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preparing for a live gig

Preparing for a Live Gig: Things to Consider Before Playing that First Song

Preparing for a live gig is an important part of being a professional musician, you’re about to play your first gig! What do you need to know before the show starts? You’ll want to consider how best to prepare for that first show. If you are not ready, then how will the audience react? This article discusses how best to prepare for a live performance.

Choosing The Right Music Equipment for Live Gigs

When preparing to play music live many musicians will have been practicing their techniques and skills with whatever instrument they play, whether you are a guitarist, singer, bass player, or even a violinist the equipment will be relevant to your instrument.

Firstly, let’s look at a guitarist, a basic setup would include a guitar, an amplifier, and a few cables to create a sound, but playing at a live gig would require much more such as effects, a larger amplifier, and spare equipment. A singer may require a vocal processor to achieve different sounds for songs in a set list and to remain in tune with the rest of the band.

You may play as part of a band or have a solo act or play as part of a duo. Whatever size performance you intend to achieve ensuring you have all the necessary musical equipment will make your gigs much more successful.

Choose the best equipment that you can afford to achieve the sounds you want to create, but always ensure you have spare leads, spare guitar strings, or anything else you think could let you down on stage.

Choosing music equipment for a live gig

Practicing Before A Gig

Before you play your first gig how well can you perform? Have you practiced enough to ensure that the songs are second nature and if not, how much practice time is needed before performing live. It is essential that you are ready to perform in front of a crowd, as the old saying goes practice makes perfect!

If at all possible, perform your set in front of family or friends, and perform it from start to end exactly as if you were performing for people you didn’t know.

Video your practice performance from beginning to end this is important for your preparation.

Later, when you’ve had time to reflect on your performance, look for places where you might improve it so that you appear more professional in front of a crowd.

Preparing Set Lists for a Live Gig

Live music events can vary so it is important to have more than enough songs to choose from in your set lists, for example, your first gig could be in a local pub or club, do some research to try and establish what type of crowd you will be playing in front of, try to play songs that will be relevant to those people.

set lists preparing for a live gig

Depending on the type of music you or your band plays choose venues wisely!

It would not be good to play heavy rock music at a wedding venue, or country and western night.

Start your first spot with a couple of good songs to get the attention of the audience, if you have filler songs that are good but not the best place them into the middle of a setlist, but always end a spot with a really good song to keep the audience engaged.

Always make sure that all the band members have a copy of the set list chosen for each gig you play live so they are prepared for each song going to be played.

Save your most lively songs till the end of the last spot to get your audience dancing, clapping, and cheering, and always have a couple of songs prepared for the audience shouting for more!

Transporting Musical Equipment

Making sure you have a vehicle large enough to transport all your equipment and members of your act to and from a gig is essential.

If you are a solo act it is much easier than transporting equipment for a large band that requires lots of storage space.

It is not cost-efficient for each member of the band to travel to venues separately as this would eat into your profits very quickly.

A small act could use an estate car whereas larger acts may require a van or mini bus to transport equipment to gigs.

Packing all the band gear into a vehicle so that it is safe and secure will require extra items such as flight cases.

Try to pack the equipment into a vehicle so that the items you need first can be unloaded first, this will ensure setting up equipment is more efficient when preparing for a live gig.

transporting musical equipment to a live gig

Arriving At The Venue In Plenty of Time

Most live gigs will have a start time, and it is important to ensure you arrive at the venue in plenty of time so that you can set up your equipment without any undue pressure.

If you are playing as part of a band this may entail setting up drums, amps, and guitars.

Performing Sound Checks Before Playing Live

Sound checks are very important before playing live, every venue will be different as some rooms will dampen your sound where others will amplify it.

One way to think of how your music will sound in a venue is how you would sound if you were singing and playing outside on the street, so imagine this when testing out how loud your equipment should be!

Smaller venues would enable you to perform sound checks yourself using a long instrument cable that will reach the back of a room or a wireless system that allows you to check easily volume levels in different areas of the room.

Larger venues may require that you have somebody at hand to help you do a sound check such as a friend who knows your overall sound balances.

When a room is full of people it can alter your sound as the gig progresses so be prepared to adjust your settings.

A good way to control the sound levels at a live event is to put your instruments and mics through a mixing desk, this will give you control of each sound all from one place.

A friend or colleague would be an advantage, they can monitor your sound whilst playing live and tweak the sounds as you perform if the mixing desk is located at the back of a large venue.

band sound check

Playing That First Song

So, all the hard work has been done you are set up ready to play that first song live in front of an audience, if you feel nervous that is normal.

A good tip is to remember when you practiced in front of your friends or family and to picture them in front of you as you begin, if possible look above the crowds heads so that you don’t make eye contact as that will distract you.

Confidence and interaction with the crowd will develop over time but most of all with the above preparations you should quickly begin to enjoy performing and have great fun playing at your live gigs.


Playing live is a great experience and with the right preparation it can be enjoyable from beginning to end, remember to choose your songs wisely for different venues, transport equipment safely, and set up in plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed.

As you can see preparing for a live gig is essential to ensure things go smoothly, it will also help to calm some of your neves knowing that you prepared correctly. 

Most importantly have confidence in yourself and enjoy playing those first few songs!

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