Any performer will tell you that you can practice for years in the comfort and privacy of your room, but it’s not until you take your act to a stage in front of live people that you’ll really hone your craft. If you’re not ready to book shows of your own, how can you get comfortable on a stage? Open mic events can solve the problem.
Open mic nights serve as incubators for beginning musicians, or for more practiced types, they are a great way to test new material before throwing it into a big show. For the totally fresh player, it can be a daunting experience. Here are 9 tips to rock open mic so you will be prepared to take the stage and get the most out of the experience.
9 Tips to Rock Open Mic
1. Know what kind of an open mic it is. Do a little research before you attend the event. Open mics are not universally the same. Some are all acoustic (no microphones or plugged-in instruments); some are coffeehouse-style where people sit in silence listening to players; some are jams where a backing band or equipment might be provided. Make a trip down to the open mic you’ve got in mind before you participate, or contact the host to get the details.
2. Everyone at an open mic knows it’s an open mic. People there are not expecting a Lady Gaga production to walk through the door. They’re expecting a musician (or possibly a small group) to share some material that might be polished, or it might be the first time performed on a stage. Don’t stress about what people will think. They understand the spirit of the event.
3. Feel totally comfortable with your material. You’ll probably only have a few songs (many open mics are set by a song or time limit, usually about three songs), so make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Just in case you get rattled on stage, make sure you know the tunes in and out.
4. Don’t stress about what to bring. Whoever is running the open mic will have equipment for you and they should be fully capable of setting you up with it. If you’ve never plugged in a guitar or sung into a microphone—don’t worry. They’ll make sure you do it right and that it sounds good.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask. Open mic beginners may think they are completely at the host’s mercy. Truth is, they’re hired to set you up and make you sound good. That said, if you can’t hear yourself, vocals are too loud, guitar is too quiet, whatever, by all means, tell them!
6. Don’t be afraid to trust. The host should understand their sound system very well, so trust that once you’re settled on stage they’re making it sound right out front. If you’re happy with what’s in your monitor sound, leave the rest to them.
7. Support other players. If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge other people. Open mics are a place to try material you might not get to try on other stages. Celebrate the people who come to share their art.
8. Network. Open mics are musician hangouts—take advantage! If you’re looking to start a band or find musicians to see elsewhere, there’s a good chance they’ll be hanging out at an open mic.
9. Learn from the experience. Every time you walk away from an open mic, there is something to learn. How were you received? What feedback did people give you? Did you feel more comfortable? How did you compare with the other players? Honestly analyze the event to improve your performance next time.
(10) And finally, HAVE FUN! Open mics are meant, most of all, to be fun. Musicians get to mingle, everyone gets to play, and even if you have the biggest flub of all time—it’s all in the spirit of open mic. To take the stage at all is to win. Enjoy it, learn from the experience, and have a good time!