Can’t get in a band? Don’t want to be in a band? Sick to death of your band mates? Time to perform after taking guitar lessons for some time?
There are a hundred and one reasons for going it alone as a guitarist but to some, it may appear as daunting as standing up at a wedding without a speech and being expected to be hilariously funny. Not fun.
However, it can also be the making of you and you can incorporate it into your sound and image to your advantage.
I remember seeing KT Tunstall many years ago when she performed with a band. I mean they were good you know but when she finally decided to go solo, it brought a certain x-factor to her act that made it stand out from the other bands.
There are some tricks that you can employ that will make your life as a solo performer easier and reduce the likelihood of breaking out in a cold, nervous sweat.
First and foremost is that old boy scout saying “be prepared”. This is true when performing with any band but is essential when you’re on your own and have to take care of everything from getting to the gig to setting up equipment.
Things are going to go wrong – they always do – but the more prepared you are the more of a cool head you can keep when you try to fix them.
Here are a few things to be prepared for:
* Take an extension lead and socket board – You don’t know where the sockets are going to be in the venue and you don’t know how many there are. Make sure you have enough to cover all your equipment.
* Take a spare instrument cable – If yours fails then you can’t borrow the bass player’s spare one.
* Remember your tuner – Again you can’t borrow your bandmate’s tuner.
* Take spare strings and plectrums
* Make sure you know what you’re going to play – Make a list of your songs so that you don’t forget any of them
* Take a marker pen and paper to write down your song list or adapt it once you’re at the venue.
* Don’t forget your guitar strap – Not every venue will have something you can sit on if that’s what you usually do.
* Don’t forget your guitar capo if you use one.
The more prepared you can be, the less stress you’re going to have. Who wants stress when they’re going to be nervous anyway?
Just because there’s only one of you, it doesn’t mean you have to replace the decibels of the rest of the band. It’s far more poignant and captivating for an audience to listen to someone who is confident enough not to have to blow their ears off with an over-loud guitar. If you’re any good, they’ll make a point of listening.
Too many times have I turned up in good time only to be told that I have to go on sooner than expected. It causes stress as you have to rush your setup. Getting there an hour or so early means you can have plenty of time to set up, do your sound check and make friends with the barman.
Often you’ll be playing along with other bands and performers. Sometimes they might see their sound check as more worthy than yours because they have more musicians. Don’t let them bully you into not getting a sound check. Your sound is equally as important as theirs so try to make friends with the sound guy and get your fair time checking everything.
It’s a lot easier to have a direct rapport with your audience if you’re playing solo. Since you’re the only one to look at, then it’s essential that you respond by looking back at people and maintaining eye contact.
Try to imagine that your lyrics are a story that you’re telling them and you want them to understand the storyline.
Since it’s only you up there, you don’t have a band mate to bounce off or connect with so you really have no choice but to retain eye contact with your audience. This will also help you overcome stage fright during a performance.
As mentioned above, it’s a great idea to make friends with the bar man and the sound man. After that, try to talk to the other bands that are playing. It’s no fun sitting in the corner on your own and you won’t feel comfortable with it. A good trick is to ask them if you can be added to their email list.
Try and see it as a development of your communication skills. And don’t talk to your audience either. Be prepared with either a sales pitch as you take your CD around to sell or give out free button badges. It’s a good conversation starter. Ask people if they’d like to join your email list.
Portable PA System (Fender Passport)
Boss RC-20XL Loop Station
Vox DA 5 battery amp (good for harmonica or bluesy vocals)
Playing on your own can be scary but it’s also very rewarding. You have complete control over the performance which in itself is liberating. People will admire the sovereignty of anyone who performs alone and you get all the credit! Besides, you’ll never have to rely on the rest of that no-good band to turn up on time. It’s the ultimate in self-expression and responsibility and in the end a truly rewarding way to go.
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