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Starting Out Gigging

How to start playing live music, from rehearsals to your first gig.

Last updated: 26 November 2020

Getting your first gigs

Your first gigs should be low-key. They should allow you to try out various songs, sets and running orders, to perfect your performance and settle on a basic stage set that you feel comfortable with and that will maintain an audience’s attention.

Use these early days’ experiences as time to get ‘gig-fit’. Try to establish relationships with the other bands – it’s possible you will be bumping into each other again on the circuit.

The most important consideration on accepting any engagement is: will you be able to get a good crowd in? If you have any doubts as to whether your fans will come and see you on a particular night, at a certain venue, then you should decide whether or not to do the gig.

It pays to concentrate on one city, big town, or area for your gigging.

If you find your band at the bottom of the bill with no sound check, this is just part of the journey. Use these early days’ experiences as time to get 'gig-fit'. Preparation for your gigs should always include some necessary administrative basics. Establish how much you are going to be paid, together with how and when you will receive the money. 

Kelly Wood, Live Performance Official

Rehearsals

Before you book your first rehearsal, discuss the aspirations and level of commitment of the musicians in your band. Are you all prepared to hit the road for a month or more if you get the offer? Problems often arise when half the band wants to go professional and the others do not.

Take care to remember that excessive sound levels can do untold harm to your hearing and will not help in assessing what you really sound like. Rehearsing acoustically at first can be really helpful in the early stages of songwriting. Before you book your first rehearsal, discuss the aspirations and level of commitment of the musicians in your band. Are you all prepared to hit the road for a month or more if you get the offer? Problems often arise when half the band wants to go professional and the others do not.

Selecting a studio

Convenience and accessibility are key factors when deciding on a regular studio. If you can, try to book into the same rehearsal room every time you rehearse; if you can’t, try to set up in the same configuration so you get used to the sound of the band in different environments. Decide on one room that suits your needs and budget, book it on a weekly basis and rehearse there exclusively. Check with your Regional Office as there could be discounts in place for Musicians’ Union members.

Sound

Excessive sound levels can do untold harm to hearing, not to mention creating friction between musicians, so it is vital to keep amps and PA systems at a comfortable level. Rehearsing acoustically at first can be really helpful in the early stages of songwriting.

Time

One factor destined to spark conflict at rehearsals is musicians arriving late, so punctuality is paramount. Write a set-list and play through it as if it were a gig, placing all their equipment as they would on the night. Timing the rehearsal is also key, he says, to ensure the set is well-timed and evenly-paced, and to gauge exactly how long it takes for the guitarist to retune, the keyboard player to reprogram or the vocalist to talk to the audience. Recording rehearsals is useful, as is writing down arrangements on paper or a whiteboard that can be followed and learned by the band.

Rehearsal rooms

One of the best gauges of a good rehearsal space is the speed at which your band develops. Rehearsal rooms with a great sound, good facilities, a pleasing atmosphere and convenient location will really help your band flourish.

Sound engineers

Touring with a sound engineer who knows your sound and your set is a good idea. Consider carefully whether your sound engineer is to be a partner in the band and if the desk and PA are his or hers. Do they have adequate PLI and equipment insurance?

Transport

Be aware when you hire a van or minibus for gigs and tours that your insurance is adequate for such work. Plus, if you are paying a driver, ensure they are named on the relevant insurance document at the point of hiring.