You think you can’t do it. You’re not good enough. You don’t have the experience to compete with people who’ve been doing this for years. But I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT! So if your goal is to nail your first open mic performance, then check out these 6 steps.
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I think the best way to frame this is by telling you about my first open mic experience.
I was drunk, not prepared, my gear was broken, my song was unfinished, I got easily distracted, didn’t have fun, and I tried to do everything alone.
Now, I want to tell you what you need to do to prevent this nightmare-ish experience from happening to you. That’s why this video will provide a step-by-step guide to help you have the best open mic experience possible.
I’m also covering some big news announcements, including…
- Gibson’s new factory expansion in Bozeman (footage courtesy of @Acoustic Letter )
- Thompson Guitars new Billy Strings Model
- Mule Resonator Guitars
- Heartbreaker Guitars and Eddie’s Guitars new inventory
As always, you can catch Acoustic Tuesday at 10 am every Tuesday in these four places:
Be prepared for some no talent hacks to start yelling stupid comments, ignore them, or maybe have a few zingers ready.
Having a buddy is a great Idea, we played his 6 and my 12.
My friend and I were playing 3 songs, after the second, someone yelled “NEXT!” Most people boo-ed him, but it was a bit unnerving.
First thought was to say “Ok, come on up” But instead I said “Hey, weren’t you here last week?…… I never forget a shirt”.
People gave him some grief, and it helped us to have some fun, which is great advice.
If I were to hit an open mic now, I would bring my own mic, or at least my own foam pop filter.
Great tips. Some open mic venues have their own sound system. Find a way to familiarize yourself with the house system before the open mic or gig.
My name is Neil and I am going on 73 years of age. I was a Police Officer for the State of Ohio for eight years and then went into full time entertainment, with no side job. After fronting a couple bands, I entertained, (doing a “Single Act”), on the road and off for close to 37 years.
In reference to your first gig and the baseball game, “home run”:
Long ago, I was playing a gig in Winston-Salem, NC, at a Holiday Inn. The lounge was rather large and the actual seating part at the bar was a good 100 feet from the stage. (tables were in between the stage and the bar but all the people, at the time were seated at the bar.)
I really wasn’t getting a lot of feedback from the crowd, in reference to applause but I continued to try and get their attention.
I did a Neil Diamond song and just as I finished it, the crowd at the bar erupted in loud applause and screaming…! (I thought to myself…..Wow; they really liked that song…!
Unbeknownst to me, at the far end of the bar, (of which I couldn’t see), there was a large TV and a football game was on with Wake Forest College playing. Just as I had finished my song, Wake Forest made a touchdown…!
I extended my thanks to the crowd anyway, with a smile. 🙂
My first Virtual Open Mic was very nerve racking that I don’t remember it to say the list. I’ve done 5 sense the first and they have become less stressful.
What I have developed is a bad habit of switching my song chose at the last minute that I had practice. Why? I don’t know and I didn’t like the way the performance came out. No Spirits involved.
After watching “6 Steps To Nail Your First Open Mic Performance ★ Acoustic Tuesday 179” I saw and heard my error…. Play what you practice for that Open Mic. I guess I got caught up on the “Keep a song in your back pocket” Mentality.
Great Show Tony!
Thanks for sharing those open mike tips. I’ll add one: Recognize that playing and singing through a sound system is quite different from just playing and singing un-miked and un-amplified in your living room. Equalization, reverb, compression, and even those unexpected “pops” that show up whenever you sing a word with a “p” in it… all of these things will affect the quality of your sound and performance. When you rehearse, do so through a mike and PA or whatever you plan to use at the open-mike venue. While some of the setttings will be specific to the room you will be playing in, others are relevant to your specific guitar, voice, style and choice of material. Take some time to learn what works best for you and your material.
Hey, Tony, Great Show! I’ve certainly had my share of “cringeworthy moments”, like the time that my buddy and I traded off playing bass, but before he set it down, he turned the volume all the way off. When I picked it up, everyone was playing but me. I finally figured it out what he had done half way through the song. Anyway, a biggie for me in performing live is PRACTICE THE WAY YOU PERFORM! If you are going to perform standing up – practice standing up, and if you are going to perform sitting down – practice sitting down. If you plan to perform standing and sitting – good luck. This makes a tremendous difference for me as the position of the guitar is different, standing or sitting. I have, several times, practiced sitting down, but then when I stood up to perform, found that the strings weren’t exactly where they were suppose to be. It really messes with my muscle memory.
Also, your show # 178 was special for me as I love Celtic music. FYI, Micheal O’Domhnaill formerly played with a Celtic/New Age group called “Nightnoise” whose music was so beautiful and well crafted as to be life-altering.
Keep up the good work,
Mike B in NC
Wow is that Tony, for me it finely seems like the old Tony of the Noah days. More warm & homey down to earth(love it). Tony what was going on with that Billy Strings crazy bracing inside that guitar. Sorry for the bad weekend in Tampa. Your friend Guy B. champa bay Fl.
I can’t remember my first time solo in front of a mic, but it was probably in church. It took a few performances to get comfortable in front of a crowd, but now it’s second nature. I play in church a lot and each time my focus is pretty intense, even more so if I am singing. Being able to tune out the audience has become my way of calming my nervousness while performing.
Mine was your 1st step. My daughter asked me to play a couple songs on my ukulele at her wedding reception. I got hammered at my house between the wedding & reception. I thought it was brutal but my daughter said everybody loved it. They recorded it but I can’t bring myself to watch it. I think they liked it because it was more of a comedy routine than a ukulele show. LOL
Hello Tony , just a quick note , Stephen Stills Uses EEEEBE Tuning a lot and it is very much Fun Playing and learning with that Tuning , Anyway Great show , I Really enjoy Tuesdays watching your show. Always look forward to it.
Brought back some memories, Tony. I’ve been to The Store more than once. On Halsted near North Ave. if I remember correctly.
nice show !
I’ve been playing guitar for fifty years this year. Started out playing in church at folk masses when I was 16, in a big group. Good way to get more confident. I’ve played lead guitar and bass in several bands over the years. I was never that confident about my singing.
About 6 years ago I started playing solo acoustic spots at various open mics. I always have a chart visible, even though I know most of the songs by heart, because it gives a bit more reassurance. I now use a tablet mounted on the mic stand and a page turning pedal. So I can carry my whole repertoire around with me and have pre-organised set lists.
I think picking interesting material that’s within your capabilities is very important. Helps you stand out from the me too brigade. I tend to favour classics from artists like Seals & Crofts, James Taylor, Don McLean, the Eagles, Beatles, Bread etc.
Finding the right key for your voice is also important. Transposing your charts or using a capo can help.
Preparation, rehearsal and being well organised can help you be more confident. If you want to see how you present, record a video of yourself on your phone.
The main thing I would say about nerves is that you are doing this to get something that’s trapped inside you out. Playing to yourself in your bedroom might be soothing but it’s like the sound of one hand clapping, none hears it. You need to be appreciated for who you are and what you’ve accomplished. In the final analysis it doesn’t really matter what other people think. You’ve got something that’s burning to get out. So do it for yourself and get connected with your emotions. I promise you will play and sing much better than being worried about an audience.
Tony respect to your being prepared for open mic and having all your gear working properly, guitar, song ready, strings etc.
That quip reminded me of my SNOW TIRE policy. ” Better to have them, and not need them, than need them, and not have them”
Tony, what kind of a guitar player is your father in law. Sounds like he had a lot of fun in LV?
Ovation with broken pick-up? Could’nt be played? Had to borrow other?
Thanks for featuring my guitarsenal today!
Actually my first time in an Open Mic in a coffee shop was good, but the second was horrible. I was playing Jim Croce’s “Walking Back to Georgia.” When I tried to do the humming part I could hear a thing. Make sure you can hear yourself on stage.
Have you ever considered video taping one of your own practice sessions and sharing it with the TAC family? I for one would love to see how you practice and what types of things you’re working on. Just a thought!
Hey Tony, I started playing guitar when the Beatles first came around (a hint to my age). I never did an open mic but was in a lot of garage bands and we sometimes even did gigs. Then life happened. Worked a job, had a family and every now and again picked up and played my guitar. After my wife passed I met another woman who was committed to a Christian church. One day she volunteers my playing services. So for the past ten plus years I’ve been rockin’ with the worship team. Sometime playing and singing sometimes just playing, but always in front of a crowd. One day I had a brilliant idea to play in front of a small group of family and friends. Talk about nerve wracking? And if you flub a line or hit a wrong note? Fugedaboudit! They are merciless! Well, time to go practice for next week’s service.
Very insightful and encouraging.
Tony, thanks for sharing the open mike story and for all you do for us guitar geeks. My first open mike was at The Chessmate in Detroit in 1966, when I was 17. It was an acoustic music club that hosted the likes of Joni Mitchell, Buffy Saint Marie and Phil Ochs. They had open mike one day a week. I showed up early and got my name on the list, but it turned out that the host set the order of play and there were tons of regulars. As I watched the other performers I realized I was totally out of my league. He finally called on me (I was the only one left), it was 1:45 AM and there was only one other person left in the room. I played one song while he was stacking up the chairs preparing to close. Since then, I have always spent my first visit to an open mike as a spectator to get the lay of the land before deciding whether to perform.
First I have to compliment you on your show it is very informative and entertaining. I have been playing around fifty years , I haven’t done an open mike in so long I don’t even remember the first one. I do agree with Dave Stelmaszek’s comment that it helps to be a regular and have yourself grounded in what you are planning to perform . I do remember the last open mike that I performed in . It was at the Library Bar and Grill in Tempe Arizona, which no longer exists, that was in 2010. I felt like I was prepared and I sat down at the microphone and began strumming the opening to” Between the Bars”‘ by Elliot Smith. I opened my mouth and sang “Drink up baby stay up all night” and then there was absolute memory blank. It was the strangest experience I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t remember any of the rest of the words. I was determined though I appoligised to the audience and related to the audience that I was a little baffled and would give some one else a chance to use the extra time. In the mean time I went home and knew the music but committed myself to absolutely knowing the words. In addition I learned,” Independence Day ” and ” ‘Everybodys Almost Gone” I was stoked I went back and knew that I had my music down and had completely memorized my lyrics. And as I was warming up getting ready to launch into Between the Bars, I start hearing this knocking in time with me and I stopped playing and the the sound stopped I then restarted and the this loud knocking began again I looked at the soundman and he looked agitated too. I told him that it was definitely coming out of the stage monitors , so turned them off and the sound was gone , with out further ado I sailed through my songs and got a very appreciative response . So it is sort of like be prepared for the the worst and hope for the best is the best advice I can give to newby open mikers, once again I want to thank you for such an inspiring and engaging show I really look forward to you every Tuesday.