Ten Years? Really?

As of mid-April, I will have been playing music in front of a crowd for ten years. I've learned a lot about what I should do and what I shouldn't.

Below is a list of some things I have observed, and some things I think I have figured out over time. If you are a musician who's never played in front of people before, and would like some input on the subject, then maybe this will help you:

  • Try to get over the “stage fright” thing as soon as you can. It's easy, once you finally realize that the people you're playing for all want you to play well and sound good. The more fun you are having, the more fun they will have. Really.
  • Talk to the crowd from time to time, but not too often.
  • Equipment will break, and usually at the worst possible time. So have a spare for everything you can.
  • Set up 20 minutes earlier than you normally would if it's your first time at a particular place to allow for problems (see previous bullet). After a few times there, they will cut you some slack if you have to start late. But if you start late on your first gig, it'll probably also be your last one there.
  • I've found that I can get about ten hours out of a fresh set of electric guitar strings. Fifteen hours for an acoustic.  After that, it's a dice roll as to whether I break the B string first or the D string during the gig (Usually it'll be the B).  So guess what?  I always change my strings after each third gig.  Your results may vary; I am pretty hard on my guitars.
  • Dress right. Don't wear scruffy, wrinkled clothing unless you are OK with always playing crappy gigs.  Luckily, I'm married to a woman who is a world-class ironer and knows how to dress me!
  • The more in a hurry you are to pack up and get home, the more likely it will be that some guy wants to ask you to give an in-depth technical analysis of how your pedalboard is wired, or whether you think Eddie Van Halen was better than Steve Vai. The smart thing is to talk to him and not worry about getting out of there a little later than you had wanted. It's a public relations thing. Even if you really do have somewhere to go, you should give the guy a few minutes if you can.
  • Record your audio. It not only helps you to play better when you can hear your mistakes, it is a huge advantage in getting your overall mix where you want it. Record the audio direct (not via a mic) right before it hits the PA. It really helps. And save the best stuff. Someday, when you're finished with your musical career, however short it was, you will be glad you had done it.

Wow, ten years. In this Post-Covid era, I have slowed down from around four gigs a week to one or two on average. I guess this means that I'm now semi-retired. But even at this slower rate, I know it won't last forever. Someday, I will have to pack up my gear for the last time. Hopefully I won't realize it at that particular moment, and it'll just turn out that there isn't going to be a “next gig”.

I've always said that if I can't play my guitar standing up, then it's time to quit. I don't think that'll be anytime soon.  The good news is that after something close to 2000 gigs, I really believe I have the horsepower to do another 2000.  We will see. If it has to end before then, I will still feel good about the whole experience.