, just stereotyping.
The feel of a guitar is an area where your individual, unique tastes are most essentially satisfied. You can probably adapt to the feel of any axe, but it is smart to shop for comfort first. Comfort is most critical where the neck is concerned. A comfortable neck is also a forgiving neck, and will demand less attention from you as time passes. The best neck will completely disappear from your thoughts while playing. Just a direct connection from your brain to the speaker. Paradise. Generally, longer scale necks with flatter, wider fretboards are more forgiving. You can get a little sloppy and still sound good. Many double cutaway, solid body, California style axes have these type necks and are probably the most popular electric guitars. Shorter scale necks are more typical on single cutaway, eastern U.S. style electric guitars. These necks provide a silky, light and quick feel but require a more meticulous playing style. Mistakes are easily heard. Neither of these styles of guitar is "better" but one of them is better for you. There are plenty of other neck variations available and any one of them may be your perfect match. The bottom line is that you should try-out several different types and brands of guitars. I feel confident in saying that just one of them will stand out in your mind.
All the molecular pieces of your axe combine to create the tone. You'll still have either single coil pickups or humbucking pickups screwed down into the body. Or both. Generally, single coil pickups are great for clean tones and mild distortion applications. Humbuckers work great when processed, and provide extended sustain and strong mids. Humbuckers are probably less forgiving than single coil pickups, but many variations of both styles exist.
The visual impact projected by your guitar is one of the first vibes an audience considers when sizing you up. But the beauty of an axe is for your benefit first and everyone else's second. Sometimes it takes a while for the real beauty of an instrument to become apparent.
2. on Choosing an Amp
During my lifetime I have purchased an almost equal number of new and used amplifiers. With few exceptions the new amps were the more satisfactory experiences. Used amps often need repairs that you won't become aware of until a most inconvenient time. If you are shopping for a used amp be sure to test everything on the amp. Twice.
3. on Choosing Effects
One cute little stompbox is good. Two cute little stompboxes are better. If that ain't enough effects then get a multi effects processor or one of the new generation amps.
4. on Being a Performer
If you've held a guitar (or other instrument of choice) for more than a minute then you most likely have been sprinkled upon by that sensation of performing. Often accompanied by a smirk and an air of invincibility and pomp, you may even find yourself shaking a leg or doing something more suggestive. Unquestionably, you are a performer. Maybe it happens while showing your pals how to play "Eruption" in the garage, or lazing beneath your favorite tree strumming folk tunes for the pigeons, a performance occurs whenever you perform. I'll bet many of you have even experienced butterflies in the pit of your gut at these odd times. Here enters ambition. Ambition launches you into your musical quest. As with most any quest, being a performer plunges you into a life filled with high adventure... much like the pirates of old. Strut your stuff and take delight in the spoils. For me, the spoils are a 25 minute break between sets at a high paying wedding gig, and a short waiting line at the exquisite buffet. "Dude, I'm going back for seconds."
At some point along the musical journey you'll encounter the moment of truth. As you walk out onto the stage a profound thought interrupts your indulgence in the gratification; "(Gulp) Man, these people are paying to hear us do some good music, and I've got a wedgie that I can't shake out."
Distractions are but one of the negative elements you must deal with during your pursuit of good music. Your success as a performer is determined in part by the ability to quickly deflect or defeat obstacles placed before you. Most of the obstacles with which you'll be confronted will be more difficult to overcome than a wedgie. Learning to ignore distractions will greatly enhance your musical progress. This applies whether on stage, in rehearsal, or in your room.
Because rip-offs, wannabe's and saboteurs exist at all levels of the food chain, it pays to maintain a keen sense of self preservation. If you're lucky you will never have to deal with anything worse than a bass player dropping a beat or a lead singer who is normally a touch flat. Most of us are not that lucky. As serious performers we are often required to be witty, charming and competent, all the while maintaining a subtle state of alert and caution.
Competence is the one factor over which you have complete control. How well you perform depends entirely upon your willingness to practice with dedication and to re-assess your strengths and weaknesses often. It's that simple.
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Gig Tips - Group 10
1. Here's Neil MacKinnon's solution to the "invisible fret marker on stage" problem. Electrical tape! I'd love to have some real inlays that look just like this. He also suggests using a light dusting of talcum powder on your hand to increase the slippery factor of the neck. I would caution against using powder in combination with string lubricant. You could end up with stucco coated strings. Thanks for the tips, Neil.
2. Bass players are, in my opinion, the unsung heros of music. Bass may be the single most important instrument in a band. More so than with any other instrument it can change the mood of a song in an instant without being an imposing presence (imposing is optional). Bass players can change their riff significantly from the norm and still sound "correct". I guess the beauty of playing bass is in the freedom it affords one to experiment during a gig, with potentially fewer negative consequences than other instruments. It's easy to jam-out without stepping on anyone's notes. You can also enjoy the lazy moments; just lay down the basic progression and leave it at that. Playing bass; much fun.
3. Jamming a song you've never heard (while on stage). Of course it always happens just after your squid factor has peaked to a new high; the previous two songs found your voice cracking and your tongue lodged between the b string and bubinga fretboard. The pressure is on and you must deliver. But how? **Find the chord progression first. Spy the other guitarists hands. If you're good at reading hands you might catch the whole progression early on in the song. You should at least be able to zero in on one or two chords. **Oh no! The other guitarist is playing riffs. Now what? Listen to the bass. The bass almost always lays down the cleanest blueprint of the song. If you can duplicate the bass line then you are 90% where it's at. **But I am the bass! O.K., you must search for your root note up high on the neck, but quietly. When searching for a groove note, do so in a musical way and add a little class to your fumbling. Don't get loud until you've got it together. It should be comforting to know that the majority of songs which exist in popular music today can be covered if you know a dozen or so chord progressions. **If you are still lost, don't succumb to the pressure. Either keep searching in an unobtrusive way, or offer up a confident grin and clap your hands to the beat. At that point you should begin listening to the drummer (actually, the bass player should hook up to the bass drum as quickly as possible). **As a last resort you can squirm off to the side of the stage and hope you went unnoticed.
4. Being the house band is an imaginary badge of achievment in some players eyes. At best it's a double edged sword. On the one hand, claiming to be the house band is a powerful brag; on the other, it seems to induce a lack of inspiration and a resignation to routine that can destroy a band. A house band gig may or may not be the best thing that ever happens to you. Short term house band gigs are cool (3 months or less), but your more restless bandmates may die of boredom somewhere around the third week.
5. Do you have another voice hiding inside? There is no rule that forces you to sing today the way you sang yesterday. You know that enthusiastic James Brown imitation you do in the car on your way to work? Or maybe it's Billy Gibbons, Cher or Sting. Have you ever sung it for your bandmates? Of course not. Well, take it seriously for a couple of weeks and see what you can create with it. New voices are similar to acting. You must overcome the awkwardness or embarrasment of becoming a different character. For sure, a new voice will make family and friends think you've finally gone to your special place, but keep a chin up and forge ahead.
6. String gauge revisited. *If they feel good at home... they are too light for gigs. *If your fingers ache or blister and bleed, you are squeezing too hard... switch to a heavier gauge. This sounds contradictory, but it works in many cases. The one big exception is a lead player doing numerous extreme bends. In this case, lighter may be better (but I'll never believe it). Easier on the fingers, but they'll always be out of tune. Thinner strings do slice through skin more easily, like a sharper blade, but that slicing ability seems to affect only some of us. Most working guitarists I know use 10's or 11's, although all string gauges have their diehard enthusiasts. *If it's too difficult to play with medium gauge strings either the action or nut are too high, or the neck is bowed upwards beyond normal. *Heavier strings will feel wrong at first, but give it a few days... you'll probably re-adjust and grow to love them. Keep a close eye on your guitar after a change of string gauge. You don't want a pretzel neck. Tremolo systems; the bridge will pull up and top out (adjust it or add a spring).
7. Famous Last Words: "Thank you, thank you. Wow, you folks are really hot tonight! We'd like to slow things down a bit now with this tune by...."
8. I had an ****** guitar for a few years, equipped with a double locking tremolo system, that stayed in tune better than any stop tail piece equipped guitar I have ever played. Come to think of it, it stayed in tune better than any guitar I've ever played. How can this be?
9. There is a fine line between schmoozing an audience and tempting fate. Seldom should an audience member be participating in on-stage activities.
Gig Tips - Group 11
2. Little Footswitches. We all love the little critters. A kink in the cable can make them writhe around on the floor like a snared snake. When the time comes to activate the button with a macho stomp, the tiny box is three feet away... resting on its side. "Hey dude, I really liked the tippy-toe dance you did goin' into your guitar solo. That was hot!" I've seen a number of guitarists attach the switches to a nice, stable block of wood. You can't throw the switch into the back of your amp anymore for storage (a blessing in disguise), but it will stay in place on the floor. Duct taping the box to the floor works also, but eventually the gooey residue from the tape will migrate to the strings.
3. Sissy Fingers. You're not the only one. When we fail to practice often enough the callouses disappear and nothing remains but soft, delicate tissue between the string and your finger bone. Even if you have he-man fingers, they can be tortured by dry winter weather.
Here are a couple of ideas (NOT recommendations) gleaned from two of my pals.
*When Tom's fingertip splits open, he fastens the split closed with ***er glue, then coats most of the fingertip with same (allowed to dry before touching string!). I have never tried it myself, but from what I could see, it really worked. I'm almost certain I saw smoke wafting off his fingers afterwards. There is a product "New Skin" which better suits the situation and is safer than su*** glue. It is available from the makers of Germoline; our thanks to Guitarglen for this info. Glen also points out that Stevie Ray used glue on his fingers. *Ron has a more unique and immediate problem. After losing two of his fretting fingertips in an industrial accident, there was no flesh left covering the bone. He now covers his fingertips with the fingertips from a rubber "cleaning glove" or "household glove" (removed from the glove; about one inch in length), inverted so the felt lining is on the outside against the strings. I have tried this trick and it is a realistic option. A little awkward, but not bad. The rubber fingertips are usable for more than one gig although they gradually lose their slipperiness as the felt is worn away from playing.
4. Eliminate the Variables. That's what the above ideas do... the variable being soft skin and the eliminator being the plastic fingertip. Same thing goes for fingerpicks, flatpicks and slides; they all create a reliable mechanical activation of the strings as opposed to an inconsistent, fleshy thud. Fingernails work well until they break. Fake plastic nails? Be sure to get a shade that compliments your eye color. 5. Logically, if you are a guitarist whom doesn't sing you should team up with a singer who shares your tastes in music. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Even if it seems you'll never find someone to sing your favorites, never cease learning those tunes. That's a part of from where your unique style comes. Keep in mind that compatible potential bandmates can pop up in the strangest of places at the oddest times.
6. Most of us carry around a bag of songs that we perform exceptionally well. Some of us carry those same songs (ammo) around for decades. We know 'em by heart and rev them up at the jams whenever the opportunity arises. Seldom do we consider going back and re learning these gems, even if our performance is riddled with errors. A new project has just been heaped upon your shoulders.
7. Standing vs. Sitting. Sitting during a performance gives you a valid excuse for being visually unexciting. This doesn't apply to Flamenco players or others who traditionally sit during their performances. Standing while playing increases the difficulty factor by ten to twenty percent, but that range diminishes as you become more accustomed to wearing an axe. Sitting affords better accuracy. Standing provides an always available opportunity to strike a pose for the audience.
8. Leaning Pickups. More specifically; leaning single coil pickups. You people that possess an axe equipped with these things know exactly what I'm saying. They look crummy and probably reduce the quality of your tones to some degree. At the root of the problem lies the tiny height adjusting screws at both ends of the pickup... the screw head isn't large enough to counter the lopsided tension of the adjuster springs (located on the underside of the pickguard). I suspect this is one of the reasons some manufacturers replaced the springs with short pieces of surgical tubing. The pickups will usually straighten up, tones will improve, it's a cheap and easy fix (although each pickup screw requires its own exact length of tube). The rubber tubing will deteriorate over time, replacement will be necessary every couple of years.
9. Boom stands are best for vocal mics, they keep the shaft away from the neck. Cheap boom stands are designed to sag automatically during your most important vocal parts.
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Gig Tips - Group 12
2. When I said "the bass player should hook up to the bass drum as quickly as possible"; what I meant was "both instruments should be attacking the beat in unison." The sonic power generated by this doubling-up becomes a force that dancers find irresistible. We encourage the drummer and bass player to carry on with their experimental dynamic interplay, however, repeating a groovy move too often during a gig can quickly reduce its thrill factor. The thunder machine is one of the most effective and easily tapped sources of dynamics in the group and also a fun and generally safe realm for improvisation during the gig.
3. Spankmon's Poisons: *Don't forget to gently push the tubes back into place after the bumpy drive to the club. *Don't forget to check the polarity before glomming your lips onto the microphone. *Don't perplex your bandmates by changing your vocal part without their prior knowledge. *Don't lose the beat or you'll confuse them. *Don't showboat by shouting nonsense during your bandmate's solo; that's sabotage (but some well placed hip jive-chatter is a good thing). *Don't expect to remain friends with the drummer after turning up your amp another three digits. *Don't burn through all your best songs before the crowd arrives. *Don't jump upon the tables or roll around on the floor unless you've had some practice at these antics; guitar straps know how to detach themselves. *Don't become disoriented by stage fright; project an air of self confidence even if you have to fake it. *Don't shout vulgarities into the mic unless it's appropriate for the venue. *Don't step on the cables. *Don't ram the headstock into the amp, cymbals, mic, wall, flautists ribs or any other place previously rammed. *Don't leave the gig without your pay. *Don't fall asleep at the wheel. *Don't leave your axe in the car overnight. *Don't let them try to convince you its alright when you know it ain't.
4. Moods are contagious. A cheerful band can perk up an audience even when playing songs which are less than good, while impeccable music performed by a bunch of sour faced grumps will leave the audience uncertain as to whether they should applaud or move on to the next club down the street. The audience needs to see that the band loves what they are playing, and when they sense the band's conviction and enthusiasm, they will believe that the performance is heartfelt and real. Sure, there are plenty of scowling, pouting bands who have a huge following, and if this is your preferred style then go for it, but it seems that opting to project glee is an easy way to stack the odds in your favor. If you've put in a full day's work prior to the gig, fatigue will almost certainly surface at some point during the night making it difficult to conjure up a cheery attitude. Fake it if you must.
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Gig Tips - Group 13
2. Reciprocating. I prefer to play in a band where equality rules, each member gets an equal portion of the set list devoted to his or her favorite songs. You know what I mean; my favorite songs are just as good as your favorite songs. Oh, by the way, you'll have to learn the verses because I don't want to be the lead vocalist. I promise to return the favor. Admittedly, this is probably the slow road to success. The majority of successful bands are those which are dominated by one or two exceptionally talented people, with a single leader having the final say in the important decisions. I may not like it that way, but that's what works most often. 3. I had every reason to be apprehensive. Talk about butterflies. I mean, here we were, five middle-class marshmallows playing in an outlaw biker bar on the bad'ass side of town. The few popular bands in the neighborhood were playin' stuff like ZZ Top, Doobies, Hendrix... you know, biker stuff. We were gettin' down on tunes by Linda Rondstadt, Paul Simon, Crosby Stills and Nash... you know, sweet sappy non-biker stuff. Soft rock. Was I just being paranoid? Moureen stopped short of calling me a sissy; that's where the conversation was going. Because of her abundance of self confidence, the rest of us decided she could sing most of the first set. It was a good choice, she was dynamite on the first two tunes and the crowd seemed thirty percent less hostile as a result. Still, the pucker factor was well above 8. Tom did a charming rendetion of Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon) that actually drew a few flirty giggles from two of the hookers at the table over in the corner, next to the fireplace. I don't know what they had in mind, but they were watching him like he was a plate of steaming roast beef with grilled onions. Though the mood was getting lighter, my stomach was only half settled. Larry finished off the set with his first song of the night, a sledge hammer slide version of Back Door Man. The crowd was starting to move in a biker sort of way. Problem was, we still had an hour's worth of soft tunes to play at some point during the night. No choice. We hadn't been together long enough to learn more than four sets. Quite possibly we shouldn't have taken this gig. Sounded like a good idea last week.
It seemed prudent to start the second set with something hot. Naturally, we quickly launched into our short Rolling Stones medley, a sort of tribute to our fellow senior citizens. In my experience, Stones' tunes never fail. Tumblin' Dice seemed to re-ignite the crowd's modest level of enthusiasm, then Larry's slide notched the adrenalin up another degree. Ruben finished off the tribute with Jumpin' Jack Flash and a cool, quick drum solo. The remainder of the second set we just tried to stay loose and played mostly rockers stolen from the fourth set's list. The crowd dug it although the level of enthusiasm was less than boisterous. We were hanging in there by the skin of our teeth. The third set was going to have to be the soft hour. For some reason the butterflies returned. We opened the third set with Long Time Gone (CSN) that seemed to put the crowd in a cool, jazzy sort of mood. Maybe soft rock is gonna work this set, odd as it sounds. With a resignation to our demise, we moved on to the mush fully expecting to be assaulted in some awful way. Out comes the acoustic guitar; all the other instruments are holstered. What's this? Crosby, Stills and Nash again? Helplessly Hoping? One instrument and sweet vocals? The tragic end is near. You know what happened? Before the first verse was over the crowd became silent, then began to join in the singing. Even a few of the dirty, giant bikers were grunting out noises similar to the lyrics. Here we were, five middle-class marshmallows among a gathering of thugs and bandits, all of us singing a song in an totally illogical environment. All of us on the verge of weeping because of one beautiful song. I'm being honest when I say all of us.
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Gig Tips - Group 14
2. Finesse. Oh yes. Delicate accuracy, powerful dynamics, subtle dynamics. It's your artistic side at its highest intensity. Finesse happens at home. Finesse disappears on stage, often replaced by ham-fisted string banging. There was a time when I felt I was the only person on earth who lost the ability to apply those dynamics on stage, those dynamics to which I had devoted so much time and practice at home. Then I began listening to some live recordings of popular artists. Man, these cats are having the same problem! They can't duplicate the studio recording on stage. The dynamics and nuances that are so important on the cd have been replaced on the live version with blaring guitar or synth solo, and the lead singer doesn't even try to hit the high notes. Bummer. Thank goodness the next song is an excellent duplicate of the original. The point is; there's a big difference between on-stage and anywhere else. Every stage has its own evil characteristics that you must fight and defeat early on during the gig. Even when the sound man is providing a good mix to the audience and your monitor, you may not feel the dynamics in the way you need to feel them. Fact is, finesse and dynamics don't come easy, for some bands they don't come at all. I suppose for those of us whom are determined to be dynamic, with enough time and experience the stage goblins finally cease to be an issue . Me? I'm determined to remain a ham-fisted string banger. 3. First Song of the Night. I probably should say first set of the night because it's a whole different animal from the other sets. Usually the first set is played to an audience who have been mellowing for a couple of hours after punching out their time cards. Do you think they want to hear a screaming guitar solo as their introduction to your band? Maybe some of them do, and that is one of the things your band needs to make itself aware of before you launch. Generally, the audience for the first set will depart before the set is over regardless of what you play... send them away happy and not too overly-stimulated. I've found that the first set serves as a good warm up period for the band if it is peppy, vocally oriented and non-strenuous to the band members' brains and frail, musician-type bodies (especially larynx).
If the first set comes at later hours, or if you can sense the audiences' need for instant boogie, give 'em the boogie in a big way. Be aware that hitting it hard without first warming up may cause you pain and humiliation. It seems to me that good vocal pieces are the quickest way to befriend any audience. Vocals convey more readily the band members' perceived personalities, which the audience target for close scrutiny.
4. Following Your Heart vs. Common Sense. I'm still thinking over this one. If you have an opinion on the subject, email it on to us.
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Gig Tips - Group 15
Or how about the times a band chastises the audience for not applauding??? Gosh, I thought a band was supposed to earn the audience's appreciation rather than demand it. My point is; when you play, you are playing for every human who can hear you. If you cop a belligerent attitude because they don't respond the way you think they should, then you are the jerk, not them. Maybe you should practice more frequently.
2. How much value do you place on your equipment? Is it insured? Would you like to leave your stuff at the club after the gig and come back to pick it up tomorrow afternoon? The club owner doesn't mind at all, and I'm really tired tonight. Tomorrow comes: "Hey, does anybody here know where my amp head went?" "I don't remember those holes in the P.A. speakers... looks like someone was throwing darts at them." And the club owner says; "No one has gone near your equipment, now hurry up and get that crap out of my club."
3. Finding The Perfect Tone. I've spent much of my musical lifetime searching for the killer tones that my favorite artists achieve with such apparent ease. There were a few times when I actually believed I had finally found those sounds. Funny thing is, my only real reward in locating the treasure chest was the personal satisfaction in knowing I had finally done it. The audience never seemed to notice any difference, or even care. I continued having good gigs and bad gigs. My point is this; when you become an enthusiast, it feels very important to have only the best and hottest equipment. This feeling occurs not just in music, but in any endeavor you might pursue. Truth be told, it's not really that important. It seems, for me, the ultimate result in being an enthusiast and chasing the elusive dream was spending way too many dollars on equipment and being generally dissatisfied with the outcome for far too many years. I'm aware that you true professionals out there will have nothing on stage but your personal maximum extreme setup. For the majority of us, our time would best be spent learning to be better players. Audiences are not overly concerned with perfect tones. However, audiences do not like bad tones (usually consisting of excessive treble or volume or both). 4. If you are a male singer with a high voice, please move to Texas right now. You'll never be short of gigs. Justin Timberlake where are you, and do you like Zeppelin tunes?
5. Wanna know one of the hottest setups I've ever used? It was a cheap Stella acoustic guitar in an open C tuning with a Bill Lawrence magnetic pickup stuck in the hole, pushing a Roland JC50 1x12 amp. You would not believe the chingamax sounds coming from that little plywood axe. It's such a gas mowing down an audience with cheap, unorthodox stuff.
6. When I'm on stage I follow one dominant rule: Regardless which of my bandmates happens to be the center of attention at any given moment, it is my job to help make them look and sound their best. I take my role as a supporting musician dead seriously. (or is it deadly serious? deadly seriously?) I only wish they felt the same way towards me. I need all the help I can get.
7. There has oft been mentioned the concept of listening closely and playing to fill in the holes. Not all holes require filling. Silence, in the proper context, is also an important musical groove. There are few things as annoying as a too busy song. Holes add drama. Holes add silence. Silence is golden. Shut up!
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Gig Tips - Group 16
Naturally, there are also negative aspects to effects. They take us another step away from the animal and towards the technical. I mean, who needs a second lead guitarist when the dual lead solo can be done with one player and an intelligent harmonizer? Who needs to switch guitars when there is an acoustic six or twelve string just a tap dance away? Who needs Billy Gibbons when there is a patch called ZZ Thang? I know I've made my point clear; we all need to see and hear the real thing at least once in a while. I truly miss seeing two lead guitarists trading licks across the stage. I love to watch performers swap axes and then struggle for the first few measures afterwards. When I listen to ZZ Top, I wanna hear a real overdriven tube amp, not some cheezy imitation.
Most of us would acknowledge that an effects processor can give some good instant gratification, but the real value of a pedal comes with time and experience. We are now able to fine tune our sound for each song and then hit it right on the nose every night thereafter. Keep in mind that delicate tweaking for that special sound requires patience and a bit of self dicipline. Nothing sounds worse than too much of an effect. Or that same effect all night long. On the other hand, a little chorus or flange (among others) can wash through many tunes during the night without being an annoyance. Notice the words "a little".
If you are determined to be a purist without a pedal, you have my most sincere admiration of your dedication to the minimalist style. Just be sure to go on stage in some clean underwear.
2. Spankmon's Poisons. **Don't rush the song. Playing songs too fast is probably the single most common mistake bands make. Even the pro's do it. It's got something to do with the excitement of the moment; the adrenalin factor. If you count down the intro verbally (one, two, three, four), take a tip from Lawrence Welk (seriously). Slow down the tempo slightly by adding the word "and". Slow it down even more by adding the words "and a". Like this (a one, and a two, and a three, etc.). How do you know if you're rushing the tempo? The singer can't seem to get the words out of his mouth on time. The lead guitarist finishes his solo five beats too late. The band completes four hours worth of tunes before the second set is over. When played at the correct tempo, most songs FEEL too slow on stage. This is an illusion caused by the excitement of the moment. **Don't play the song too slow; that's worse than rushing it. I truly doubt it will ever happen to you. **Don't wear a puzzled look on your face, even if you are completely lost. Audiences feel more loved when you exhibit self confidence. **Don't throw your guitar on the floor. Your axe did not make you play badly. It deserves no punishment. If you disagree, slap it once or twice to teach it a lesson. **Don't ingore the ugly ones. They also paid to get in and are equally deserving of your flirtatious eyes and sensual gyrations. **Don't wear shades if you're looking good tonight. Do wear shades if you look like hell tonight. There should always be at least one band member whose eyes are exposed. If all of you are looking like hell, go get some exercise. **Don't forget to turn off the volume on your acoustic guitar when you place it back on its stand. If you don't, it will initiate feedback during the next song and the band will become a slapstick comedy in its attempts to locate the howl. **Don't forget to show some respect for the help. Tip the people who serve your drinks, especially if your drinks are free (yes there are still free drinks for the band... sometimes). **Don't keep changing the band's name after bad gigs. Sooner or later they'll get wise to your scam. **Don't argue on stage. That's probably the single most stupid thing a band could do. Save it for the break, you bunch of sissies.
3. Plan for the broken string. Broken strings happen to the lead guitarist during his lead solo. The first course of action is for the rhythm guitarist to take over the lead break. If that is not possible, your options are to either finish the song minus the lead player or zip right into the band's break song. Every band has a break song, right? The one thing you do not do is stop the song abruptly. Since a broken string is unlikely to destroy an entire gig, it's safe to replace the string then repeat the tune to show the audience how it was supposed to be.... or just move on with the show and forget about it. It is often the small things that identify your band as truly professional. Things like how easily you recover from broken strings, dropped beats or collapsing drum stools.
"Liquid Moons" by Tina Coggins at TC Design
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