This is a post I found on Echoes, Disc Makers blog, about how to add some punch to your live shows. As a mix engineer I think about this topic quite a bit. How do you keep things fresh while playing the same material over and over? For those of you who aren’t professional mixers we will listen to the same song from 5 – 12 hours in a row to set the proper EQ and levels that will make the song great. That’s our job and we live for it.
As a touring musician, however, you play the same set of songs for months at a time. How do you stay interested in the material and make sure your audience doesn’t think that you’re bored of playing it? Well, Cheryl Engelhardt explains a few tips below so that you and your audience stay interested. Enjoy!
Freshen Up Your Live Show – 5 Ways To Spruce Up Your Live Music Performance
There are lots of reasons to want to freshen up your live show. Maybe you hit a point where you are performing songs off your new-but-not-that-new record and feel like the show is getting stagnant – not just for you but for your fans. Or maybe you feel like you haven’t found the sweet spot of what your live show should be. Perhaps you want to experiment a bit but don’t know how.
The good news is that there are some easy ways to shift your performance, from “ever-so-slightly” to “total overhaul,” and you can gauge the results immediately – i.e. people start coming out to hear your live music, stay the whole set, buy more CDs, have great comments afterwards, YOU feel great, you feel like you hit a stride, etc.
Here are 5 ideas and performance tips to help you freshen up your live music performances without losing yourself in the process. Take one on, or all five and really shake things up. (And add some of your own in the comments section!)
1. Go crazy with cover songs
No matter what cover song you do, as long as you do it authentically as you, you really can’t go wrong. To me, cover songs are about stretching yourself, giving the unexpected, and being playful with your audience. I’ve covered Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (and folks, for obvious reasons, it doesn’t get much different than that) as well as Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Maker.”
“…Branching out into the amazing history of delicious hits is a fun musical expedition.”
2. Change arrangements
I can’t tell you how bored I get when I do solo tours. Me and my piano, every night. On the other hand, I LOVE playing with my band (electric guitar, drums, bass), but I can sometimes overdo putting on the same show over and over. So, recently, I switched it up and did a show at Rockwood Music Hall in New York and had my guitarist play acoustic guitar and brought in Kristine Kruta, a cello player who played on my record.
3. Involve your audience more
I’m talking before, during, and after the show. While promoting on Facebook, Twitter, fan emails, ask people what songs they want to hear. Ask them what merch they’d like to see at the next show. Have a contest to see who can share the event page the most. Just before you start playing, go up to a fan and ask them to take on passing around your mailing list mid-set. Tell them you’d be grateful and honored and offer a free CD.
4. Switch up your lineup
This doesn’t mean permanently fire your band and hire new people with no reason other than you’re spring cleaning. It means making friends with some other musicians, doing a few gigs with them to see if anything sparks. Maybe these gigs are acoustic, or duets, or something other than your normal schtick. If you always play with the same people, it’s great to see what other musicians can do with your music. You may get ideas to bring back to your original players, and you may also forge a new relationship and want to add them to your regular lineup.
5. Change venues
Tired of the coffee house scene? The loud bar scene? The background-music restaurant, ski resort, hotel bar scene? Whatever it is you usually play, look into something totally different. Ask a friend to host a rooftop party. Call the booker for a bigger rock club you’ve been wanting to play and ask for an early slot six months from now, or start pounding the pavement to get an opening slot for a band you’d like to tour with.
“If you’re always playing loud venues, do a stripped-down show at a coffee shop to showcase your songwriting.”
You can read the rest of Cheryl’s article over at Echoes, Disk Makers blog for up and coming musicians.