20 Tips for Gigging Guitarists

  1. Show up on time. Guitarists are irritating enough already. Late ones are unbearable.
  2. Know the material. You might think you ‘smoothed over’ that clam…you didn’t. When in doubt, don’t play.
  3. Mind your volume. Playing softly is no fun, but if you can’t hear the rest of the band, you’re too loud.
  4. Less than 5% of most songs is a guitar solo.
  5. Re-read #4
  6. Use the least amount of distortion you are comfy with. Everything you play will be easier to hear.
  7. When the sound guy mics the dead-center of your speaker, wait till he leaves and move it close to the edge.
  8. Be nice to the sound crew. They can make your life MUCH more miserable than you can make theirs.
  9. Re-read #4 again.
  10. In the studio, play half of what you ‘can’ play. Simple works.
  11. On a gig, make sure your tuner is on your pedalboard or otherwise ‘in-line’ with your guitar for instant access.
  12. Always carry business cards…even after you blatantly violate #2 and #4, someone may still want your number.
  13. Learn the proper way to wind cables. Nobody wants to play jump rope on stage.
  14. Get your setup/teardown routine down pat. Speed is key when you’re sharing the stage with other bands. And NEVER pack stuff up on stage – take it offstage first.
  15. Always carry extra fuses. If your amp has tubes, carry them too. Tape the fuses in the back of the amp.
  16. Warm up backstage. You’re not going to generate a lot of crowd excitement or anticipation if you’ve been standing there noodling for half an hour.
  17. Room acoustics have every bit to do with your sound as the rest of your gear.
  18. Plug your gear into the same electrical circuit as the PA. If you don’t, your mic can become a taser.
  19. Plug your amp and pedalboard into a circuit that shares the same ground as the P.A.
  20. Re-read #4 and #16

Alternate Picking Tip

Alternate picking is hard. Once you get the hang of it, a lot of things become much easier to play.

How do you get the hang of it?  Start with turning on a drum machine or metronome, play a basic pattern slowly and accent each UP stroke as you play. Really make the UP pick LOUD and hard. Speed up gradually until you start to ‘feel’ the up stroke just as strongly as the down stroke.

An important tidbit is to keep your right hand/wrist very loose and make sure you keep the same ‘posture’ in your hand with down and up strokes.  Economy of motion becomes more and more important as you speed up.