1. Noodling Between Tunes

There’s no good reason to be playing little licks and riffs between songs. It’s unprofessional and annoys bandmates who are ready to go. Plus, you steal the thunder from a song when you reveal part of it beforehand. The audience shouldn’t even have to hear you tune.

2. Not Pacing The Set List

Like a full-length CD (remember CD’s?), a good set is sequenced carefully. Consider how song order will affect the flow of mood and energy in your performance, and work out a few segues so you won’t have to interrupt that flow. Be ready to make changes as you read the audience, too — but don’t pull out the big guns early if you want to go out with a bang.

3. Bad Banter

Think ahead of time about what you might say when you address the audience, and keep it brief. You can get the momentum going at the top of a set by not talking at all until you’re two or three songs in. If you don’t have anything interesting or funny to say, please, just shut up ’n play yer guitar.

4. Gear Malfunction

Part of being prepared is having all of your gear is in working order before you leave the last rehearsal. There will be times when bad luck throws you a curve, but 99% of onstage gear malfunctions are avoidable. Give everything the once-over ahead of time and be ready to field any emergencies with extra strings, spare cables, fuses, AC adapters and duct tape. Good lord, don’t forget the duct tape.

5. Frowns All Around

Smile, for chrissakes. The audience gets its cue about whether or not this is fun from you. Unless you’re playing in a death metal band, where smiling could reveal you to be a total wuss, let them see that you’re enjoying yourself.

6. No Thanks

Want to endear yourself to bar owners, waitresses, and the guy behind the board? Meet them before you play and throw out a thanks from the stage before you wrap up your set.

7. Slow To Strike

You were dying to get onstage to play, right? So think of the next band on the bill. Don’t start chatting up fans or ordering drinks before you strike your gear. Get the hell off the stage and give the next act a chance to play their full set.

— RM

The Punch-In is edited by Rich Maloof, who has a long history with TrueFire as artist, educator, and producer. Rich’s body of work as a published author and Editor in Chief of Guitar magazine has been distributed and translated internationally.