Technology has come a long way over the last few decades, and it’s safe to say that music production and performance equipment has not been an exception to this rule. In fact, the possibilities and opportunities that musicians, artists, and performers have these days are possibly unlimited thanks to the unparalleled ability to set up their equipment anywhere and everywhere.
Whether you’re performing to the masses, street performing, DJing a nightclub or simply playing around triggering samples or controlling live projected visuals and lighting rigs; there’s never been a better, more creative or more exciting time to be in the live performance industry.
However, while there’s a world of opportunities out there just waiting to be discovered, before you jump right in and spend thousands of dollars on an expensive setup that you might not necessarily need, you’ll need to take the time to learn about the basics of setting up and preparing a live performance.
With a foundation of knowledge beneath you, you’ll be able to pick out the exact equipment you need for the job, know what you’re doing when it comes to the setup and the experience you’re trying to provide which will, in turn, minimize the risk of problems later down the line, especially important on the day of the performance itself.
So, let’s jump right in!
What Types of Live Performance Are There?
Firstly, let’s get right down to the base of live performances. If you go to a nightclub or a festival with 100s of thousands of people, although these are both live performances they are incredibly different, so we’re going to take the time to learn all about them.
In short, there are around five categories that most live performances will fall under, although some could be a mixture.
These categories are;
- Stem mixing
- Looping (processing)
- Backing tracks
- Live bands and artists
As you can see from this list, it’s obvious that you’re going to have different requirements and setup preferences if you’re hosting a DJ to if you were hosting a live band. Let’s dive deeper into each.
This is considered a relatively new form of live performance and is the unique process of taking certain aspects of songs, samples or other forms of audio track and combining them together into one long ‘master’ track.
Typically, a song can be broken down into highs, mid and lows, or as the individual parts, such as the bass, the drums, the hi-hat and the vocals, etc. A stem mixer can then turn off certain aspects of each track, performing a kind of mix. This is considered much more flexible than traditional DJing since you can perform much more complex combinations.
Considered one of the oldest and more traditional forms of live performance, in addition to live bands, and are still extremely popular to this day. Typically performing at nightclubs or festivals, DJs can span any genre and any niche for any occasion.
As a DJ, you’ll need to be thinking about the equipment you’re using, the compatibility of said equipment and the theme or genre of the night.
Looping & Processing
Looping is an increasingly popular form of music production, especially in live performances since it means a performer can perform solo while looping the sounds of the instruments to create a track. This process can be used by any kind of performer but is especially common among beatboxers and street artists.
If you’re a singer or a vocalist, you may not find that you’re in a band, but you’ll still need music to go alongside your performance. This is where a backing track, or a backing band, will come on stage and perform with you or will play out of a PA system. This could be implemented by both a live band or a DJ.
If you’re performing outside of a music performance, such as a speech or seminar where there’s a public speaker, you may want to use backing track technology to improve your experience between speakers.
Of course, the final live performer we have is a live band. This is a band of an undefined amount of people who will bring instruments on stage, whether digital, electric or acoustic, and performing to a live audience.
With all this information above, you can now define which live performance category best suits you, allowing you to zone in on what you’re looking for and what you should be thinking about when it comes to creating and preparing for your live performance.
Preparing for Your Performance
Now we’re going to explore several key points you need to know in order to make sure that your next live performance is a success. While these points may not apply to each category, it’s worth thinking about the experience you’re providing and how you can make it the best it can possibly be.
Test Your Equipment
While this may be something you do daily, when you reach the venue which you’re going to be performing, it’s important to make sure that you plug in, test and soundcheck each instrument or piece of equipment that you’re using. Don’t assume it’s going to work because it did several hours earlier at home in the studio.
Develop a Routine
All the of the best artists and performers will have a warm-up routine before they go on stage. Not only is this a great way to overcome your nerves or glimmers of stage fright you might be feeling, but it’s also a great way to get your head in the zone so you can give the best performance you possibly can.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before going on stage!
Warm Up You and Your Instruments
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a vocalist, an instrumentalist or even a DJ, make sure you plan to warm up yourself, whether this is your body or your vocals chords, as well your equipment before you actually start playing.
In terms of yourself, it’s important to warm up your muscles are ready to do what they were supposed to do. When warming up your instruments, this is a great way to make sure everything is working, and the levels are perfect for the performance ahead.
Over to You
As you can see, there are many things you’ll want to be thinking about when it comes creating and preparing for your next live performance. Make sure you take into consideration all the tips in the second half to ensure you’re always ready for the big date and do everything you can beforehand to minimize the risk of mistakes.