Golden Rules For Playing Your First Gig

playing your first music gig

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You’ve been jamming in your best friend’s basement for last few months – but now it’s time to take to the stage.

Playing your first gig can be a nerve-wracking experience. It gets easier afterwards as you become more comfortable playing in front of people, but that first gig is always a dive in the deep end.

As with anything in life, preparation is key. Here are the main things to plan before playing your first venue.

Get Geared Up

Some venues will provide equipment such as microphones and amps – others won’t. Always check what the venue has already to save you lugging up excess equipment.

Tuners can be useful for keeping all your instruments in tune throughout. Electric guitars can be unpredictable instruments, so make sure all your leads are working and that pickups aren’t dodgy.

There are lots of types of electric guitars to pick from online that may be worth perusing through if you feel yours isn’t trustworthy for a gig. Bringing a spare guitar is also advised in case your strings break midway through the set (you may want to bring spare cables too).

Fixing up your wardrobe should be your last priority. A useful piece of advice – wear a watch! Not many venues have clocks in plain view because they hope their patrons lose track of time. No bar wants their paying members to think, “well, it’s getting late, time to head home!”

If the venue hasn’t got clocks, you’ll want to know how long left you’ve got to perform…without yelling to the bartender.

Come Up With a Set List

Decide an order for the songs you’re going to play throughout the night.

Starting and ending on your best tracks is advised so that you get them hooked from the beginning and end on a high note. Have a copy of the set list just in case the nerves causes you to forget what the next song is.

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Practice enough and your set list should become ingrained in your memory.

Plan the Time Between Songs

The time between songs can often be the most awkward on your first gig. You may need to set up effects or switch up instruments for the next song.

If you’re the frontman, it will be your job to interact with the crowd during these parts – feel free to ad lib if you can. If you’re worried you may babble on through nerves, plan what you’re going to say and keep it succinct.

Decide who is going to start each song.

preparing for your first music gig

Determining the simple things in advance, like who will start into each song, will help you feel comfortable at your first music gig

Will the drummer count everyone in? Or will someone start the track off alone with other joining in.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you practice your set, the more confident you’ll be on the night. Once you can play each song without a hitch, try practicing your stage presence.

You can even try rehearsing in front of family and friends first.

Stick to a Configuration

You’ll most likely practice in one configuration, with each member in a certain place.

Keep to this on the night, otherwise you may get thrown off guard. Feel free to check out the venue beforehand so that you know your configuration will work (if you’ve got a few members, make sure that it’s big enough too!).

Don’t clutter your mind with too much to think of in each moment. Your main job is to put on a kick ass show, and if you are so worried about the in between moments and you neglect the whole performing part, you’ll be sorry at the end of the night.

Just remember, the more you prepare in advance the more natural all of this becomes which will help you put your best out there for the audience to consume.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. Michael G Pearson says:

    I’ve actually done this…For real.

  2. Michael G Pearson says:

    Michael G Pearson
    Honolulu, Hawaii