Before the gig
- Get there early. The last thing you want to do is get there late, rush a sound check and then go on stage. Get there in enough time to gauge the crowd, the sound system, the lighting, etc. You will also be able to see what kind of crowd you're dealing with. You'll get to know what kind of genres they like (Rap, RnB, Drum n Bass, etc.) so you know what kind of genres you should use in your performance.
- Watch what you eat and drink. Try to avoid fatty foods, too many dairy products (these can produce mucus), sugary drinks such as Cola, alchohol, and smoking before a gig. All these will affect your vocal chords and performance. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Some say a warm cup of tea helps the voice. How do you know if you're dehydrated? The golden rule is 'pee clear'. 🙂 Make sure you have plenty of water on stage with you.
- Know the line-up. It's important not only to know what other artists are performing but where you are in the line-up. Going on first as a warm-up act is a whole different ball game to headlining! You will need much more energy to get the crows going at the start of a show than at the end.
- Prepare a set list. For every gig, prepare and write down a set list of what you're going to perform. Do this in advance and know how long you are to perform for! The set list should contain variety and work as a whole. Don't rely on keeping your performance in your head. It's amazing how the pressure and excitement of performing can make your mind go blank or forget a routine. Place the set list on the stage or the floor where the audience can't see it, but where you can glance at it to remind you what is coming up next. This way you can focus on beating the box.
- Practice. Not only practicing your routines, but also practice your set list in your head. This means familiarise yourself with it from start to finish.
- Make sure you're introduced correctly. Meet with the MC or host of the show before the gig. Make sure they know your name, what you do, and how to introduce you. You don't want to be introduced as a 'be popper'!
- Sound Check. Meet with the sound engineer before you sound check. Know his or her name and try to get them on side before the sound check. When you sound check make sure you are happy with everything. Does it sound 'hoofing' - i.e. plenty of top end to make it crisp and clear as well as bottom end bass. Can you hear yourself in the monitors? Sound check as loud as you will be in the performance, holding the mic and moving on stage exactly as you will be later on. Saying '1,2' into a mic is not enough.
- Warm up. It is important to warm up your voice before performing. Not only will you sound better but it will also prevent you putting too much strain on your vocal chords. Perhaps do some quiet, low-key beatboxing or some simple vocal exercises. Try to avoid shouting - something you can do without thinking about it in a noisey club.
- Stay calm! Being nervous is natural and a good thing. You will find that if you're prepared and confident, when you go on stage the nerves will disappear. In the 15-20 mins before you go on stage, try to be somewhere calm and chilled out. Breaking on the dance floor just before you go on is not the best idea - preserve some energy for the performance!
- Use your own mic. Take your own mic. This has the advantage that you won't be sucking up someone elses germs and saliva when you do those ineard snare sounds. It also means you won't get lumbered with a poor quality mic.
Tip: 100Hz High Pass Filters
Before a sound check, ask the engineer to remove any 100Hz high pass filters that may be on the input channel of the mixing desk. A high pass filter is something that cuts out all the frequencies below 100Hz (it lets high frequencies pass through). They are used to avoid stage rumble being picked up by the microphone and are found even on some cheaper desks. However, the human ear can hear down to about 20Hz and you will need these frequencies when you beatbox.
During the gig
- Own the space. There's nothing worse than watching a beatboxer in a hoody, standing still doing their own thing. Use the space. Make sure you can be seen and stand out. Move around. Use your arms and hands in time to the music. You are a performer! Also, make sure there is nothing else happening on stage to distract the crowd - no DJs sorting through records, etc.
- Perform some covers. Unless you're a very well known and original beatboxer, doing covers of tunes that people know is a great way to get them hooked into your performance. Try and do something popular and that people will recognise.
- Be unique. Perform your own unique and well-crafted routines. For example, everyone knows TyTe for his echoes, Scooby-Doo and Dalek routines. However, don't try anything new on stage unless you're a seasoned improviser.
- Keep going. If you make a mistake, don't mention it and keep going. The chances are no-one will have noticed and they'll forget if you just keep on going! Keep going too if the monitoring suddenly cuts out or there's another technical hitch.
- Engage with the crowd. Make sure you maintain eye contact with the whole audience and don't turn your back on any part of the crowd. Communication is important. Using humour can help, especially at the beginning to get the crowd on side. If you must, talk to the crowd and get them going but don't talk too much between routines. You need to maintain the flow.
- Collaborate. Working with other artists can help create variety and fill a larger slot in a show. For example, DJ, MC or other beatboxer.
- Provide Cues. Make it obvious when you've finished a routine. Move the mic away from your mouth, step forward, call out "Did you feel that?" or some other cue to get the crowd cheering. When you finish the whole set, tell them who they've been listening to and thank them - "You've been listening to the TyTe - peace."
- Show sportsmanship. Don't just big up yourself, but big up other performers, especially other people you battle.
- The big finish. Save your best routine for last and always leave the crowd wanting more. Always have at least two extra routines up your sleeve in-case you get an encore or the host comes up to you and asks you to fill for an extra few minutes - these need to be crowd winning routines!
- Enjoy the show! Relax and enjoy the ride. Don't take it too seriously. If you are having fun then the crowd will have fun too.
Tip: To bite or not to bite?
In Europe it's more acceptable to copy a Rahzel or Kenny Muhammad routine as long as you cite them. It's seen as a compliment! In the USA this is not the case and you might get thrown off stage for biting someone elses routine. Be warned. You will get more respect for doing your own thing.
TyTe's performance nightmares...
- The time when I got boo'd off stage. It was only afterwards that this girl asked, "What was so good about you? You put on a crappy backing track and did some MCing over the top." I told her that I was the backing track and doing it all with my mouth. The crowd had never head of beatboxing. Doh!
- The time when my on-stage monitoring cut out infront of a crowd of 3000 people. I couldn't hear a thing! It threw me and I fumbled. I should have kept on going.
- The time when my mic cut out mid-performance and the sound engineer had gone to the bathroom. The crowd were all looking at me so I did some bad breakdancing for fun and the crowd loved it. The engineer zipped up, returned, the mic came back on and the show continued.
- The time when I performed at a drum'n'bass night and the DJ stopped and I had to simply carry on to a full club with an MC, doing 20 mins of non-stop drum'n'bass beatboxing to maintain the flow. It nearly killed me!
- The time I went on stage without a sound check and they gave me a cheap plastic kids toy mic. It sounded terrible. I just wanted to go home.
- The time I went on stage in a full club and there was no sound engineer. All the levels were set badly and the crowd couldn't hear me. After the first set, I went and set the levels myself, then went back on stage and ripped it up!
Thanks to Ben Oprstu, TyTe, Guynextdoor, Selector, Jonathan, KaGhaaz and White Noise and Nerbiz.