What are the mechanics of playing a gig?

i am years away from this, but by which i mean: not how to get a gig, but what the actual A to Z is of playing a gig as a bassist, as in: i get out of my car at the medium size venue, grab my bass — then what? i have so many questions as someone who has been to shows but never played one. it goes without saying this can vary wildly venue to venue and a 1000 other factors, but generally speaking, how does it all work? how do i set up? who does what? where do i go and when do i go there? where is my stuff? what do i have to set up? where does my amp go? do i need a monitor? what do i plug in to? when do i sound check? when do i hang out? when do i pack my stuff up? what should i expect? etc…


I played one gig about 10 years ago at a small bar. I think it was a VFW or something. Anyways I brought the same amp I used for jamming with the band and plugged in. We brought our stuff in and set up in the corner of the bar. For checking sound, I just stood out in front of our set up to make sure everything sounded right, adjust as needed. I would expect if you played a gig, you’d most likely be in the same situation I was in, being with others that had gigged before. I just followed their lead and it wasn’t a big deal.


I havet played at anything in about 30 years but I have more recent experience as an even photographer which has a lot of similarities.

You need to establish the expectations and deliverables for you and your customer. You or someone from your team should “meet” with the customer before hand to establish where you’ll have to store stuff (hopefully secured so it doesn’t get stolen), set up, who is responsible for sound and how you’re going to provide it, how long you’re going to play, sets, songs, breaks. Put that in writing whenever you can so there are no surprises.

The more you know about the expectations, the better prepared you are, the less stress you’ll have, the better chance you have for success. If you get there 15mins before your set and have to figure everything out, you’ll have way more stress and it’ll be much less fun to play.

Bring whatever backups for stuff you can, basses, amps, strings, batteries, mics, even if they’re not as good as your main gear, they’re better than no gear if it craps out on you, which it will, at the worst time :laughing:

Preparation and managing customer expectations and deliverables is a big part of being a “pro”.


The simplest one is the small gig where BYOG, every bring their own show up setup, sound check and play the sets.

Then the opposite end would be you just show up with your personal gears, bass(es), ear monitor, pedals and do sound check. There’s an engineer(s) who would sort out your sounds for you. When it’s your turn you just plug and play.

I’ve done both and something in between. Both have big pros and cons.


For our band, we always did all of our own equipment including the mixing board and PA amp, as we were basically a party band. Never played in an actual bar and only played one public venue (as opposed to private at someone’s place for a party).

In school for concerts it was easier, you just showed up and did what you were told :rofl:

Especially cables. So many cables.


That was most of my experience, I also played in a woodwind ensemble for a bit and it was similar… Theatre, back stage for storage and practice, stage for playing. Easy to figure out where everything goes when you get to practice there before you play. :slightly_smiling_face: For photo/video gigs I found that the smaller the event/venue, the less people want to work with you to plan anything and they just want to show up, do your thing and not bother them.


It may be closer than you think.

Once you figure out the rhythm of a song as a Bass player you can join in on any song by just playing the root notes of the chords and knowing the chord changes.

I suggest before worrying about gigs you get involved with jam sessions first. Talk to your local music store and see if they know of any in your area. If there are none, as was the case with me because I live in a rural area, ask to put up signs in the music store asking if there are any other players in the area interested in getting together. You will be very surprised at how much fun this can be, and how much you can learn from others.

When someone talks about playing a gig to me it suggests they are in some form of a structured band. That is a totally different atmosphere and one I came to dislike after a many years. Too many ego clashes, usually involving the lead guitarist and/or singer, if there is one. I came to realize I was not having fun anymore and now if I do play a gig it is usually just with several other individuals from one of my jam sessions.

I realize this does not address your original question but maybe this will:

After finding a location and knowing the house rules therein discuss it with the other members that will be playing.

So you arrive at the venue and get out of your car with your Bass and possibly own amp…

1 - Go in and set up.
2 - Plug in to either your own amp, a house amp, or a house PA system.
2 - Make sure to tune up, and the others have also done so.
3 - At the arranged time start to play your prearranged set.

That’s about all there is to it really.

There may be different requirements for some venues but it is not rocket science and going to jam sessions first will definitely give you a better idea of what is needed.

Oh and by the way, make sure if playing gigs, or jam sessions, with a live drummer make sure you have some good ear plugs. :+1: :+1: :+1:


I really regret not taking care when younger. My tinnitus escalated on one side last year into sudden partial deafness on the left side - around 50% degraded in higher frequencies. Steroid treatments and lots of followups have restored a lot of that but it’s still bad.

Tinnitus sucks.


The one thing I love about gigging is extra surge of energy that let you do cool stuffs and fills. Every once in a while you get into the zone and summon your inner Pino Palladino it’s just super awesome as practice and rehearsal can’t bring it out of you most of the time.

Of course, if you are not prepared or force it to happen it’d blow up in you face, lol.


This sounds like the last paid gig I did with an actual band.

Practiced for 3 weeks. I was playing rhythm guitar. Everything was ready to roll.
Night of the show comes and we have a one hour set to do.

We arrived early and while setting up this stranger shows up with his stratocaster and says he is filling in for his lead guitar/singer buddy who cannot make it but he does play lead guitar, but he needs us to make some changes.

1 - He only plays in the key of C.
2 - He needs to play from lead sheets.
3 - He does not have a working amp and there is no house PA.
and finally
3 - He does not sing.

What else could possibly have gone wrong.

I packed up my stuff, apologized to the manager, and left before the patrons showed up.
Shortest gig I ever did.

It was decided by the bar management that the show would be cancelled. Surprise.

NEVER AGAIN :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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Adam Neely has a fun video on “highly professional gig experience”
Fun to watch


I played in a band for a few years. We played bars, parties, outdoor shows and opened for many big Texas country artists. We had our own sound system for most event and our own sound guy, a friend of the singer. We loaded and unloaded our own stuff and did our sound checks before the bars would open for the night. It was a lot of work but you learn many valuable lessons. Always us a monitor whether in ear or stage. You have to be able to hear everyone. I would DI in bigger venues from my amp.