As musicians, most of us are naturally a little quirky and our pre-show rituals/warm ups can be anywhere from mild to extreme. Some swear by playing scales over and over for hours on end, soaking your hands in warm water, only walking backwards to the stage (I seriously used to have a drummer that did this). But, outside of the superstitious and weird pre-gig rituals – there are some very simple/ quick things you can do to make sure you kick off your gig with ease.
Warming up: So why do you need to warm up? I often tease Brian and Travis on the podcast or around the office – When asked about warming up – I reply: “Does a lion stretch before he takes down a gazelle?” While I might be hilarious….. The truth is – I do have my own warm up routine. The more I have played out professionally – the less strenuous my warm up routine has become. I used to warm up my hands with scales and finger stretches for an hour plus before the show, do some last second studying/ cramming of songs right before the gig – trying to pick up on those subtle nuances of the song that I might have missed.
The truth is – while hand stretches before the gig is a great idea – over stretching, or playing too much before the show can lead to hand fatigue later in the show. You definitely don’t want your finger/ hand strength to fail you in those last big string bends of your final song of the night. Today, I just make a good habit of doing some light finger stretching (maybe 5-10 minutes tops) right before a gig – just to make sure the old digits are good to go.
Know your stuff: Okay, time for real talk here – studying/ cramming for a song right before a gig is just no good. If you don’t know the song before the gig – you probably won’t know it during the gig. So – study/ practice harder at home. Practice makes perfect, perfect builds confidence – and confidence allows you to give the best performance you can give at your gig.
Tuning and Levels: This should be rule number one with any set up – but TUNE YOUR GUITAR!
I can’t stress it enough! TUNE TUNE TUNE! There is nothing more that fellow band mates and audience members hate more than an out of tune guitar. Your audience might not always be able to tell a run of the mill pedal from a high dollar boutique pedal – but most all of them can point out an out of tune guitar right off the bat. I usually check my tuning as soon as soon as I take my guitars our of the case, after I get my amp and pedal settings dialed in, and right before my band takes the stage. On pedal/ amps settings – make sure your levels are all set on your pedals and amp(s) before your first song. Usually – a quick sound check will help with this – but I’ve been in some bars were patrons are eating and club owners do not want to disturb them before show time. I keep a small log of settings for my gear at each place I play – so when I come back to that venue I can quickly adjust my settings.
So whatever your pre-gig ritual is – make sure, you at least – loosen those fingers a little, know the material, and makes sure your guitar is in tune! The rest of the gig you just have to make sure the drummer keeps decent time, the bass player shows up, and the lead singer stays semi-sober enough. What are some pre-gig rituals you do before a show?