Category Archives: Entertainment

How To Stay Calm During a Live Performance

Don’t you love the feeling when about 50 to 500 heads turn to you and the eyes just get glued to your shaking face and being? I do. That’s one of my favorite things in playing music. Live concerts. The lights, the booming audience and the adrenaline injection are just earthshaking!

In this article, I will present you with some good hints and tips to prepare for a stressful live concert and performance in front of an audience.

Depending on the venue, the amount of people in the audience can range from the said 50 to 500 people, sometimes even more. Of course, if you are playing in your school concert or a pub, there won’t be hundreds of people. However, then again, this depends on the size of the venue.

Everything described here applies to all types of performances, both instrumental and vocal.

How to stay calm in a live concert?

BEFORE CONCERT

  • The most important one: Learn your song. I can tell you that if you haven’t sorted your song(s) out, you will become nervous. Anxiety and nervousness are the main causes for mistakes and errors.
  • Play the song to a friend or a family member. This will help you get over the fear of performing in front of a crowd, no matter what size. (Naturally, bigger audiences tend to create more tension.)
  • Breathing exercises, are also advised! These will help you calm down before and during your performance
  • DURING CONCERT
  • Don’t think about or look directly at the audience. They don’t exist. It’s only you and the instrument. Thinking about people will get you distracted and you will likely make mistakes.
  • Play as if you were still in your home, concentrating on what the song sounds like when you first succeeded in playing it perfectly.
  • Breathe, play and enjoy! Don’t think music as a task. It must not be one! It’s a pleasure, and you want to share the music with everyone. If some don’t like the music, there are always people who do! Don’t get put down by silly comments, laughter, or other attempts of humiliation. It is you on the stage, and you only. You have dared to perform in public, and that is a notable merit in itself. Most people are afraid to death to get on the stage, which means that their non-constructive feedback can be left ignored.
  • Keep your head up, and make sure to find a new opportunity to perform. The more you do it, the better you will get.

What is important is that you enjoy what you do, and do not stress excessively for nothing. If the audience will be huge, then try to ignore the fact. It is natural to be nervous, and a little nervousness actually helps you to do well. The only cure for stage fright is to actually confront the fear and get on that stage! The first time is always the most difficult.

How My First Concert Changed How I Listened To Music

It was a warm and hot Sunday night on the 9th December 2007 at the Merdeka Stadium Kuala Lumpur. Because it’s warm and humid all year in Malaysia. Tonight, My Chemical Romance was going to perform live to their Malaysian fans (including myself) for the very first time as part of their Black Parade World Tour.

After a year of listening to the Black Parade album, here I am, ready to listen to them live. As a fan, it was a dream come true – in music terms – to be able to watch your favourite musicians perform live for you.

So here I was, wearing my frame-less glasses, dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, with messed up hair (I tried my best to dress for the occasion). I was a stand-out among a crowd dressed mostly in black jackets, painted faces, heavy eye-liners, mohawk hairs and spiked shoes, caps, shirts, shorts, everything.

I REALLY DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.

After waiting for nearly 2 hours, the band appeared and the music started. Then, it all became clear.

WE ALL BECAME ONE – Regardless of race, religion, age, gender (or dressing); we we’re all celebrating one thing that day. Music. My Chemical Romance turned strangers to brothers and sisters through one medium – their music.

LISTENING TO MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME – After that night, my experience of listening to MCR through my earphones will never be the same. Listening to House of Wolves now brings me to a scene such as this (Sorry, I couldn’t find the Malaysian version, so here’s one from Mexico). Listening to your favourite band live will somehow nail you down as a fan for life.

APPRECIATION. – I learnt to appreciate music on a whole new level. To be able to see the fruits from the effort that the performer puts to perfect the art; to be the master of the alteration of sound so that it’s music to our ears. There’s something special about listening to music in it’s rawest form.

IT’S WORTH THE MONEY – Paying RM350 for a ticket is small money considering the hours and hours of time and effort the artist in-front of you has put to bring you that rockin’ tune. Also, musicians mainly gain their income from live music performance. A recent PWC report says that live music revenues are expected to grow as recorded music revenue continue to drop. So your contribution will be much appreciated.

THIS WONT BE MY LAST LIVE CONCERT FOR SURE – After that fateful day in 2009, I told myself that if I liked a band / musician, I’ll be sure to attend their live performance when they visit. That’s why I was ecstatic when 30 Seconds To Mars came to Malaysia for the MTV World Stage in 2011. And why I was devastated when I missed Distant Worlds just last year. MCR defined the live music experience for me.

We were all celebrating one thing that day. Music.

By the end of the concert I was exhausted. There were many instances where my specs were close to flying off my face. And my feet were sore from getting trampled on. I was surprised to get out without impaling myself in the eye with another guy’s hat.

In the end, there was a happiness beyond description. It was… euphoric.

That brings me to the question. What does live music – or music – do the human brain that gives it such powerful social, emotional and physical impact?

The live performance certainly sounded different from the album. There was something about listening to music raw that makes you appreciate it more.

If you’re a fan of a musician or band, and if they’re coming to town or if you’ve the money to fly somewhere. Then I strongly advice you go.

I think it’s a personal connection between nature and sound. Over to you scientists.

3 Lessons on How Much Musicians Should Charge for a Performance

There are many things to think about when setting your price as a musician. What you charge as a musician says a lot about how you value your time and the quality of your work. Let’s say you have 2 similar flat screens at a store. Television A costs $300 and Television B costs $900. Which one do you think will be the better TV? Which one do you think is the Vizio and which one do you think is the Sony. Why do you think Sony charges more for a TV? Because Sony presents their company as a top quality manufacturer while Vizio brands themselves as a TV that just gets the job done. If I were to look at both TVs I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in quality. What about a band who charges $500 compared to a band that will do the gig for free? Don’t get me wrong, for the bands or musicians just starting out, it will be tough to charge someone the same price as a band that’s been performing together for years. You still want to be fair when you charge someone to perform, but never undervalue yourself as a musician.

This article is not a concrete, set in stone way to charge. But it’s a good outline to build from. Nothing is ever a cookie cutter way to do things. You might be a starting out band that plays all originals. You might have a set that is only 45 minutes to an hour. You probably won’t be able to charge as much as a cover band that has 3-4 sets and can play for 3-4 hours and brings the house down.

It depends on the gig. If you are a 4 piece string section, then you can probably charge a lot for weddings and cocktail parties as opposed to a solo singer songwriter that writes all original music and can only play 2 sets. It depends on the situation. You might have to learn some covers to seem more appealing. The important thing to take from this article is to educate yourself by researching what other established musicians are making and to NEVER undervalue your skills and time.

Lesson 1: Research what your competitors are charging.

The best way to research would be going to a website like GigMasters. Gigmasters allows you to research other bands in your area and what they are quoting. Just find 5 bands that are similar to you and look at what they’re charging. What’s the average quote on an anniversary, birthday party, or a wedding? You should take into effect what other bands are charging or you might totally undervalue your time. It’s possible you’re charging more than you should or not charging enough.

Lesson 2: Whatever value you think you are, then that’s what you get.

If you think $100 is what you think you should be making for the show, then that’s what you will get. But if you think that your time and skills and the show you put together is worth $1000, then you’ll more than likely get that amount. Now again, don’t over charge yourself. If you think that you’re the best performer in the world and you charge $1000 for a show and you can’t hold a note to save your life, then $1000 might be too much for a show.

You need to take a hard evaluation at yourself as a musician and charge accordingly. Every musician starts off paying their dues and you’ll be no different. Maybe start at charging $100 and start moving towards the $1000 range.

Lesson 3: Find a comfortable price range

So you figured out what you’re worth and you’re ready to start looking for gig. People are always trying to find a good deal and what if someone offers you something lower than what you value yourself? What if you ask for $150 for a solo show and you value yourself at $200. It’s up to you to make that compromise, but you should have a “lowest price range” possible for gig. Don’t undervalue yourself and your band just to get paid, but also don’t turn down a decent gig because of a few bucks. It’s all a subjective call to make and each gig varies.

Making Time for Music

Great art takes time.

Ask the painter, who studies artwork year after year for nuances of brush strokes and color combinations. Ask the sculptor who plans, and then sees, long before he or she sets chisel to stone, the finished creation in the block before them. Ask the writer, who intricately plots novel after novel from start to finish, combining multiple thousands of words into cohesive stories.

Ask a jazz musician. Ask Pat Metheny.

Innovation in jazz requires exploring and understanding the subtleties that separate average performances from extraordinary performances. An understanding of these subtleties can only come from investing significant time studying the elements of music in general and jazz in particular. Pat Metheny has, and continues to devote his life to this study.

However, his is not a cursory study; his is study that goes deep. When he uncovers new riches- nuances of performance, unique ways to use rhythm, melody, timbre, counterpoint, arranging techniques, and more – he goes deeper, wanting to uncover even more gems of insight.

Of course, this takes time, and plenty of it. This is not a 4-week night course in music composition, improvisation, and instrumentation. It’s more like a 4-decade and beyond course, with no final exam in sight. It’s continual learning and something Pat Metheny knows is all part of being a consummate jazz professional.

This study is clear in his live performances and in his recordings – no more so than his masterpiece, The Way Up, released in 2005. You have to listen to this 68-minute long composition multiple times, and then multiple times again, to recognize that a lifetime of musical experience is contained therein. Even then, you will not fully comprehend the musical genius behind the work.

Listening to The Way Up, you come to an understanding of how an investment of time is the foundation of great jazz. Pat Metheny has an extensive discography. He has also scored feature films. He continues to write and perform with his own band and with others. He has toured with vibraphonist Gary Burton, who nurtured a young Pat Metheny in the 70s.

Check out any one of Pat Metheny’s recordings and you realize that the interplay he has with other musicians could only be the result of years of devoted playing. It’s a result of time invested in understanding the performance strengths of other jazz musicians and adapting to each different musical situation. It’s also a result of consistent effort to learn from other jazz musicians.

Listen to his improvisations on any recording. Through them, you begin to understand how he thinks musically. This level of musical thought can only come from decades of experience – each new idea learned a brick placed on top of bricks previously set in place through his years of study.

Consider the musical styles explored in the extended work that is The Way Up and you understand that a work of this magnitude is something he could not have put together in the early stages of his career. Patience is certainly a virtue, especially when it comes to jazz.

Consistently building a storehouse of musical knowledge, along with patient experimentation and dedication to navigate uncharted waters in jazz allowed Pat Metheny to create The Way Up. He needed to put in the time over the years to reach the point where he could create this work of art.

Again, while he’s recorded other works since, The Way Up is the standard he has set for other jazz musicians to reach. It’s his way of saying to young jazz musicians, “Commit to making time for advanced music study.” Seeing a live Pat Metheny performance, especially with other astute veterans such as Gary Burton impressed upon me the importance of lifelong study. The combined years of experience that go into a two-hour performance by these musicians is what makes them the special musical events they become.

Pat Metheny continues to make time for music. To him, the journey is as important as the final works of art he creates. His years of study, practice, composition, arranging and performance – his time well spent – are his gift to those who love jazz. If you’re unfamiliar with his body of work, take the time to acquaint yourself with the works of a true original in jazz.

Different Styles of Juggling Performance

If you have ever been asked to put together a performance, and you have some basic juggling skills but are wondering what to do, then this article is especially for you. If your show is to last more than 5mins (eg more than one routine) then I would suggest that you use a mixture of more than one of these styles.

Comedy Juggling: It’s great to be able to show the world your amazing technical juggling skills if you have some, but if you are performing in front of children, they are most likely to get enjoyment out of silly behaviour whilst juggling and even when you drop! The comedy could include audience participation, getting volunteers up on stage (as long as the end result is that they are made to look like a hero), and plenty of slapstick and mistakes (such as slipping on a juggling scarf you expertly remembered to walk round on several previous occasions). Comedy is also great to use in the build up to doing your big dangerous finales, and allows you to successfully make the end trick (which may only take 30secs to perform) last 5-10mins!

Musical Juggling: This is where you perform to a certain music track or perhaps even team up with some friends who can play some instruments and they can be your accompaniment! Be aware that if you plan on filming your shows and selling copies afterwards, you wouldn’t be able to include copyrighted music (unless you paid the Copyright holder or got their permission).

Magic and Juggling: If you can learn a bit of magic, then it is possible to use these skills to enhance your juggling routines. Some examples would be:

  • Making your juggling props appear and disappear using a Vanishing Purse
  • Using a magic square and turning it into a circle which you can use as a Juggling Ring

Las Vegas Style: Glitz and glamour and sheer technical ability! Fantastic outfits, stunning backdrops, awesome looking Circus Skills props and a fantastic well rehearsed show. This is not an easy style to use if you are a beginner with little performance experience, but I thought it was worth including in this list as a style you could aspire to!

Other Things To Experiment With:

Glow – it’s amazing how good even the simplest of juggling tricks look with glow equipment, especially if you can synchronise your moves to some music!

Fire – be very careful and only ever perform with fire outdoors once you have spoken to other fire performers who can advise you on the best safety procedures to ensure no-one gets hurt. Imagine doing a show indoors, but right at the end, asking the entire audience to put on their coats and follow you outside for the big finale! If you have public liability performers insurance then you will need to check that you are covered for dangerous items such as fire and knives.

Position on Stage – If you are always standing up for every routine, consider a routine that involves sitting or lying down or transporting yourself across the stage. Move around and make full use of the stage for one routine and then you can stand around in one place for the next one. Acrobatics is another way of moving around. If you can somersault, do a forward roll, cartwheel or pirouette, then add this to your juggling routines!

Wide Variety of Props: A 20min show containing nothing but 3 ball juggling might be very boring, especially if you don’t know that many tricks but imagine a routine involving 10 different props (you would now only need to perform 2mins with each prop, and even less if you add some comedy and some magic)! Even with just scarfs, balls, rings and clubs at your disposal, you could mix these together to do some scarf and ball juggling, or some ball and ring juggling (ball goes through the ring), as well as using these props in different ways (balancing a club or club rolling on the floor etc).

I hope that these ideas will help you when you are preparing for your first few shows. Keep a note of your routines and all of your thoughts and ideas so that when you are asked to perform somewhere else, you have some routines that are ready to use again or be adapted slightly!