4 Tips on Performing Your Best

So I went to an Aimee Mann concert the other night. Sad to say, I had no idea who she was before going. I was actually a volunteer usher at the venue she was playing. I signed up to work her show because she’s a female guitarist. That alone peaked my interest. All in all, she’s wonderful. She has a comfortable mix of rock and folk. I guess that would put her in the Indie Rock genre? Her voice is like a quiet storm. She doesn’t belt loudly, but she sings in a way that resonates to the core. She’s low and high all rolled up in one. In the past I’ve never really enjoyed concerts. I know it’s ironic since I’m a musician and all. However, this concert was different. There wasn’t a single second I was bored. I guess I learned this about myself - that I do enjoy it, I’m just very selective!

So here are 4 Performing Tips I took away from the concert:

Capitalize on your strengths and don’t try to be something you’re not.

I noticed that neither Aimee Mann nor her opening act had a drummer. But they did bring either a symbol or an egg or a tambourine, heck they even clapped their hands from time to time. Even without a drummer they had some form of percussion. I point this out because they used what they had and they were proud of it. And it worked very well with their sets. They didn’t try to lavish the audience trying to be something they’re not. They were simple yet effective. They were very comfortable and they kept the focus on their voices and their instruments – the things they’re good at.

Transitions between songs don’t have to be perfect.

When I’m putting together a set, I always try to put songs together that make some sort of sense, that tell a story and that start off and/or end with the same or similar chords. I always try to minimize unnecessary down time and go right into the next song. While that’s good, it doesn’t always have to be like that. The songs can actually be completely different in key or feel or in topic as long as you keep the audience engaged while transitioning. Aimee had several songs that require a different guitar tuning. Some folks might solve this issue by bringing two guitars and having a guy in the back cue up one guitar for you while you’re playing your song on another, and when you get done with that song, the guy brings you the second guitar that he’s already conveniently tuned for you. Then you can just go into the next song with no problem. Well, Aimee only had one guitar and she probably doesn’t have that nice guy in the back. If she does have the guy, he may not know how to tune a guitar anyway. So she ended up having to tune her one guitar through her entire set. But while she tuned her guitar in between songs, she talked to the audience, she talked to her band, she even pointed out sometimes how hard a time she has tuning the darn guitar and why. Although, she did have a nifty little machine that tells her quickly what the tuning should be by the way. She kept talking the whole way through so, it really wasn’t uncomfortable. Also, there was one segment of her set where she played “Broadway Musical” type songs. She introduced this segment by saying that if she were to do a musical, what would the storyline be and how the next couple of songs would play into that story. At the beginning of each song, she talked about what the characters are doing at the moment and how they feel. That segment had absolutely nothing to do with the previous songs but she linked them together by taking the audience with her on some weird Broadway Musical journey. The audience ate it up like candy. The moral of the story is: Find a way to keep the audience engaged while transitioning between songs. It just makes the experience that much better and memorable.

This brings me to my next two points, which is covered in the Part II of this article!