I’ve played in a lot of different live bands over the years and one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is keeping the show moving along at nice pace. What I mean is minimizing space between songs, also known as Dead Air. Dead air happens between songs and can be a serious show killer. If you aren’t engaging your crowd, you’re losing them and that’s a bad thing.
There are some key ways to minimize dead air between songs. The most important is to have a well organized, printed set list for every person in the band. When you plan your setlist it’s a good idea to group songs into sets of 3 that are easy to transition from song to song. When setting up a group of 3 songs you can group them by instrument changes, tunings, singer rotation or effect settings. After awhile, your band will remember what songs are grouped together in three’s and be able to transition quickly between those songs. This makes it easy to tweak your set list on the fly and still maintain some continuity by keeping the 3-song sets together.
Another way to minimize dead air is to have a backup instrument ready in case of an instrument failure. I always play every gig with two guitars and I use them both during the gig. If one of them breaks or goes badly out of tune in the middle of a set, I can just grab the other guitar.
You can also minimize dead air by planning when you will talk to the audience during the show. If there’s a point in the show where the guitar player has to make setting changes that’s probably a good time to have the singer make announcements or just use good stage banter with the audience. If you plan for these spaces you can make sure something is happening to keep the audience engaged.
Having some drum and bass riffs ready to play between songs is a great way to fill dead air as well. It’s always a good idea to have some music going while you talk to the audience and having some riffs to play while the singer is talking to the crowd can really liven things up. Talking over song intros and endings is a great way to keep things moving along as well.
If you’re not sure how much dead air your band has between songs, record an entire gig and listen back to it. You can really learn where your band is lacking in audience interaction. Having too much space between songs and ignoring your audience while you deal with tuning or instrument changes is never a good thing. The audience will get bored and they’ll soon leave. With a little planning as well as practicing moving quickly from song to song, you’ll be able to make the best of your show!