Ells’ Helpful Guide To Music Things Part 4: Surviving Your First Open Mic

Ok, this post is a bit of a re-hash of a piece I did for the 4014 Radio show back in the day, but seeing as it’s nearly time for our annual 4014 Project Carnival Open Mic, I thought it would be good to go over again.

So, it’s your first Open Mic – that’s great! I hope you’re excited, but I expect that you’re pretty nervous too. Here’s my tips for making the most of your Open Mic experience:

  • Preparation – Practice, practice and then practice some more. Remember that you will be nervous on the night, and that this might make your performance a little less than perfect. The better you know your songs or pieces the better you’ll feel.

    Open Mics are a great opportunity to improve your stage presence and performance skills – the best way to get more confident on stage is to get on stage. They generally have a supportive and encouraging atmosphere too.

  • DO IT – If it’s your first time performing in front of a crowd, it takes guts to actually get up on the stage. Every musician out there will tell you that it’s worth it though.
  • Make Yourself known – There will probably be a slightly stressed looking somebody around with a list: that’s the person you need. Let them know that you want to play. I would try to get there early(ish – you don’t want to hang around tooo long), so that you’re guaranteed a place.
  • Are we sitting comfortably? – Position yourself so that you can comfortably sing into the mic. If you  need to look at the neck of your guitar or the keys of the piano (or whatever instrument you play), move the mic/mic stand so you can do so without singing ‘off mic’. Moving things about is not a crime – remember, the sound person wants you to sound your best, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

    As a side note, it’s a very good idea to practice with a mic if you can – it’ll help you get a good idea of the best placement for you.
  • Annnd relax….– Before you start your performance, take a deep breath and a second to try to relax. Your adrenaline level will probably be quite high, so it’s easy to rush in and play too fast.
  • Look at the audience… – Looking at the audience will make you seem more confident, regardless of how you’re feeling inside. If that freaks you out or puts you off, try looking over the audience. You don’t have to do it all the time, but if you don’t look up at all, you won’t make as strong a connection with your listeners.
  • Ignore the Chatter – There probably will be some people in the audience who talk. If you can, just try to ignore them. There are people who are listening, and they want you to do well.
  • Don’t worry if you make a mistake – It’s live music – nobody expects it to be perfect. All musicians have messed up on stage. If you can’t keep going, try to pick up from near where you left off. And if you’re bold and make a joke of it, then I bet you’ll get an even bigger cheer at the end of the song.
  • And finally – enjoy!Performing music in front of people is nerve-wracking, yes. But it’s also a great feeling, and once you start it’s hard to stop!

I hope you enjoy your first Open Mic experience – but even if things don’t go quite to plan, remember that it takes time to build your confidence and the more you get up on stage and play, the easier it will become.

The nerves may never leave you completely (I certainly still get nervous, and I’ve been at this for years now), but it’s all part of the experience, and the buzz after a great performance is pretty immense.

Why not share your experiences in the comments? I love hearing from you – and maybe I’ll even see a few of you at an Open Mic near by.

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Filed under Music, Techniques, Tips and Advice for Musicians

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