Open Mics (A guide)

I have been to lots of open Mics at various setting and locations and I thought it would be good to offer some advice to those considering going.

Finding the courage

The first thing I would say is that Open Mics are not as scary as you might think they are. Normally the scary part is the build up to an open mic but once you’re on stage you soon find the strength to perform. Open Mics are a forgiving environment, and you don’t have to be a pro to be on stage. The crowd will understand if you fluff up a bit or if nerves get the better of you! And let’s face it, what’s the worst that could happen? You make a tit of yourself for 5 minutes, who cares, you can always try again! I often say to myself that if I go up there and I completely fail then that is a good thing because it gives me something constructive to work on. Failing is much better than never trying, as never trying is the ultimate failure. Take a friend or family member who will support you and whatever you’re trying out just have fun with it!

Practice practice practice!

Before you go approach Open Mics be confident with your playing abilities. Practice your songs every day and try to imagine a setlist. Find friends or family to try out songs in front of. If you throw in some covers they might just sing along 😉

Looking at venues

I have played at folk clubs, cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants and creative music centres and they’re all different. I would say for sure first time a bar is good because it will be busy but you can get a little bit lost in the room. I know this sounds bad but if you fluff it’s not going to make you that embarrassed. In pubs the setting can be quite intimate, so a few sing along songs wouldn’t go amiss. In a creative music centre you normally have more freedom and they encourage fresh material. I would recommend going in to the place and checking it out if it’s your first time and making sure you like the vibe and if it’s good book yourself up!

Picking songs

Don’t pick anything that is too much of a challenge to begin with, you’ll thank yourself for some easy ones so you can just enjoy the atmosphere.  I try to pick songs that people know that aren’t so obvious, but people don’t mind wonder wall or Bob Dylan, so if that’s your thing knock yourself out! 🙂

Tips for the big night:

1. Get there on time – organisers really appreciate punctuality. If you show up early you also get a better chance of a slot!

2. Watch your food and drink – I usually not to eat any food 3 hours before a performance because some foods can interfere with your singing. I usually only drink water as this helps your throat! Don’t drink alcohol for your nerves it’s not worth it. I’ve seen people go up drunk and struggle through, they make asses of themselves, please don’t do this!

3. Tune your instrument – before you go on stage find a quiet place to tune your instrument so it’s ready to play. Tuning on stage is time wasting a bit but if you get up there and absolutely need to its not the end of the world.

4. Enjoy yourself – remember that not anyone can go up on stage, you’re very brave! Remember to smile and be courteous thanking those who listen.

5. Listen to others – when the show is over, don’t be a dick and just leave. Stick around and enjoy others perform. It’s respectful and you might make some new friends. I make a conscious effort to approach a performer I enjoy after their set and thank them for the performance, this means so much coming from a stranger.

A lot of opportunities come from Open Mics, so enjoy them and play your heart out.


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