Live Performance

Every young band brings too much stuff to their first gigs. Leave that second 100 Watt amp, the genuine Hammond organ w full-size Leslie cabinet, the complex guitar rig with 8 pedals and two rack units, the roto toms, the 3 extra guitars, and the drum cage complete w/ gong, etc at the rehearsal space until you’re headlining with roadies to help. Small, tight rigs don’t anger the sound man, fit on stage, are easy to set up and break down quickly (opener sets, festival gigs, anyone?), and work more reliably. Simple Works.

In a jam for a guitar strap? Find a guitar cable (hopefully a bad one), loop one end on itself, use duct tape to tape the loop shut then wrap more tape around the loop, cut a ¾ inch slit in the tape inside the loop for the front guitar peg and attach the strap, then w/ the strap attached measure the distance you’ll need to the back peg (put the strap around you and hold the guitar up so you get the right measurement), loop the cable, duct tape it, make the slit for the back peg, have a beer, play the gig!

Duct tape will eat the finish off your guitar. This includes duct tape fixes to guitar stands, so be careful when you repair/replace the foam on your guitar stand with duct tape! Gorilla tape will rip the top off your guitar but other than that it is the BOMB! You could fix a battleship with this stuff.

Spare the world your two chord jam. We've heard it before, we’re not as high as you are, and it’s more fun for you to play than for us to hear.

When you’re loading into a restaurant to play the night gig, think about the venue’s current customers. Don’t bang into an unnecessarily loud sound check. Ignore the impulse to warm up at full volume. Look at it from the owner’s perspective. They need those customers, so do your best not to drive them off! Lightly test everything, then when you’re all ready play bits of a few songs to test different things out. Then stop! This goes for every gig…when everything is working and the monitors sound good. Stop playing! Some guys sit and noodle on and on like everyone wants to hear them practice, playing to the house music…It’s annoying. Also, you’re at the venue to make fans and friends and contacts. Being annoying seldom helps your band succeed.

Redundancy, redundancy…wait for it…redundancy. Have a spare tuner, power supply, spare cables, spare tubes for your amp, extra strings, snare head, kick drum head, have a spare for anything mega crucial and simple to fix. Know what you’re going to do when you break a string, break a snare head, when your expensive guitar rig goes down, when your kick drum pedal breaks, when your keyboard samples erase themselves 10 min before the show, etc. I've seen all these and many more last minute catastrophes happen many times. Your gear takes a lot of abuse when you move it (throw it in the back of a van, spill Jagermeister on it, etc.) and eventually you will find yourself in front of a packed house with something broken and will need to have a plan!

Your boutique ribbon mic is great…for the studio. Now for the live gig go buy a Shure Sm-57 (for amps, snares, etc), Sm-58 (for vocals), or a Shure 87A (for a great vocal sound). Sound men will know what to expect and you can drop these in a beer, dry them out and use them at the next gig. In the case of a certain unfortunate Sm58, I write from personal experience.

Drums may sound better when you hit them harder than an Alabama trailer park drunk kicks his dog, but if you can’t hear the singer, no one cares how good your snare sounds.

Be careful if a sound engineer offers to record your show while he’s mixing. They might offer to do this for a little extra money, but be careful, recording and mixing are two separate jobs! Some guys have it really worked out so they can do both, but most don’t. Many of them will spend your whole set in headphone world focusing on the recording while the sound in the room is so terrible the audience walks away. The show in the room should be more important than the show in the headphones. Also, if this engineer hasn't ever heard you before (or only rarely), is the recording going to be very good? Will he know where to push solos, what the best vocal effects to apply are, the strengths and weaknesses of the band, etc? Here’s another idea; work a deal out with the club and engineer. Come in and record live in the afternoon Sunday-Tues when no one is in the club. You can get the right balances, get the right effects you want, and do multiple takes if necessary. This is a really good way to get a cheap recording to sell at shows, to learn from, and the best possible pre-production for your studio album.

I love and play my Martin 12 and Larrivee’ 12 strings as my primary instruments and would not trade them for the world, but rest assured, if you play a 12 string you’ll spend half your time tuning it and the other half playing it out of tune. This is the” Aaron Thompson Rule”.

Tune Again! Nothing makes a great part sound worse than being out of tune!

Don’t use cheap ass cables. They really do rob your tone and will break on you constantly. Probably at your most important gig...I call this the “Radio Shack Cable Rule”.

Did your 9 volt battery leads pull out from the plastic part with the snap connectors that attach to the battery? In a pinch, strip the wire back about 1/8” and snap it between the plastic connector connectors and the battery connectors.