When you see a concert, have you ever caught yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, your fingertips digging into the edges, unknowingly leaning forward as you watch the show unfold? Are you caught feeling an overwhelming mix of emotions invoked by the music or performance? They make it look so easy and effortless, don't they? It's almost like just anyone can waltz onto that same stage and instantly get a crowd feeling that same mix of emotions and excitement.
What you do not get a lot of are glimpses of what happens before the show and behind the scenes — or even long before the artists make it to a stage. Having a passion for music or simply being capable of easily transposing sheet music or lyrical notations is not an overnight talent that blossoms. Sure, some are born naturals; but even for them, it takes a lot of practice and more than one mistake.
A lot of factors have to be taken into consideration before a concert can be brought to fruition, including mild to severe cases of nerves and stage fright. Yes, it happens more often than you would think — even to some of the most popular and experienced singers and performers. It might not hit until after all of the commotion has died down during setup and going over everything to make sure everything is going to be perfect, or it might hit as soon as you step into the building. Every artist experiences it at some point in their career: stage fright or pre-show nerves.
You can handle this in multiple ways, however. It's just a matter of figuring out what works best for you — taking a moment to close your eyes and just breathe, or even keeping a self-empowering mantra going in your head. What really helps, though, is to just take that leap of faith, go out on to the stage, and start the show. Chances are, as soon as you start performing and focusing on doing what you love the most, those pre-show nerves are going to fade and disappear.
On that same note, most artists develop a routine that they go through before the show starts. This could be as simple as changing into a special outfit specifically for the show, or it could be a full-blown "pre-show ritual" including warming up, doing sound checks, or going over any lists that have been made to cover all the bases of setting up the stage for the show. Similar to dealing with stage fright, this routine varies from artist to artist and is customizable to each individual performer depending on what they feel works best for them.
Warm-ups and sound checks are major key points that seem like they can be overlooked as well, especially when time seems to be running out. But really, they can't. It's one thing to sing on your own in the car, but it's a completely different level of focus to get out onto a stage and perform in front of a crowd of virtual strangers. Warming up your voice before getting out onto the stage can be greatly beneficial to your performance. It can take as little as ten minutes and it can be done at the same time as the sound checks. This can be done by doing anything that will put your vocal cords through their paces, so to speak, ranging from low to high notes and repeating the process. Doing so will prevent potential strain and damage to your throat and vocal cords during the show. A lot of artists will even avoid dairy products starting the morning of or the night before a show to avoid any potential strain the product could produce on the vocals.
Taking the time to make sure that the sounds being created are going to reach the audience in a smooth and seamless manner is well worth taking the time to step off the stage during setup and move back to see how the sound changes with distance. You don't want to rush or skip this step only to have your performance sound great up on the stage, but actually sound like a jumbled mess to your crowd — or they can hear the music but not the vocals.
Another great tip is to bring backup equipment. And to prepare for the inevitable mistakes that are going to happen. Between setup, sound check, and the end of the show, you never know what could happen. A guitar string could unexpectedly break, the acoustics or microphone cables could short out, or that bottle of water that's been set off to the side for quick access could topple over and potentially damage one of the amps or speakers. Having backup equipment easily accessible will make for a smoother performance in the off chance something goes wrong.
Not every show will go through without a hitch. There will be times where accidents happen — either you take one too many steps and fall off the stage, that bottle of water topples over yet again, or the backup singers go blank and forget the lyrics for a moment. There could even be times when the power suddenly blacks out. All of which are things that you really can't control no matter how hard you try. Those are the moments where you need to prepare as well as possible and not panic or freak out about it. Being able to seamlessly roll with the mistakes and keep going on with the show as if, from the crowd's perspective, that was all actually a part of the performance itself is one of the best tricks you can master.
While there are certainly a lot of things to remember and accomplish to prepare for a great live performance, it is really not as daunting as it would seem. Just practice, hold on to your passion, keep your head held high, and don't let the mistakes and setbacks get you down. They are going to happen, whether you are a beginner at live performance or have been doing it for years. What matters the most is doing what you love and delivering your craft to your audience in a way that you can be proud of after the music fades and the crowd disperses.