We will endeavor to have much of interest to all our students up here as the year goes on. I'd like to start with a topic near and dear to my heart-playing the "GB" gig. This can be a tough challenge, even for the most seasoned musicians. I have learned in my 20+ years of doing wedding receptions and dances that several expectations are present when a client decides s/he wants a jazz group to play at their function.

Here is a small list of important ideas that come to mind:

Doing the Gig

These are some ideas that will make your experience more positive in each gig you do. The ideas presented in the outline below need to be understood by you even if you are not the "leader" or the group.

Before the Gig

  1. Meeting your employer.
    1. What kind of music, how many musicians?
    2. Set prices (start high, ask for dinner to be included)
    3. Sign contract??
    4. Establish amount of time played, how many breaks?
    5. Any special music needed? If so-get it and be ready!
  2. 5 w's.
    1. Who-get some idea of your "clients", average age?
    2. What-is it an anniversary party, birthday, reception
    3. Where-this is evident. Arrive and be set up early.
    4. Why-this will help determine the tunes you should play.
    5. When-again an important topic. Don't double-book.
  3. Know your location
    1. How big is it?
    2. Power sources, needs. Assume that extension cords and multiple outlet jacks will be needed, and have with you.
    3. Dance surface?
  4. Contact your musicians.
    1. Inform them of what is expected in terms of arrival time dress, instruments you expect they will have available need for music stand, clothespins, real books, etc.
    2. Tell them how much they will make, and if they will eat.
    3. Estimate drive time if necessary.
    4. Car pool??
  5. Make contact a few days prior to the gig to affirm your understanding. A message on an answering machine is fine.

Gig Day

  1. Arrive early and be set up at least a half hour before play time.
  2. Do not shake hands of fellow band members on the stand, whether or not you know them-be discreet.
  3. Play as they (guests) enter, but play quietly
  4. Watch to not impede the ability of guests to talk with each other.
  5. Abide by your break schedule unless it is apparent this is "out of whack" with the series of events leading up to the reception.
  6. The Bride or the person whom is being honored is your boss for the duration of the gig. Whatever s/he says is the law.
  7. Very important. The mother of the bride is next in line.
  8. General playing rules-softer music during dinner, let it hang loose during the dancing. Keep in mind that a dancing audience is a happy audience, and no audience really wants to hear extended solos or everyone in the group solo in each tune.
  9. Make contact with the person who will pay the band.

After the Gig

  1. Leave the space as you found it. Remember that reception halls make recommendations on bands to hire-be courteous. Leave them your card.
  2. A followup note or call to the family that hired you-nice touch!
  3. Deal with tunes that were not solid.

Doing the Music Right

At a GB gig (General Business), there are several musical considerations that must be addressed for you to be successful. Here are a few thoughts:

    1. Know your set list. Nothing turns an audience off more than lots of space in between each. They will tune you out. Know where to find the next tune in your list. Try to call it while the previous tune is being played or have it on a set list, ready to go. Ideally, the group would segue several tunes together without stopping. When they are dancing, don't let them even think about leaving the dance floor
    2. Variety is the spice of a gig. Play shorter tunes, have fewer solos, and mix up the styles of tunes being played. Your woodwind player should have at least a saxophone and a flute and/or clarinet. Brass players should have mutes. Different colors are important. Vary the introductions and endings.
    3. Volume facilitates conversation, especially before the dancing.
    4. Present the melody in a clear, concise manner. The guests know the melody more than the improvisation sections. Melody is much more important than the improvisation.
    5. Drummers should be prepared to use brushes-alot. Other amplified instruments will need to closely monitor their volume. Have one of the members sit out a tune and check the volume in all parts of the room.
    6. Be prepared for novelty dancing. Know the latest crazes as well as the usuals (Chicken Dance, Alley Cat, Hokey Pokey, Macarena, Achey Breaky, and Electric Slide) This is the "darkest" moment of the gig. Get through this round of tunes and then get on with your music.
    7. Always be aware of your dancing audience. Notice what tunes they seem to enjoy (i. e. what style) and program those tunes. If you expected it to be a "dance gig" and they are not, find out why. If you are about to end a tune and a couple approaches the dance floor, don't end the tune! At least play the melody again, and then quickly proceed to a similar tune.
    8. Make a special effort to play a tune (at least one) in celebration of the people who hired you. This could be the bridal dance, or a special tune that has significant meaning to the celebrated. It is always nice to announce this-a great way to bring the crowd closer (both to themselves and the band).

(posted originally in 2003, much info is still valid in 2023)