In this contribution I digress from studio recording to offer some hopefully helpful hints and admonitions on a subject with which I have unusually extensive experience.
The explosive growth of open mikes in the Boston area provides unprecedented opportunities for performers at all levels of skill and experience.
One of my studio's unique services is making high quality multi-track recordings of open mikes. Artists can get studio - mixed copies of their performance for demos, albums, and self-evaluation.
I've seen over 6,000 open mike performances. That, plus my having played regularly back in the 1980s qualifies me to have some opinions, and here they are!
1. An open mike performance consists of 3 parts. The setup, the intro, and the song. All 3 are important, and should be planned and practiced with equal diligence.
2. Learn to set up quickly, without fussing. Practice at home with anything you can rig up to simulate a couple of microphones on stands. If you use a direct, bring your own cord and have it ready. Check your cord and batteries before you leave home. Get a strap for your guitar and learn how to play standing up. (Classical style guitarists are excused). Don't bring effects boxes, amps, or other outboard gear. Learn to tune quickly, and once you've started a song, never stop to retune no matter what.
3. Rehearse your intros. Keep them short and interesting. Don't say "This is a song I wrote last month about...." First of all, we know it's a song, you needn't tell us. Second, we don't care when you wrote it. Third, if your song needs to be explained, re-write it. Good songs explain themselves and don't need introductions.
4. Keep your songs short. Most are way too long. Time your songs; you'll be amazed. Except for a few classics, any song longer than 4 minutes would be a better song if it were shortened.
5. If you have a cheap pickup, use the mike instead. You'll sound much better.
6. Learn how to use microphones. Stay close and don't move around. Practice this at home.
7. Pay close attention the other open mikers. Talk to them. Analyze what the good ones do and what the bad ones do. Compare yourself to them. Go to Don White's monthly performance workshops at Club Passim. Get a tape of your performance from me. Learn. Grow. Improve.
It's mostly a matter of attitude. Don't come to open mikes to show off or dump your stuff on others. Come to entertain, inform, share and learn. You'll have a better time, become a better performer, and everything I've said above will be self-evident.
Steve Friedman of Melville Park Studio records the open mike at Club Passim every Tuesday night. He recorded for years at the famous Old Vienna and Colonial Inn open mikes. Two CDs of these recordings have been released (one on Fast Folk) and his live recordings have been used on albums by Vance Gilbert, Scott Alarik, Tim Mason and others.