16 Stagecraft Tips for Your First Time at the Jam

You've plucked up the courage to go to your first jam night or open mic but there's a shit tonne of things related to perfoming live that you don't know about.

Stagecraft is knowledge only gleaned from years of playing to audiences: dealing with gear issues and learning from on-stage mishaps.

Here are my first time jam tips…


  • Tune your guitar before you get there, tune again when you get there. Check tuning immediately you are on stage for your set.
  • Check all gear: pedal, amps, leads, guitar. Discard dodgy leads / guitars with dodgy jack plug inputs. Use switch cleaner to silence crackling knobs and volume pots. Check batteries for pedals.
  • Take spare batteries / strings
  • If you've put on new strings, allow at least 5-7 days before the show for them to be "played in" to prevent tuning problems on the night


  • Nobody wants to hear you tune up, do this with your amp off
  • Turn off you amp before unplugging your lead from your guitar, or pedal. Nobody wants to hear that explosive buzz
  • If somebody is crouched down setting up their gear next to your amp, be polite and don't play. Their ears are only centimetres away from your amp speaker and you won't make friends by deafening people.
  • If you didn't bring a guitar stand, rest your guitar facing the wall with the tuning pegs on the outside. This minimises the pegs moving and putting your guitar out of tune.
  • When plugging in, wrap guitar leads once around the top strap of your amp to prevent becoming unplugged. Do the same at the guitar end: wrap once around your guitar strap before plugging in. This prevents you, or somebody else accidently stepping/tripping on this lead and unplugging yourself
  • Set the amp louder than you think you need and set your volume around 7 or 8. It might seem loud on its own but when the drums, bass, guitar and other instruments come in, it should be about right.
  • If you have a small amp put it on a chair or tilt in back against the wall. It's important you cant hear what you're playing so make sure the speaker is pointing towards your ears, not your ankles.
  • Don’t leave pedals plugged in while waiting to play as it saps the battery. Unplug the input side to deactivate the draw on battery.
  • Compare volumes of your amp sound and your pedal when its on, they should be roughly the same volume. Allow a tad more volume for the effected sound as drive/gain/distortion can sap volume from the effected sound
  • Keep your head up towards the end of the chord progression to look for cues. It may be your turn to solo, the singer may be about to sing a verse or it may be the cue to finish the song. If you don't have eye contact, you won't know which.
  • Don't play single note / solo stuff during the singing - stick to chords. In fact, don't do anything to step on the singers toes. The voice is the lead instrument so give it the space it needs.
  • Once a song has finished, turn your volume right down. And don't be doing any noodling in between songs - that's annoying as shit.