Unglued: The Space Between

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If video-game franchise Guitar Hero has shown us anything, it’s that anyone can play guitar, provided the guitar has five colored buttons instead of actual strings. So maybe it’s just shown us that anyone can play Simon. In any case, playing guitar is the easy part of being in a band.

You can rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, but nothing prepares you for what happens when you’re in front of an audience of living, breathing people just waiting to be entertained. It’s not enough for you to simply play your heart out for them—no, these people are insatiable. They need to be entertained between songs! If you’re the man or woman with the microphone, here are some tips on how to fill those terrifying silences.

Tell them about the music

Think in-depth descriptions of each song are reserved for VH1’s Storytellers? Think again. Tell the audience why you wrote the song. Who you were hanging out with. What street you were driving down when you thought of that perfect guitar hook. What kind of sandwich you ate that gave you food poisoning and made you stay home from work and watch that movie that inspired the lyrics.

Discuss what you did that day
This is especially good for touring bands. You can mention a local landmark you visited, even if you didn’t do so. This will help build camaraderie because the crowd will think, “Wow, he or she appreciates something that I walk by occasionally.” Examples: “We went to the Sears Tower today, and Jeff here nearly puked when we got to the top.” Or: “We were at the Alamo today, and Jeff shouted that line, you know, ‘Remember the Alamo!’ It was hilarious.” Or: “We went to Pike Place Market today, and that’s where we fired Jeff from the band.”

Deal with hecklers  
You don’t want anyone thinking you’re spineless, so if someone starts giving you guff, by golly, give it back. We’ve all heard the tired “Ah, I remember my first beer,” and “I don’t come down to your work and knock the burgers off the grill,” retorts, so here are some fresh ones:
“Ah, I remember my first tab of ecstasy.”“Sir, I understand you might not appreciate our art, but it means a lot to us, and I bet you’d find it disrespectful if there was someone repeatedly yelling while you tried to do whatever it is you’re passionate about.”“After the show, I’m going to follow your sorry ass home, lie in wait outside your house, and bludgeon you with a shovel when you leave for work in the? morning.” Make a public service announcement  
You’ve got a room full of people and, most likely, some kind of political and/or social agenda, so why not put the two together? Here’s your chance to tug at the crowd’s collective heartstrings. Ask, “Anyone in here have a dog? I bet your dog is like a member of your family, right? A member of your family that is astonishingly still not allowed to vote.”

Hawk your wares  
Got merch? Those CDs, shirts and novelty mugs ain’t gonna sell themselves! Work recent or upcoming holidays into your sales pitch: “You know, I was just talking to my boss the other day and I said, ‘Can you believe that Administrative Professionals Day has come and gone again? I assume we got something nice for Timothy at the front desk?’ He looked at me sheepishly and said, ‘No, it caught me off guard this year.’ Well, now the boss has a stack of our CDs in his drawer so he’s always prepared. And you can be, too!

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