8 Best Stage Habits for Guitarists
We have all seen great guitar performances on stage before. When it’s their turn shine and rip their solos out, the spotlight hits them and they ooze mojo. This secret sauce is a mix of professionalism, good stage habits, good guitar lessons from a dedicated teacher and a ton of confidence.
On the other hand, we’ve also seen a few stage blunders where there is instant silence with a tinge of awkwardness. Dropping a guitar, cable being accidentally pulled out and picks flying out of your hand – these are a few common blunders that haunt every guitarist.
Let’s take a look at 8 of the best stage habits and the reason why:
1) Loop your guitar cable through your strap
Before you plug in the cable to your guitar, simply bring it in a loop through your guitar strap and keep it snug via the strap button. This ensures that even if you step on the cable by accident, you won’t rip it out of the guitar. Also remember to use the correct cable head! Les-Pauls and Telecasters with input jacks located on the side of the guitar should be paired with an ‘L’ head cable and Stratocasters with the input jack on the top of the guitar should be paired with a straight head. If you are unsure, ask your guitar teacher on what’s the difference! Cables are available in a myriad of colours and types, including classic black coiled wires and hot pink fabric woven cables so be sure to check with us guitar teachers before spending money.
2) Check your cables regularly
Before you go on stage or when you are packing your guitar gear, do a quick check on your metal cable housing. As they can turn and loosen themselves over time, remember to hand tighten them back. If you haven’t used the guitar cable for a long time, it is also good to check that the guitar cable still works before using it on stage. Sometimes the soldered wires can break off if you abuse the guitar cable, so if you experience an intermittent signal, do a check on the wires inside. In Singapore, guitar cables can be hard to repair on your own, but if it is a simple fix check with your guitar teacher if they can do a quick fix for you like a simple solder. It’ll save you a few dollars.
3) Get a strap lock
A strap lock can range from cheap fixes to full out hardware swaps. The DIY method is to use those plastic square pieces you find when you
buy bread from the supermarket. Fit the strap button into the strap, then stuff the plastic square on top of it. This is a quick and easy fix but it is best to have a full strap locking system. Go down to any guitar store in Singapore and they should be able to point you in the right directions. The strap lock systems ensure that your strap stays on securely throughout. Don’t know which one to choose? Ask your guitar teacher and they will point you in the right direction.
Prepare emergency replacements
What happens if you drop your pick on a dark stage? You can put a few extras in your pocket or get a strap that can hold extra picks. If you are using batteries for your pedals or guitar, standby an extra battery just in case. Ideally these should be checked at home before heading out. Some guitarists also clip an extra capo on the music stand or mic stand to be safe. Your guitar teacher will have many tips and tricks they can share with you as well since they surely have stage experience.
Check your dressing
The last thing you want is to trip over your untied shoelaces, or suffer a cramp from wearing shoes that are too tight. These are things you can control so be sure to dress comfortably and for the occasion. You will play better and also look good whilst doing so.
Play what you practiced
You may feel inspired to get into ‘the zone’ and start shredding out and playing stuff that wasn’t rehearsed with the band. This is tempting to do but it comes with some drawbacks. The biggest drawback is giving your bandmates an unpleasant surprise. You should do it only if you’ve already discussed this prior to the show and everyone is comfortable with sudden changes. If not, stick with what is rehearsed. There are always more opportunities to shine and improve together. Also, your guitar teacher will tell you to avoid looking down or at the score as much as possible. You won’t need the score if you are well-rehearsed.
Avoid tweaking your amplifier settings halfway
For most stages, the amplifiers will be mic-ed up to the soundboard and the sound engineer will control the live mix. Too many guitarists have walked to their amplifier in the middle of their solo to crank it up because they don’t feel good or can’t hear what they’re playing. Please know that the sound you hear on stage and the sound being blasted out to the audience is different and we need to trust the soundman that he will adjust your levels accordingly for the live sound. To avoid this, check all your levels and monitors during the sound check. Play at the same energy as you would during the real show. Let the crew know if you would like your guitar amplifier louder so you can hear yourself better. Changing your levels halfway might completely ruin the mix for the audience!
Keep your composure
Even if something goes wrong and you mess up, or someone messes it up for you, remember to keep your composure. The last thing you want is to be featured online in a video where the band is going viral not for playing well but instead for fighting on stage. On stage, we are entertainers first and musicians second and everything is being recorded on smartphones nowadays. There is a better time and place to discuss any issues – but not on stage in front of everyone! Keep calm and carry on. Have fun playing music – that is the first rule all guitar teachers will tell you.
Here at Guitar Emerge, we don’t just teach the technicalities of playing the instrument well. Our teachers have experience playing on stage and can guide you to making your performance stand out both sonically and visually. By letting our students have the exposure of playing live on stage too at our shows, we train up good habits and practices that will follow them for life. If you would like to join us, start your own guitar journey here by signing up for our free trial guitar class!