Surviving The Gig: Cheat Sheets

Ideally, you'll never step up on stage without knowing the music you're about to play inside and out. Unfortunately, there are times when that simply isn't possible. Last minute gigs pop up.

This leaves you with 2 choices...either turn down all these gigs or learn how to face them head on.

Create a Cheat Sheet

Last Monday I got a call from a local singer/songwriter to play a duo gig with him that Thursday night. We had one rehearsal in which we covered about 40 songs. Some were familiar, but many were brand new to me.

Rather than spending the rest of the week trying to learn all those songs, I created a cheat sheet. This took about 2 hours to complete, but gave me tons of confidence for the gig. The singer would call a tune, I'd take a second to glance at my cheat sheet, and we'd get going. There are a few things that are essential to a good cheat sheet.

1. Write down artists, song titles and keys you'll be playing the tunes in. - I also noted any capo positions that the singer was using.

2. Chart out the chords. - I use the Nashville Number System for charting out chords. If you're not familiar with this system, it's perfectly fine to write out standard chord notation. It's not necessary to chart the whole tune, just the parts that are completely unfamiliar.

3. Make note of signature parts. - A few of the tunes on our list had signature guitar licks. I left little reminders of these parts on my cheat sheet.

The key is to develop your own system of shorthand that makes sense to you. Over time you'll get more and more proficient at creating these cheat sheets, and trust me, you'll feel better on the gig.

Click here to see the cheat sheet I used on my gig last week.

Have questions or comments? Have you ever used some form of cheat sheet to get through a gig? Share about it in the comments section below.


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