10 Common Stage Problems
The stage is a minefield, so we've put together something of a live survival guide to help you get the most out of your live shows. Here are 10 common problems you're sure to encounter at some point.
1) Leads Going Missing.
Do cables actually have a mind of their own? They’re either tangling themselves up beyond all recognition, even though they have been placed carefully in your bag, or just vanishing into thin air. You ever opened your guitar case and found that your leads have just.. gone? Always carry spares, just in case one of your leads goes hitchhiking through the space-time continuum.
2) Pedals Messing Up.
Because FX pedals use a lot of very finicky electronics, it doesn’t take a lot for them to play up. The word ‘temperamental’ may as well have been invented to describe FX pedals. It can be heat, or even just using a slightly different power source than usual that makes it misbehave. Some pedals are very reliable, and may never break. Some have the potential to cut out mid song. While there are ways of avoiding this, like keeping your equipment in tip top shape and reporting any issues to your local equipment repair shop, the best thing to do is have a contingency plan for if they do conk out. Set up a back up sound that can be used until you have a moment to fix it. But make sure you do this at a time where your band members can maintain the show, as you don’t want to cause stage death!
3) Stands Collapsing.
At most gigs, you are likely to be given some basic, low brand microphone stands. These stands have the capacity to droop, which can be an entertaining sight for the crowd, as your singer / rhythm guitarist attempts to sing into a microphone that is dropping below his chest, but on the receiving end, it’s not quite so funny. Always make sure all parts of the stand are screwed in as best they can be. Same goes for cymbal stands. Usually, cymbal stands are made out of stronger material to support the weight of the cymbal, but the same applies. You don’t want a UFO sized ride cymbal frisbee-ing itself across the stage at any point during your set.
4) Guitar Strings Breaking.
This one is an age old tale, and something that can’t really be avoided. If a string is going to go, it’s going to go. Of course, it’s always handy to make sure you strings aren’t wound too tight and are kept clean to avoid the rust eating into the windings, but strings break, they’re not designed to last forever. On a guitar, it’s usually the G string. Yes I know, “my G string broke” tee hee. Bass players are both the best and worst off with this. Bass strings take a lot of beating to break, but if they do, it can seriously hurt someone due to how thick they are. The only real solution for this is to replace your strings regularly, keep them clean, and bring a spare pack.
5) Drum Stick Mayhem.
After a band has left the stage, the area around the drum kit often looks like the floor of a pet shop after a spillage of sawdust. When drummers are smashing their kit like their life depends on it (which they often do), sticks will break. So bring spares. Better yet, get a drum stick bag that attaches nicely onto your floor tom. Then you can grab a new one every time the stick you are holding splinters under the abuse.
6) Forgetting Your Lyrics.
No matter how well you know your songs, it would take a religiously obsessive singer to be perfect all the time, especially just starting out. It may just be a line, or your mind might go blank completely. Ideally this wont happen and you’ll just fluff a few lines. This is easily solved by repeating an earlier line or just making something up. Even total nonsense in the same melody will do. Of course, we advocate that you practise until every song is ingrained in your soul, but mistakes will happen. You could store lyrics on the stage, but this can look very unprofessional.
7) The PA System.
For all intents and purposes, the PA system is your daddy. It is the translator of your sound to the audience. It can also be your downfall. If your levels aren’t right, or you’ve got any wiring issues with your equipment, you might feedback. Hopefully the venue will have a decent sounding PA system with a good engineer, but if not, use your soundcheck to get this sorted as best you can. But be nice, the engineer can make you sound awful on a whim.
It’s also vital to make sure the on stage mix is good too. Ask the engineer to turn up the vocals a little more in your monitor, as this wont affect the PA sound and will help you all play cohesively. Too many times has a band not been able to hear themselves on stage, and their performance suffered for it.
8) Spilling Drinks.
If you can, avoid bringing glasses full of liquid on stage. Liquid and electrical appliances do not mix. A simple spill of a glass of water all over a pedalboard could short out the entire venue. Ideally, you’ll have drank plenty before you got on stage, but singers and drummers will need some refreshment mid set. But please, be careful. You’ll have to pay for anything you break. If anything is spilled, make like a janitor and get it cleaned up ASAP.
9) Multi-Dimensional Plectrums.
Plectrums quite simply defy physics. There is no other way to explain it. If you drop one, they can de-materialise, or fall through a worm hole and show up again in your kitchen. The day someone figures this out will be one to remember. They’d deserve a Nobel prize. Always bring spares. Have some in your back pocket that you can reach easily if you drop one, because you will.
Like I said earlier, the stage is a minefield. There are many injuries that can be sustained. Drummer breaking their hand, guitarist cutting their hand open, singer developing throat problems, and so on. But there are some things that you can do to minimise the chance of injury. Finding a way to play that minimises the risk of cutting your hand open on the bridge of your guitar, or drinking honey water before you go on can all be good ways to avoid dying on stage.
There are many more things that can go wrong on stage, such as lights falling down, electric overloads or tripping over wires, but these are the most common. Every artist and venue will have different stories. Make sure you are prepared for the death trap that is the stage.