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pix.fairydust
02-23-2019, 01:34 AM
Hi everyone,

A friend of mine and I are going to do an open mic soon. She's going to sing and I'll be playing. We haven't completely agreed what we'll be doing yet (new songs keep being suggested) but we have started practising playing and singing together, and it's a lot of fun!

Was wondering if anyone has any tips for the lead up to / night of the open mic? Either as a ukulele player or singer?

Thanks all :)

Spicemaster
02-23-2019, 02:01 AM
Crowded rooms are warm, so take your tuner with you!

UkerDanno
02-23-2019, 02:52 AM
Just do it and have fun! :D

Cornfield
02-23-2019, 02:58 AM
Get there early and try to sign into the third or fourth time slot.
Go to the mic, say your names and start playing your first song. Don't fall into the trap of explaining what you are going to do. Play your first song then say who wrote it and what the name was, unless it is a well known song or the title is obvious. If you are allowed 2 or 3 songs, then take time to talk a bit. A joke is always good. If the song has an easy chorus, crowds love to sing along.
Most of the people at the open mic will be there to play and sing and many will not be listening as they are in their own world of stardom.

When you are done playing, stay and listen to the other people. And HAVE FUN.

Martinlover
02-23-2019, 03:06 AM
I like playing slow sad depressing songs, which can be okay in a coffee house setting or a church with a great sound system. In a crowded restaurant/bar, festival, or loud coffeehouse setting with a questionable (terrible) sound system, I can not hear myself and the slow songs don’t carry over the din. My advice is play some barn burners and if you do something slow, maybe cover a recognizable song — everyone taps along to songs they know. I really should follow my own advice and mix up my set list.

Rllink
02-23-2019, 03:14 AM
Know your song. Know what you are going to say to introduce yourselves and your songs. Rehearse it, make it brief. That is as important as the song itself Try not to mumble or go through it as fast as you can. It is your first chance to connect with the audience and get those last second jitters out before you start in on your song. Take your time when you do your song, for me there is a tendency to speed up and I have to be ever mindful of that. Look like you are having fun. If you are having fun, it is contagious and your audience will have fun too. If you are reading your music as you go, try to look up once in a while and smile. I love doing open mic by the way. There is a coffee shop here in town that does it twice a month on Sunday nights. Each person gets two songs and then if there is time at the end they will let people do another if they want until closing. One last bit of advise, sometimes people talk while you are doing your song, or they try to sing along with you off key. Don't think about it, tune them out and keep going. Think about what you are doing and not what they are doing.

RafterGirl
02-23-2019, 04:25 AM
Take your time when you do your song, for me there is a tendency to speed up and I have to be ever mindful of that.

This is great advice. I've done a few solos at my ukulele jam groups (no real open mic yet), and I also have a tendency to rush. Last month I did a solo and was almost out of breath by the end, I was speeding up so much. Nerves for sure. I need to learn to relax & enjoy it. Savor the tune & the lyrics.

Have fun!

Ukecaster
02-23-2019, 04:33 AM
Play songs you can do in your sleep, so you can smile and make eye contact, and not be glued to a chart. Moving around a little bit while you play can help too, at least for me.

Bill Sheehan
02-23-2019, 05:28 AM
Hi Pix, lots of great advice here! I must confess, I've never done an open mic as such, but I have learned a few pretty good pointers from having the awesome good fortune of doing tons of gigs (everything from high school dances, to wedding receptions, to bars, to street festivals, to nursing homes), with various configurations of players, since I started a band with my three brothers back in 1970. There are so many good pieces of advice to be offered and incorporated, but I've also found that it can be sort of like trying to simultaneously implement all the little things you're supposed to remember as you're about to take a swing at a golf ball-- trying to do that often leads to a blown shot. So I've always felt it's best to try and keep just one primary thing in mind when it comes to musical performances: Practice until you know your songs so well that performing them is as easy and second-nature for you as the simple act of just walking out there and playing, for instance, a C major chord on your uke. I always think to myself, "Hey, I know I would have absolute confidence in my ability to go out there and simply strike a C chord; well, I'm not going to go out and perform this song until I've practiced it to the point that I can do it flawlessly from start to finish with that same second-nature confidence!" In other words, don't try performing a song if you still have that little voice in the back of your mind wondering, "Dang, am I going to be able to pull this off?" In short, "knowing your stuff ridiculously well" constitutes the foundation on which everything else stands. If you can come in to the gig with that kind of confidence in the songs you've chosen, everything else will fall into place; if you still feel squeamish about a particular song, leave it at home and look forward to taking it to the woodshed in the days ahead until it, too, is ready to perform with second-nature confidence. I hope this helps a little!

Ziret
02-23-2019, 06:12 AM
Great advice here. I've only done poetry open mics--save the comments, please--but I'd just add that it's a skill you'll hone over time. Your first effort may not be that great, your fifth may be getting there. You'll learn to adapt to the audience and have a few songs up your sleeve if they don't respond to what you had in mind. Play to them, not the microphone or your uke. Being about fourth in line is great advice while you're learning. You're not ready to be the ice breaker and it gives you time afterward to enjoy the show.

Definitely stay when you're done. Pay attention, and clap loudly for other performers, even the ones who aren't that great. They're probably as nervous as you are. This is where you may meet people who help you get to the next level, or who become your fans. And whether they're better than you or worse, you'll learn a lot from watching them and they'll appreciate your support. When eventually you do have fans, don't forget to reach out to those stumbling beginners.

Have a great time, and let us know how it goes.

pix.fairydust
02-23-2019, 06:23 AM
Wow, thank you everyone! Lots of really fantastic advice! I have a tendency to speed up too if I'm playing for anyone so this is something I will definitely be mindful of, especially as I'll be accompanying a singer! I'm going to ask her to set the pace, and I match her.

I'm also definitely going to memorise what I'm playing and get to a point where I can play it in my sleep, and just have the music there as backup. Also connect with whoever is listening, have a spare set of strings (just in case because you never know!!) and stay for the other performers, think that's really great advice!

Rllink
02-23-2019, 06:44 AM
I learn a lot by watching everyone else. I think that is one of the reasons that I do them, to see what other people are doing. I also like to talk to the other musicians who are still hanging around when it is over. I know that a few people are advising the third or fourth slot, and I'm not advising against that, but I like to go more toward the end. Maybe third or fourth from the end. But when I first started doing open mic I tried to go earlier. I just wanted to get it over with and I got real nervous waiting my turn. Now I like to wait and let the place settle in.

Ziret
02-23-2019, 07:57 AM
Exactly this.


I learn a lot by watching everyone else. I think that is one of the reasons that I do them, to see what other people are doing. I also like to talk to the other musicians who are still hanging around when it is over. I know that a few people are advising the third or fourth slot, and I'm not advising against that, but I like to go more toward the end. Maybe third or fourth from the end. But when I first started doing open mic I tried to go earlier. I just wanted to get it over with and I got real nervous waiting my turn. Now I like to wait and let the place settle in.

ProfChris
02-23-2019, 08:44 AM
Performing is a whole 'other thing! If you're not used to it then, no matter how well you know the song, your fingers will tense and your mind might go blank. Once you've done it a few times then you learn how to take the nerves and turn them into performance energy (or the whole thing makes you feel so awful you give up - some people just can't be performers because they can't cope with the nerves).

But, it will go far better than you think it did (you will think it was awful!) if you remember the following:

1. The audience wants you to succeed. Honestly. Even if your mind goes blank, if you can start again and get to the end OK, you'll get a huge cheer. Audiences are really kind, unless they think you're patronising or ignoring them.

2. They won't hear your mistakes (or most of them) so long as you keep going. If you stop and cry "Oops" or say "Sorry", they will notice. So perhaps practice a couple of times with distractions - maybe the radio switched on, so it keeps getting your attention. You'd like to be able to keep going to the end no matter what your brain tries to distract you with.

3. The other thing to practice is playing through your mistakes. Most of us stop and redo the bit that went wrong in practice - you have to learn not to do that. Once you get good at pretending nothing went wrong the audience will believe you - ask any professional musician!

4. Take the applause at the end - you actually deserve it. Performing is hard, and audiences recognise that.

And of course, try to enjoy it. If you can enjoy it even a bit, you'll be back. Because once you get the hang of performing, it's hugely enjoyable.

Swamp Yankee
02-23-2019, 09:43 AM
3. The other thing to practice is playing through your mistakes. Most of us stop and redo the bit that went wrong in practice - you have to learn not to do that. Once you get good at pretending nothing went wrong the audience will believe you...

^^^^ this.

For me, this has proved one of the most difficult things to overcome.

You have to keep going when you make a mistake while playing to an audience.

spongeuke
02-23-2019, 09:48 AM
Yes as to what John said (Ukecaster)

Martinlover
02-23-2019, 10:05 AM
For me, fingerpicking during your first open mics can be hard. My fingerpicking hand flops around like a fish it gets so nervous. So now I strum til I get settled.

pix.fairydust
02-23-2019, 11:08 AM
Playing through my mistakes - not something I'd thought about but makes perfect sense! I did consider that picking might be harder if I feel nervous, that's a good point.

Kenn2018
02-23-2019, 07:43 PM
Have fun. A little banter between the two of you is great if you are comfortable doing it. If you are having fun, the audience will have fun and be entertained.

If you are doing more than one song, end with the "fun" one. The upbeat one. The amusing one. The audience will remember that one and associate it with you.

Don't worry about or apologize if you make a mistake. They won't notice it.

If your song(s) permit, leave the audience in a happy mood.

If you're playing only one song, and it's serious or sad, I like to introduce it and give a little context so people know what to expect.

Number one is to relax and enjoy yourselves.

DownUpDave
02-23-2019, 11:33 PM
Dont stop. If you fumble a line or a chord progression don't stop, just plow through. You have an advantage with two as one can keep going, but discuss this and prepare for this ahead of time. As others have said connect with the audience, look cross the room and smile. Practice singing and playing in the mirror to make sure you don't have the "serious, I am trying really hard to get this right" players scowl on your face.

zztush
02-23-2019, 11:57 PM
Play and practice in stand up posture. It is better even on rythm. Audience like singing in stand up, they don't like instrumental in sitting.

JesterBlod
02-23-2019, 11:57 PM
Rather than spare set of strings I would take a spare Uke if you can. Just think about those new strings slowly going flat during the song!

Jerryc41
02-24-2019, 12:37 AM
Go to the mic, say your names and start playing your first song.

Too much talking can kill a singing performance. Get up, play, sit down.

Another recommendation I've heard is to make it lively.

pix.fairydust
02-24-2019, 01:34 AM
Practice singing and playing in the mirror to make sure you don't have the "serious, I am trying really hard to get this right" players scowl on your face.

I so do this face!

pix.fairydust
02-24-2019, 01:34 AM
Rather than spare set of strings I would take a spare Uke if you can. Just think about those new strings slowly going flat during the song!

Good point!

Bill Sheehan
02-24-2019, 01:50 AM
Rather than spare set of strings I would take a spare Uke if you can. Just think about those new strings slowly going flat during the song!

Great point !!!

Osprey
02-24-2019, 09:44 AM
Before I tried to do a solo open mic I did several with a small group. One thing that bothered me a bit was the microphone itself. Not that used to one. The other thing that surprised me is that I couldn’t really hear me playing or singing that well. The audience said they could hear me fine but to me the sound just went out and disappeared. I have played at a ukulele festival where they had a great sound system with monitors and that was an immense help. Have fun, push through any mistakes and remember the audience wants you to succeed and they will help you through it.

pix.fairydust
02-24-2019, 09:55 AM
Such a lot of really great advice here, thank you to everyone who has posted! I've got so many good tips I can take away and implement :):)

Kenn2018
02-24-2019, 12:00 PM
An anecdote: The last open mike at my uke club, almost 100 people showed up. I was the last to play of 10 or 12 performers. The first song went pretty well. The second, "Drift Away", went south right from the get-go. I started and I couldn't get my voice into the right key. It was stuck. I couldn't drop it an octave, I couldn't get it high enough. I could see the crowd's faces wondering what the heck I was doing?

I said to them while strumming, "I know there's a right key in here somewhere..." They chuckled. I started the second verse and my voice started to come right. It did and everyone started to clap along and sing the chorus with me. I was told I did a great job by a number of people afterward.

I knew how bad it was. They knew how bad it was. But they appreciated that I persevered and it worked out in the end.

I think it was the combination of very dry air and recently getting over a cold that caused my vocal chords to hang up. I had warmed up. Drank plenty of water. Even had a cough drop earlier. But it still happened. You can't always control the situation, only how you react to it. If I had it to do over, I probably would have stopped, cleared my throat, taken a drink of water and started over. It was a valuable experience regardless.

mgsondance
02-24-2019, 07:21 PM
If possible, both of you should memorize your music. Nothing worse than looking at a stage and seeing the top of someone's head.
Remember that you are not there to "do" something to/for your audience- you are there to interact with them.
When singing, I don't eat dairy that day, or at least for a few hours before singing- tends to create phlegm. Experiment with what makes your voice the clearest- something a menthol cough drop.
Smile, Smile, smile!!!
Pick songs you can sing honestly, with feeling.
If using a mike on a stand while playing, have it adjusted high enough that you face your audience; don't drop your head to get to a mike adjusted too low.
Don't expect to not be nervous; I sang in church for decades and although I eventually became a bit more comfortable, there were always nerves...

pix.fairydust
02-25-2019, 04:39 AM
You can't always control the situation, only how you react to it.

So well said! Thank you for sharing

Bill Sheehan
02-25-2019, 05:51 AM
An anecdote: The last open mike at my uke club, almost 100 people showed up. I was the last to play of 10 or 12 performers. The first song went pretty well. The second, "Drift Away", went south right from the get-go. I started and I couldn't get my voice into the right key. It was stuck. I couldn't drop it an octave, I couldn't get it high enough. I could see the crowd's faces wondering what the heck I was doing?

I said to them while strumming, "I know there's a right key in here somewhere..." They chuckled. I started the second verse and my voice started to come right. It did and everyone started to clap along and sing the chorus with me. I was told I did a great job by a number of people afterward.

I knew how bad it was. They knew how bad it was. But they appreciated that I persevered and it worked out in the end.

I think it was the combination of very dry air and recently getting over a cold that caused my vocal chords to hang up. I had warmed up. Drank plenty of water. Even had a cough drop earlier. But it still happened. You can't always control the situation, only how you react to it. If I had it to do over, I probably would have stopped, cleared my throat, taken a drink of water and started over. It was a valuable experience regardless.

Ken, I can relate to this experience you have described! I got to play yesterday for a surprise birthday party. I played with three other musicians (no drummer for this gig). I was on electric guitar for this one. I felt very well prepared, and came in with a high degree of confidence. But for some reason, right as we started the first tune, I got a little case of "the yips" (kinda like golfers can get when getting ready to stroke a putt), and things just didn't feel quite right for some reason. It's possible that my last-minute decision to utilize a "foot tambourine", without really practicing with it beforehand, had me a little distracted. And then, one one of our songs, I gave the four-count WAY too slowly, and we did the tune so slowly that it was almost distressing (it's a medium speed tune by the Youngbloods called "Get Together"), but we got through it. The point is, those types of things will happen, and part of the fun of this process is to go home, take a little breather, and then look back and ask if there's anything we can do next time to improve on what we just did. I know I'll be more accurate in calling out those four-counts in the future! By the way, Ken, "Drift Away" is not an easy tune to pull off vocally, so I think we all admire the fact that you took a whack at it, and you'll undoubtedly tame it next time out!

merlin666
02-25-2019, 07:23 AM
Get there early and try to sign into the third or fourth time slot.

I have been going to an open mic for a bit longer than a year now. There are poets, joke and story tellers, and people with guitars and/or singers, so pretty mixed bag ages 8 to 80. This is a monthly event, and you sign up, but there are no time slots and the organizer just calls people up in an order that he determines. He ALWAYS makes me play last! As I am kind of a reliable regular who most of the time also has a couple of new songs each time, should I ask for a better time slot?

Bill Sheehan
02-25-2019, 08:22 AM
I have been going to an open mic for a bit longer than a year now. There are poets, joke and story tellers, and people with guitars and/or singers, so pretty mixed bag ages 8 to 80. This is a monthly event, and you sign up, but there are no time slots and the organizer just calls people up in an order that he determines. He ALWAYS makes me play last! As I am kind of a reliable regular who most of the time also has a couple of new songs each time, should I ask for a better time slot?

He's saving the best for last, Merlin !!!

Rllink
02-25-2019, 09:32 AM
You can't always control the situation, only how you react to it. Open mics are a good place to make hone the craft, a place to learn how to get comfortable with yourself. A few mistakes here and there are just a part of the learning process. I think this piece of advise from Kenn is the best of any.

ksiegel
02-25-2019, 12:26 PM
I do open mics often, as well as playing at Framers' markets and other gigs.

Have fun, as so many others have said. Enjoy yourself.

Don't be afraid to have lyric/chord sheets in front of you - I've seen a ton of Pro musicians (Billy Joel, Steve Martin, Tom Paxton among them) who have song sheets or digital devices with the lyrics and/or song there to refer to. I prefer paper - it doesn't shut off unexpectedly. (Although a tablet doesn't go flying in the breeze, either...) Knowing the song forward and backwards is great, but what happens when you only remember it backwards, at the last moment? That's where the lyric sheet helps.

Mix up your tempos, and keys... something I don't do enough of, but I've got a limited vocal range lately. Winter and breathing meds have a lot to do with that.

If you make a mistake, remember that the majority if your audience doesn't know that. If you play the wrong chords, do it again. Then, it is your "arrangement".

I was singing a song for years, and it sounds great - then a friend who reads music (I don't) looked at a copy of the song, and told me I'd been singing a harmony line, all along. it still sounded great, but when she sang the REAL melody with me, it sounded even better.

And one piece of advice I always give is, find one person in the middle or back of the audience, and sing to that person. Move your head around, look at other people, but sing to that one person. It keeps your head up (and your airway open), and narrows your focus while letting the nerves decrease.

Best of luck!


-Kurt

ricdoug
02-27-2019, 07:28 PM
Sound on most stages is horrible. Only perform songs you have practiced down pat. Never try new, unrehearsed material. Ric


Know your song. Know what you are going to say to introduce yourselves and your songs. Rehearse it, make it brief. That is as important as the song itself Try not to mumble or go through it as fast as you can. It is your first chance to connect with the audience and get those last second jitters out before you start in on your song. Take your time when you do your song, for me there is a tendency to speed up and I have to be ever mindful of that. Look like you are having fun. If you are having fun, it is contagious and your audience will have fun too. If you are reading your music as you go, try to look up once in a while and smile. I love doing open mic by the way. There is a coffee shop here in town that does it twice a month on Sunday nights. Each person gets two songs and then if there is time at the end they will let people do another if they want until closing. One last bit of advise, sometimes people talk while you are doing your song, or they try to sing along with you off key. Don't think about it, tune them out and keep going. Think about what you are doing and not what they are doing.


Play songs you can do in your sleep, so you can smile and make eye contact, and not be glued to a chart. Moving around a little bit while you play can help too, at least for me.


Performing is a whole 'other thing! If you're not used to it then, no matter how well you know the song, your fingers will tense and your mind might go blank. Once you've done it a few times then you learn how to take the nerves and turn them into performance energy (or the whole thing makes you feel so awful you give up - some people just can't be performers because they can't cope with the nerves).

But, it will go far better than you think it did (you will think it was awful!) if you remember the following:

1. The audience wants you to succeed. Honestly. Even if your mind goes blank, if you can start again and get to the end OK, you'll get a huge cheer. Audiences are really kind, unless they think you're patronising or ignoring them.

2. They won't hear your mistakes (or most of them) so long as you keep going. If you stop and cry "Oops" or say "Sorry", they will notice. So perhaps practice a couple of times with distractions - maybe the radio switched on, so it keeps getting your attention. You'd like to be able to keep going to the end no matter what your brain tries to distract you with.

3. The other thing to practice is playing through your mistakes. Most of us stop and redo the bit that went wrong in practice - you have to learn not to do that. Once you get good at pretending nothing went wrong the audience will believe you - ask any professional musician!

4. Take the applause at the end - you actually deserve it. Performing is hard, and audiences recognise that.

And of course, try to enjoy it. If you can enjoy it even a bit, you'll be back. Because once you get the hang of performing, it's hugely enjoyable.


Have fun. A little banter between the two of you is great if you are comfortable doing it. If you are having fun, the audience will have fun and be entertained.

If you are doing more than one song, end with the "fun" one. The upbeat one. The amusing one. The audience will remember that one and associate it with you.

Don't worry about or apologize if you make a mistake. They won't notice it.

If your song(s) permit, leave the audience in a happy mood.

If you're playing only one song, and it's serious or sad, I like to introduce it and give a little context so people know what to expect.

Number one is to relax and enjoy yourselves.


Too much talking can kill a singing performance. Get up, play, sit down.

Another recommendation I've heard is to make it lively.


I do open mics often, as well as playing at Framers' markets and other gigs.

Have fun, as so many others have said. Enjoy yourself.

Don't be afraid to have lyric/chord sheets in front of you - I've seen a ton of Pro musicians (Billy Joel, Steve Martin, Tom Paxton among them) who have song sheets or digital devices with the lyrics and/or song there to refer to. I prefer paper - it doesn't shut off unexpectedly. (Although a tablet doesn't go flying in the breeze, either...) Knowing the song forward and backwards is great, but what happens when you only remember it backwards, at the last moment? That's where the lyric sheet helps.

Mix up your tempos, and keys... something I don't do enough of, but I've got a limited vocal range lately. Winter and breathing meds have a lot to do with that.

If you make a mistake, remember that the majority if your audience doesn't know that. If you play the wrong chords, do it again. Then, it is your "arrangement".

I was singing a song for years, and it sounds great - then a friend who reads music (I don't) looked at a copy of the song, and told me I'd been singing a harmony line, all along. it still sounded great, but when she sang the REAL melody with me, it sounded even better.

And one piece of advice I always give is, find one person in the middle or back of the audience, and sing to that person. Move your head around, look at other people, but sing to that one person. It keeps your head up (and your airway open), and narrows your focus while letting the nerves decrease.

Best of luck!


-Kurt