Preparing for a gig - music performance tips

If you are ready to try a more structured performance, scheduling a recital is a great way to showcase your singing for friends and family. Planning for a gig or recital is a big project, but it can be worth it for you to take the next step in performing.

You can make a recital as big or as small as you like, but if you're a little shy or still unsure of yourself, keep it small and invite a few supportive friends and family. It could be at your home or at a local venue, but start small and plan well in advance.

A shared recital is one way to gain some experience without having the responsibility of a full recital. Do you have a couple of friends who are singers or instrumentalists with whom you could share a program? This will help to take some of the pressure off of you.

You can each sing two songs and then maybe a couple of duets to tie it all together. This is a great way to start and keep it simple. Here are a few tips for your music performance. 

Gig Performance Preparation

Find a venue

Look for a location that has decent acoustics. This means that the sound carries well if you're going to sing acoustically. If you're singing with a microphone, then having enough electrical outlets and a space that isn't too "boomy" will be a good choice. It should be a pleasant space that has enough light and air. It shouldn't be too big for your first time out. There should be available seating, and a reasonable distance so your friends and family who are likely to be your main audience can get there easily.

Consider the rental cost. Some locations will charge a small fee to use the space to cover custodial service, but some will offer space for free if you have an association with the place (a church, library, synagogue, or community center, for example).

Plan the date

Plan ahead at least six months. You're going to need time to choose, learn, and memorize music, reserve the venue (many of which are booked up to a year in advance), find a good accompanist or rhythm section, write the program, and send out invitations to family and friends.

Choose the Accompaniment

A good accompanist or rhythm section will make you sound better, and conversely, an inadequate one will make you sound bad, and you'll have to work twice as hard.

So it is worth it to pay someone to play for you if you don't have a connection with a player or band already. If you self-accompany, be sure you are totally proficient on the accompanying instrument or your singing performance will suffer as your attention is divided.

Plan the Music

A mix of slow and up-tempo songs in a variety of keys will create interest and make a balanced program. If you sing several different styles of music, you can plan a set around a couple of different styles. Flow from song to song is important.

You won't want to start to put all ballads together or alternate from ballad to up-tempo every song. Start with something strong, but save your biggest, best number for last. In between, mix it up with a smooth flow, perhaps a change of instrumentation, a duet, or a special feature to add interest.

Plan for a reception

Ask a friend or a family member to organize a small reception after the performance, especially if it is a solo performance.

It can be just light refreshments or a meet and greet. It is a nice way to thank the audience members for coming and for you to get some positive feedback after your performance.

Time the music

Aim for about 45–60 minutes total. A shorter program doesn't feature enough singing to justify the amount of effort you will have to put into making recital arrangements.

If you're not improvising with solos, 45 minutes of singing amounts to approximately 10 songs with a bit of talking in between. If you have a lot of band interludes or soloing within the song form, you will prepare fewer numbers because you or the band will stretch the song length.

Some bands plan much longer sets with breaks between. If you're singing solo, 45 minutes is good for a first time out.

Practice the dialogue

Lots of singers practice the music, but few are prepared for talking to the audience. Work out a few things to say about the music, the composers, or what the song means to you (not about every song, though).

Plan out what you're going to say. Practice the audience chat at least as much as you practice your music. Be sure to introduce others on the stage and thank people for attending.

Memorise everything

Everything sung or played on stage must be memorized! There are no exceptions to this rule. You cannot be expressive or creative if you are looking at music or "cheat sheets" with lyrics.

It limits your movement and is an unnecessary crutch. It also looks unprofessional. You'll be able to devote all your attention to performing if you have the music well memorized.

Create a Program

Create a simple program complete with song titles, composers' names, your name, and the band's or accompanists' names.

Program notes are good to provide if the song is from a larger work, like a musical, or if there is some interesting background information about the composer you can share.

Invite and advertise

Place a notice in your local paper and post fliers at local businesses. Send email invitations to your friends and family members too. Use any social networking sites to generate publicity.

Get the information out any way you can. You want to be sure there are people there to cheer you on.

Select what to wear

Wear anything that isn't too tight around your waist.

You do not want to be distracted by tight or uncomfortable clothes that interfere with breathing.


Practice every day, reinforcing your work with positive self-talk and a structured practice routine. Run your entire program, with talking points and intermission, if you have planned one, several times well in advance of the actual performance date.

If you work this way, when it comes time to actually hit the stage, you will feel well prepared. Consider video recording yourself in rehearsal to gain some insight into your performance skills.

Preparation is one of the most important things you can do to stave off performance anxiety. It is natural to feel nervous, but try to use it to give you energy. Don't fight it!

Performance day

Warm up early in the day, but don't over-sing or practice. Many singers tire out their voices by practicing too much on the day of a performance because they get nervous.

Drink plenty of water. Don't talk too much. Spot-check any song parts or lyrics, but do more mental rehearsal than actual singing.

If you've done adequate preparation, you can rest in the knowledge that all of it will pay off.


Planning a recital allows you to showcase your singing for friends and family. Start small with supportive attendees and plan six months ahead to ensure you have ample time for preparation. Begin by choosing a good venue with suitable acoustics and ample seating. If you’re using a microphone, ensure there are enough electrical outlets and the space isn't too boomy. Select an experienced accompanist or rhythm section to enhance your performance. Create a balanced music set with a mix of slow and up-tempo songs in various keys to keep the audience engaged.

Practice both your music and dialogue. Memorize everything to eliminate the need for cheat sheets, which can look unprofessional and restrict your expressiveness. Create a simple program that includes song titles, composers’ names, and credits for any accompanists. Invite your audience through various channels—emails, social media, local notices, and flyers.

Organize a post-recital reception to thank attendees and receive feedback. It can be a simple gathering with light refreshments where you can interact with your audience. Ensure your attire is comfortable and allows for unrestricted movement and breathing. On performance day, stay hydrated and avoid over-practicing. Focus on mental rehearsal to keep your nerves in check.

When you plan a gig or a recital this way, you take the stress out of it. Chunking it down into easy steps allows you to relax, knowing you are well-prepared. Thorough preparation helps stave off performance anxiety, ensuring you can enjoy your performance day to the fullest.


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