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If you’ve never performed in front of an audience before, how do you get over the nerves? Raghav Mehrotra remembers freezing at his first gig, trying to figure out how to work up the courage to get on the stage. He’s now a seasoned performer (at the ripe old age of 16) and has a couple of key tips and expectations for any drummer who’s worried about their first gig.

The main takeaway is the more prepared you are, the more relaxed you’ll be.

1. Overprepare

That being said, there’s no such thing as being overprepared. If you’re learning a set and you have the list of songs, practice all of them and try to get them exact. You might want to coordinate with the other band members in advance on how you’re going to start or end songs. If you get all the details locked down before the gig, you won’t be left guessing when you hit the stage.

2. Practice until you can’t get it wrong

“Don’t practice until you get things right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.” It’s one of Raghav’s favorite mantras, and it should be yours too – because if you’ve prepared so thoroughly that you can’t physically mess up, you’ll have more confidence, and your nerves should ease up.

3. Map out your songs

Practice the songs exactly how you’ll play them at the gig. Try to map out the song by section – like a roadmap of where the verses, choruses, or transitions are. You should also note what the other musicians are doing, so when you’re in the heat of the moment and you hear those cues you’ll know exactly where to go from there. Memorize them so you’re never left in the dark!

4. Always watch and listen

When you’re onstage, always be watching and listening. Be present in the music and try to be ready for any situation. Non-verbal communication with other musicians will help you catch last-minute changes. If the vocalist motions to you to end the song sooner or the guitarist needs another ten seconds before you count in the next song, you won’t miss these things (and your bandmates will be thankful for it).

5. Arrive early

As a drummer, if you’re on time, you’re probably late! With so much gear and so many moving parts, you might need more time to adjust your setup in advance. You don’t want to be stuck trying to change your snare height mid-song.

6. Be the foundation

Our job is to keep the groove – we aren’t (usually) hired to play solos. Remember that you’re the backbone of the band. You can hold down that foundation while still making things interesting. It’s a win-win.

Looking for even more tips to prepare for your first gig? Check out this article here.

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