Over-Prepare For Your Next Gig

A few weeks ago, I put in a significant amount prep and practice for what turned out to be a pretty relaxed 2 hour gig.  Looking back, I probably could have survived doing much less, but I’m glad I didn’t.

I don’t always do this, but I was feeling a little extra pressure knowing that I would be the only chordal instrument (bass/gtr duo).  Covering both the melodic and harmonic roles can be challenging for most guitarists, including myself, so I put in some extra time.

I knew I was probably over-preparing, but as I started to dig in, I found myself really enjoying working on the music.  In addition to simply enjoying the work, I believe there are many benefits to making over-preparation a habit whenever possible.  Here are 6 that I’ve found.

6 benefits of over-preparing even on the smaller gigs.

1.  Less work in the future.  Doing more than is immediately required will make your life easier in the future.  I’ve heard it said that music in the best bank in the world – even a small deposit can pay huge dividends throughout a lifetime.  The hard work you put in applies not only to the immediate job, but also for years of future work.  The next time I’m booked for this type of gig, I will have to put in significantly less work to get the same or even better results.

2.  It’s less stressful.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has shown up to a gig feeling unprepared.  It’s such an awful feeling.  It’s obvious, but true – you’ll play better and have less stress if you’ve prepared well.  Showing up knowing that you’ve done your homework makes your life less stressful.

3.  Opportunity for in-depth practice.  Getting in quality practice time is a struggle for me.  It always seems to get pushed down the list.  When I do make time, it’s challenging to know what exactly to focus on.  Using upcoming gigs as opportunities to not only prepare, but also to get in some quality practice time.  Having a specific gig lined up forces me to be very specific in my practicing.  It gives me a clear goal and a deadline.  This past weekend it was: learn 15 Brazilian tunes – melody and harmony simultaneously – and be able to perform them 7 days from now.  And because there was a firm deadline, it had to get done.

4.  Doing quality work.  We all know this is essential.  Success in music doesn’t happen by accident.  Every time we step on stage we need to provide the very best music and the most value possible.  I want to be in the habit of over-delivering, giving more than required or expected.  There’s so much noise out there and very few people will put in the hard work often enough to rise above it.  Putting in the the work even on the smaller stuff helps achieve this.  Plus, you never know who might be listening.

5.  Love of music.  I already loved Brazilian music, but after spending a whole week working on it, I continued to find new things I loved about it.  I learned about 15 tunes in depth and kept noticing all these genius things Jobim did in his writing that I never picked up on before.  Go check out the “B” sections on One Note Samba, Dindi, and Wave.  Jobim is the master at cleverly using the exact same melodic idea and moving it through different keys.  So beautiful and so effective.

6.   Be a better musician.  Truly immersing yourself in a small, specific area of music leads to quicker and more noticeable progress.  It’s so easy to feel stagnant as a musician.  I’m learning that putting your head down and diving deep with a single focus moves the needle.  I truly feel that today I’m a better guitarist than I was last week because of the work I put in.

Bonus reason #7 – There might be bees!  After all the practice I put in for this gig, the client set us up right next to all these bushes filled with bugs and bees literally inches away.  We spent half the time swatting bugs and worrying about getting stung while trying not to let the music suffer… haha!  I was really thankful in that moment that I had prepared and wasn’t winging it.  Lesson learned: Over-prepare…. because there might be bees at the gig.

What do you think about the idea over-preparing even on smaller stuff?


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