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The Unwritten Rules of Gigging

Congratulations! The thousands of hours of practice have paid off and you’re about to play with your favourite ensemble. You have your instrument and your concert clothes and you’ve successfully taken the train to a new city…but wait!

How do you find the stage door? The rehearsal starts in ten minutes and you run frantically around the building…and you need the toilet and your instrument needs time to warm up and PANIC ENSUES because you will be late for your gig.

To avoid this undesirable situation, here are my top tips for the best part of the job: delivering an amazing performance.

1. Request the music in advance, particularly if it’s your first time with a group. They can usually send a PDF which you can open in ForScore or a similar app so you can mark it up.

2. Double-check the venue and start time and plan your travel the night before.

3. Make sure you have a good pencil and rubber! I recommend Faber Castell rubbers (available in packs of 4 on Amazon) with Staedtler 4B pencil.

4. Make sure you know the dress code and download a checklist app for everything you need to bring. Concert clothes (including black socks and shoes), music stand, music, cash in case of emergencies, phone charger, food. The checklist app also works great for packing for tours. Buying concert clothes in a foreign country is not a fun experience! Itemise every individual thing you need to bring.

5. Leave early. Very early. Whatever amount of time Google says, add at least an extra hour. The trickiest part of every new venue is often finding where the artists’ entrance is! Especially if it’s your first concert with a group, allow extra time for cancelled trains, bad traffic, and simply getting lost. If possible, ask an experienced member of the group for travel trips (when to avoid rush hour, cheapest way to buy train tickets). If you are with an orchestra, look for their truck, which will often be parked near the stage door and will have a handy logo for you to recognise.

6. If you’re driving, make sure you know what the parking availability is, and bring money to pay for it. If you’re sharing a lift, make sure you have the appropriate cash on hand for petrol to give to the driver (and thank him or her profusely!).

7. Keep all relevant receipts for tax purposes – remember, you can ask taxis for receipts.

8. If you want to warm up on-stage, that’s fine, but do it discreetly. If you are a string player, use a practise mute. You don’t need to prove yourself – just warm up quietly using scales or the repertoire you are about to play. Do NOT play concertos, no matter how important your audition next week is.

9. String players – when marking up parts, the default is the inside player writes on the part (although the outside player certainly can). Make sure to write clearly and do not write fingerings – this is unprofessional and distracting to your deskie and future players who will use those parts.

10. At the tea break, if someone offers to buy you a tea, accept graciously but buy them one the next time. If you ask someone to get you a tea, make sure to pay them back promptly.

11. All questions should be channelled through your principal player. Do not address the conductor directly.

12. Always listen with as much intention as as you play.

13. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!


Jonny Venvell

Jonny is Encore's Head of Artist Relations.

He's responsible for supporting and helping musicians on the platform and writes most of the musician-facing articles on the blog. He can usually be found singing in choirs, drumming in bands, or nodding meaningfully to particularly good chords in London's jazz bars.

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