For this article a few tips about what you can do to get you through gigs played under less favourable conditions. The typical scenario I have in mind here is gigs played with bands which are under rehearsed, songs you need to play you do not really know, gigs you need to play where you can hardly hear yourself or any of the other band members.
The ideas I give you here are applicable to any musician such as keyboard players and bass players.
Okay let us start with asking why you would find yourself in any of the above situation mentioned above? You may play with a covers band which does gig often but does not rehearse often. You may know the original songs but the not the band’s version. The fact you cannot hear yourself or anyone else in the band may be due to the overall volume of the band being to loud. All of this leads to playing gigs under less favourable circumstances. Here are a few simple things you can do to make life a little easier:
Make Sure You Know The Songs:
Simple suggestion really, but it does help. Once you know a song inside out you will find you will be able to play it blind folded and with your ears plugged. Whatever happens during the gig, once you know the songs it will help and you will be able to get through them.
Let us say you cannot really hear yourself or any of the other band members but you do know the song. Once it comes to solos try to follow the vocal melody line as much as you can, play around with that, it will help you and the audience since you are referring back to the original vocal melody.
Avoid playing solos or fills throughout the song, it makes for a sloppy sound. Playing single note style solos is an easier approach to playing once you do not know a song, but avoid playing throughout the whole song since the effect of the solo is lost in this manner.
Watching the Fingers of Other Guitar-and Bass Players:
This approach will work if you are an experienced player, it is not much fun, but we are talking about survival so much of the fun element is lost anyway and the main aim is to get through the gig. With this approach you may be slightly out with your timing since you play of the fingerings of other players. If you are not sure about the chord shapes being used by the other players, just stick to a handful of notes just to get a sound. Again, not ideal but it will work.
It may be possible for someone to call out chords while you watch their mouth as they call out the chords. Again, not ideal but it will work to get your through the song.
Stops and Accents:
Watch the drummer, ideally someone will guide you with any stops in the song. Just be on your tows to watch anything which is going on to make sure you will be there in time.
Volume and Volume:
In case the overall volume level is high do not put up your own volume even higher as it will make matters even worse. Turn yourself down and concentrate on the sound and what you are hearing. You may get a change to talk about the overall volume with the hope that all the other band members will turn their volume down as well. Volume is often an issue: What one band member thinks is too loud another member will not see as a problem. Ideally all members are of the same ilk when it comes to matters like this, but often this is not the case and one has to see what is possible.
Good luck and hope to catch you soon again.