Kat DaVille | Musician, Blogger, Consultant | Central NJ | 6 Ways to Prepare for a Last Minute Gig
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6 Ways to Prepare for a Last Minute Gig

6 Ways to Prepare for a Last Minute Gig

Last minute gig??  No problem!


So you’re cramming the weeks of preparation into several hours before you’re about to perform with people you may or may not have played with.  EVER.  These things happen, and you’re gonna own it!


Here’s a few things you’ll need to make sure your last minute performance goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Listen to the Songs Endlessly


You’re most likely rushing around like crazy at this point: gathering your gear, preparing your gig bag, going over logistics, etc.  This is the perfect time to start listening to the songs while you’re in the process of assembling your A team.  While you’re packing the car, place your head phones in your ears and put the songs on repeat from the beginning of the set list to the end.  Then, keep pumping those tunes into your ear buds until the songs are embedded into your subconscious.


You need to rely on you.


Currently, your band leader is already in a frenzy because they’re banking their reputation on you.  Remember, someone stuck their neck out for you.  Be respectful and treat the gig right.  It’s another stepping stone in the pursuit of artistic freedom.


2. Trust Yourself


Whether you’re a seasoned professional, or newbie just starting out, you’ve performed similar patterns to these songs a thousand times.  The execution of these movements hasn’t changed; only the format of the song changes.  You know how to play a scale or sing a note or perform a rudiment.


You were chosen by this band leader for a reason.  They know you can play these songs, especially in the little amount of time you were so graciously given.  So, follow suit and join the A team.  You’re worth it, after all, and YOU HAVE NO LIMITS to where your talent takes you.


3. Prepare Your Gig Bag and Make Your Travel Arrangements.


This is where the hard part starts.  


As you make your preparations for playing the show, we also have to review our logistics in getting you there.  If the show takes place in a major city, allow yourself time to get there with plenty of breathing room to spare.  In NYC, for example, the traffic is its own entity – you never know what shenanigans the cars get into or what rate hikes the MTA decided to drop on unsuspecting mass transit commuters that morning.  From my place in NJ, I give myself a 2 hour window, just in case the powers that be decide to make my journey interesting…


While you’re reviewing your travel arrangements to the show, let’s review your gig back.  I suggest you observe your gig bag the same way a pilot treats their air plane: with a righteous checklist!


Music Radar has an amazing and extensive list here.


Regardless: here’s what you need:

  • Tools
  • Drum Key
  • Towel
  • Spare Shirt
  • Snacks
  • Charts
  • Phone Charger
  • Wallet/Purse
  • Spare Felts/Wingnuts


4. Listen to the Tracks Endlessly.


If you have recordings of the music you’ll need for later, glue your earbuds into your ears and start getting to know these songs.  If you don’t have recordings, create them by recording your rehearsal with this group or laying down your own tracks in accordance with the sheet music.


The goal is to ensure the format and chord changes are practically tattooed into your psyche.


When you’re bored of listening to the songs, give yourself a half hour break.  Then, resume listening.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  This process in particular is called, “incubating.”  It’s a proven method of learning specific and complicated topics on the fly; I live and die by this concept.


5. Review Your Charts/Notes.


While your listening to the tracks, prepare your notes for the how later on.  A reasonable band leader understands you may need a cheat sheet here and there, especially if they only gave you 24 hours or less to learn the material.


Regardless of the circumstances, TRUST YOURSELF.  Every situation is different and every player possess different characteristics.  Even so, the instrument remains the same.  How you block and counter each blow determines exactly what kind of professional you wish to become.


You, my friend, are a consummate professional.  


Hold yourself in high regard, and your mates will do the same.  Maintain a positive mental attitude, and your group will follow suit.


6. Go for Broke.


This is it… It’s show time.


You did your homework, reviewed all your notes and mentally prepared relentlessly for this moment.  Olympic athletes everywhere would tip their hat to you.


Once you arrive at the show, provide your bandleader with piece of mind by showing up to load in on time (or earlier, if possible).  Relax, and have a drink.  Mentally prepare for the epic battle to come.  Be as respectful and polite as humanly possible; most likely, you’ve never met the people you’re going to play with before.  Reassure your mates you’ve done your research on these songs.


Finally, ask any questions you may have on certain parts.  If your bassist is doing something interesting on the track you were listening to, will he or she do the same thing live?  Or was it a moment of artistic expression caught on tape?  This is vital information you need to know ASAP.


Time to saddle up, cowboy.  It’s now or never.  You’re gonna do great.


Go get ’em, kid.





What’d you think?  Will you play with these people again?  Did the band and the band leader treat you with civility and professionalism?  Did you reciprocate by providing them with equal, or more, musical and integral contribution to the gig?  Seriously, I’m dying to know!


Kat DaVille

Kat DaVille is a professional drummer, facilitator, instructor, and recording artist for nearly 2 decades. She has three gorgeous daughters and a loving husband, who also plays guitar (surprise, surprise). When she's not hitting skins, she's hitting bags while wearing a second degree black belt. See that, kids? Dreams do come true.

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