How to make the best impression at open mic nights

Vocals alumna Francesca Confortini gives us her top tips on performing at Open Mic nights...
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Performing at an open mic night can be a great way of sharpening your musical skills, expanding your network and finding an audience for you and your music. 

Being a musician in London offers plenty of opportunities for open mic but once you've found a suitable event, then what next? How should you prepare to play and how should you choose the right songs to perform? 

We asked our BMus Vocal alumna and now Vocal tutor Francesca Confortini for her essential advice on making the most of these opportunities... 

How should you prepare for an open mic night if you've not performed at one before? 

First of all, I would suggest you start to show up at open mic nights to understand what the general vibe of the place is, who the "regular" performers are (as every open mic event has its habitual musicians!), who the organisers are and what sort of style is most suitable. 

Psychologically it really helps to be familiar with a place or a face already before performing something new in front of an audience, especially if it's the first time you do it."

At the same time, I would obviously keep on practising and try to study a way to finish a song. You should also rehearse the performance as a whole rather than just different parts of it.

How do you know you're ready to perform at one of these events? 

The more you think about it, the harder it will be: so you shouldn't expect to be 110 percent sure about every detail of your performance as this is often the best part of the process!

Never feel forced to perform. So wait until the moment you feel like you are turning that feeling in your stomach (which last time told you to run away from the venue) into the necessary push to jump on stage and communicate something. That is when you've found the right moment. 

If you're feeling anxious about performing, have you any tips on beating the nerves? 

Personally, I always try to find a focus point and think to myself that if I really believe in what I am doing, then it will show, whether I am going to sing my own song, accompany another musician or play a cover, and that's the only thing that matters. I have experienced over the years that it's way more effective to have a felt performance rather than a perfectly executed song with no emotions.

The only hard thing is to manage to find your own zone. A little bit of adrenaline is good, but it's essential to be able to feel focused in order to finish the performance and then start thinking about it only afterwards. So, stop judging yourself DURING the performance! 

And don't take yourself too seriously. After all you are performing as a human being and this is what makes your moment unique (but this arguably applies to anything in life)." 

How you should choose what songs/music to perform? 

As I said before, catch the general vibe of the night and understand what sort of material would be more appropriate or what ideas you can gather by looking at the other performers' choices. This is not essential though, as I have seen performers showing up at a blues night with spoken word improv material, yet still ending up having a great time: So check out the rules of each night as they might be more open to a wider range of material than what you thought

For the new musician or artist, what are the best things about playing at these kind of nights? 

I think there are only good things to gain from playing at these kind of events! 

You will meet other musicians and expand your network, start to build your name on the local scene, practise your new material, learn how to jam, improvise, deal with an audience made of musicians (which is tough!), work on your confidence ... I would say it is essential to at least give it a try.

Is there anything you should bring or take with you? Apart from your instrument and A-game of course....

If it's your first time, I think that bringing a friend could be a good idea: either someone who can play with you something that you have been rehearsing previously so you can share the stage together and that will back you up." 

Or at the very least, bring along somebody to support you.

What would be your top advice be for an open mic novice? 

Think about the word itself: an open mic is meant to be open! This is an opportunity for you to open up and share something you have thought, written, felt or practised without the pressure of it being a competition or an audition, so nobody will be there to judge you as a person.

And lastly, remember that everybody there will be in the exact same situation as you, so you will hopefully have something in common with the other performers too!

Find out more about London's Best Open Mic nights

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by ICMP staff writer
September 30, 2019
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