Whatever your reason or motivation, you are now ready to take the plunge and share your music. Here are a few suggestions to ease you into that first outing.

Relax and have fun!

The hosts and participants at these kind of events are generally very welcoming, encouraging and happy to see a new face. Show up a bit early to get a feel for the room and let your instrument acclimatize (particularly in the winter).

Know your venue:

What is the event is offering/looking for? Check out the website or call the host to find out more. Be aware of the style of music featured at that venue – could be bluegrass, celtic, folk, blues, original songs or anything goes. Song circles may appreciate lyric sheets unless you are leading a very well know or call-and-response song.  An open stage is often miked – you may be on your own or there could be other musicians for back-up and collaboration. If it is a popular event it might be necessary to arrive fairly early to sign up – some events even arrange the list of performers in advance.

Musical etiquette:

Make sure your instrument is tuned up in advance. Preferably, do not start tuning when it is your turn as this slows down the event (minor last minute adjustments are OK). Respect the time or song limit that the host has laid out. It is great to be enthusiastic about the music or stories you want to share but “share and share alike” – others also want their time to shine.


Cultivate the art of listening to the other musicians while playing. This elevates the event from a bunch individuals playing or singing at the same time to a group of people making music together. Listen for changes in tempo. Listen for harmony potential. If you don’t know how the song goes – stop playing and listen. If a singer is being overpowered by a room full of instruments – stop playing and listen. Everyone knows that open stages are about performing – they are just as much about listening.

Jeremiah McCaw also has some good tips to pass onto open stage performers: