Thursday, April 4, 2019

Why (And How) To Practice In Gig Conditions | Music Think Tank

Today I’m going to share with you a pretty major secret of great guitar practice (or any instrumental/vocal practice really). As you may have guessed from the title, it’s to practice in gig conditions!

The Equipment

Your equipment should be set up as closely to how it would be if you were onstage. And I mean that both physically (i.e. How it is positioned in relation to you/the room) and technically (i.e. sequence of pedals, amp settings etc.)

We all understand the importance of making sure the actual music itself, the material is like second nature to us by the time we hit the stage, but we underestimate the importance of the equipment being as well-known to us. 

In the heat of the moment, having to shuffle across the stage to a poorly-positioned pedal, or not being able to reach your amp, or not knowing where a piece of equipment is, how to use it properly, or why it might be malfunctioning -these are all things that can only detract from your performance and confidence. Your equipment is your friend, but you have to keep it that way!

Song/Set Structure

To be professional, you should be preparing for a gig by playing the songs you’re going to play, start-to-finish, in the order (or ‘setlist’) that they’ll be in on the night. This might sound a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it.

Again, it’s about making all the non-expressive elements of a gig natural and well-rehearsed so you can focus on your playing and performance. This is your chance to make sure you know where to find your cues for section changes, so you’re not onstage with an inner monologue that says “Is the bridgethis time ornext time?”

And one more point on this, in relation to song structure: Play your songs all the way through! If you stop when they’re nearly finished, when there’s ‘only a repeated chorus left’ or when you make a mistake, then simply put, that’s what you’ll get good at doing. See it through!

Physical Conditions

It’s the same simple principle at work here. At the gig will you be standing, or sitting? What kind of clothes will you be wearing? Are you likely to sweating? Do you need to be wearing glasses? Does your hair get in your way? Whatever the answers, deal with them now -in practice!

If these things are problems in practice, then firstly, you can’t expect them not to be problems at a gig, and secondly, that gig is not the time to be learning how to fix these problems on the fly. Again, this might sound like kind of dry, serious advice, but if you deal with it now, you can focus fully on playing your best during the gig, with all your energy going into your playing, not worry!

Prepare for Problems

If itcan go wrong, it will go wrong. It never ceases to amaze me how a delay pedal can somehow stop working just from sitting in the back of your car on the way to the gig, how 3 jack cables work one day and the next day only 1 seems to work, or how you can pack spare capos, picks, tuners and strings that then just vanish.

I’m not saying throw all your picks away, break 2 of your strings and throw a pint of beer onto your amp before you practice. What I am saying is to learn to be adaptable, so you don’t have these situations hanging over you as roadblocking situations to befeared. 

If you break a string, or perhaps when you’re changing your strings, test yourself -How would you play the last song in your set minus that string? Can you play your guitar solos with your fingers if you drop a pick mid-song or if they all justhappen to do what picks do (randomly disappear).

As with all the above tips, the idea here is that if you know you’re adaptable, comfortable and confident, you can leave worry at the door and focus on playing the gig, which after all, is why you’re there!

Billy is the Community Specialist for, the #1 Online Guitar Lessons website. 


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