What do musicians do to get ready for a live show?
There is so much that goes into even a short one-hour show that most people never see. I’ve created a small check list of the blood and sweat that goes into prepping for each performance:
- Practice each day– In my case, this includes practicing guitar and singing for at least 30 minutes or more a day (it easily turns into much longer than that).
- Sound check– You know all the equipment we lug back and forth to and from shows? Yeah, work goes into that and it doesn’t just involve lifting. This happens days before the show ever takes place. If something is wrong with the sound equipment or a new extension chord needs to be purchased, it has to be taken care of before the show. Once the musician is sitting on the stool or standing in front of the crowd, it’s too late to say “whoops.”
- Check the venue– If the musician has never been to the venue before, they have to scope out where to put their sound equipment, items for sale, etc. etc.
- Staying in touch with the manager of the venue– The time of the event may change or heaven forbid the singer catches Laryngitis or VCD (see my blog post on VCD here) before the show. This also includes establishing how much the musician will be paid for the show and any restrictions the venue might need to impose on the musician.
- Promote, promote, promoooooote– If the musician is organized, they might send out their own newsletters or coordinate with the venue or other local businesses to put up flyers and spread the word about the show. Facebook events are now a big thing and creating invitations and sending out invites (whether with the venue manager, the music manager, or on one’s own) takes more time than you might think.
- Look human– As in it takes musicians a while to prep their appearance for a show. If the musician has a trademark such as a mohawk or wears something insane like 8 inch heels, guess what? It takes time.
- Load, load, and load again– Yes, now I’m talking about moving sound equipment. This takes time and muscles.
- Set up time– It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to hours to set up for a show, depending upon the size of the venue. I consider part of the set up time to be checking in with the venue manager too. Sometimes things change at the last minute and we don’t want to be caught setting up sound equipment in the wrong place.
- Warm ups- I’m talking vocals and tuning guitars the day of the event. It gets more intense the day of the show than the week before.
- Tricks of the trade– Singers often watch their diet several days before– or at least the day of– a show. Drinking certain drinks like warm non-caffeinated tea or water helps to prepare the vocal chords. Exercise ad breathing exercises are also considered a big plus for vocalists. Some choose to save their voices by talking as little as possible the day of a long show. Likewise, guitarists might choose to do the same to ensure that their fingers don’t tire before the event. Guitarists might choose to paint clear gel on the tips of their fingers to protect against damage for long shows. When I first began playing guitar, I had to learn wrist and hand exercises to reduce the strain on my hands and wrists when I play. This is another thing that goes into preparing for the event.
The prep work for a single show could take as much time as 20 hours (roughly a part time job). For. One. Show. So why do we do it? Because we love what we do. Please think of that before shouting over the musician the next time you encounter a live performance.