Whether you’re a solo artist or a member of a 7-piece ska outfit, it’s paramount to show up to your live performances confident and prepared. Some artists even adopt a superstitious approach that helps them get ready before important shows, like wearing certain clothes or listening to a favorite album before hitting the stage. Decide for yourself if the superstitious route works for you or not, but adopting these five more conventional pre-show rituals will help you prepare for your concerts.
Get your voice(s) warmed up with vocal exercises
This might sound like common sense if you’re an experienced artist, but lots of musicians fail to do this. Your vocal performance will end up suffering quite a bit during shows if you don’t warm up beforehand, and no, talking a lot before the show doesn’t count. A basic vocal warmup routine doesn’t take long to do and will make a huge difference for your live performances. This is something you and your band should do before every show whether it requires you running out to your van for a few minutes or commandeering the green room.
Keep the drinking to a minimum
Most venues have bars, and drinking is a part of the live show experience for many artists and fans. It’s a common experience for musicians to drink too much before a show and perform poorly on stage at some point in their careers. This is understandable if you’re young and lacking experience, but it’s an excuse that doesn’t hold water for most musicians. People are spending their time and money to see you perform, and a music venue has placed their confidence in you with the expectation that you’ll put on a good show. You’ll have plenty of time to drink after the show if that’s your thing. Keeping your drinking to a minimum is an easy, commonsense pre-show ritual that will keep music venues, your fans, and bandmates happy.
Make a plan for what you’ll talk about on stage
It’s safe to assume there are countless musicians out there who are 100% confident in their musical ability on stage but struck with absolute terror when it comes to talking during shows. If this sounds like you, one of the best pre-show habits you can adopt is to create talking points. These include knowing the major points of what you want to say such as announcements, calls to action like asking people to check out your merch booth, and the names of the artists you’re performing with (it’s always courteous to mention and thank the other artists you’re playing with at shows). Figuring out all of this before a show and not during will save you stress and worry when it comes time to talk on stage. If stage banter isn’t something that comes naturally to you, make a plan.
Get a lay of the land of the sound situation if there’s no line check beforehand
Most developing artists don’t get sound checks before their shows. You’ll usually do a rapid line check once you’re set up and then it’s off to the races. If you’re playing with other musicians and your setup is technically challenging, don’t wait until the last minute to deal with sound issues. Before your set, ideally weeks or months before online via email with the venue staff, scope out the mixing board, monitors, mics, and other sound gear to know what exactly you’re in for during your show. To play your best, you need every confidence that things are going to work like you need them to on stage. Knowing exactly what you’re in for from a technical sound engineering perspective is crucial.
Sometimes you can do everything right as an artist and still feel nervous before a show, and that’s perfectly normal. For musicians in this position, meditating for ten or even five minutes is a great way to calm nerves and steady the mind. You can do this in your car, the venue’s green room, or even a quiet place outside the venue. All you need is your breath and a timer, which you probably already have on your phone. Meditation is a stellar pre-show ritual to adopt.
There’s so much you have no control over during your shows. But by embracing these five easy pre-show habits, you can do a lot to ensure things run as smoothly as possible on stage.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.