Being a musician takes hard work, dedication to your craft, and a carefree imagination. Have you ever poured everything you have into a song? After countless long nights writing and rewriting, you feel like you've finally got a classic on your hands. You love it, the band loves it, you even catch your mum whistling it. You step up on stage. Cool, calm, collected.
Then you start playing. The audience... just sorta stand there. There's a girl playing candy crush, and you're pretty sure the venue proprietor is demanding a refund. What the hell just happened?
I know it sucks, but if you want the crowd to have a great night, maybe you should consider giving your audience some good old-fashioned guitar showmanship! You know, rather than just standing there, try some guitar antics?!
If you're tired of having forgettable shows, stick with me and I'll show you a few tricks that could revitalise your gigs without taking the focus away from the music. Though beware, some of these stunts are not for the faint of heart (and you may just make as ass of yourself in the process!)
- #1: Duck Walk Onto Stage
- # 2: Jumping Into the Limelight
- #3: advanced acrobatics
- #4: Encouraging the head bangers!
- #5: Tear it up on the playground
- #6: GUITAR HURL SPECTACULAR
- #7: You've been playing a while, loosen up by windmilling
- #8: CRAB MOVES
- #9: And then top it by doing the impossible
- In conclusion...
#1: Duck Walk Onto Stage
You should plan to start how you carry on. If you aren't grabbing attention within the first instant of being on stage, you're already letting yourself down. The Duck Walk, made famous by Chuck Berry, is an easy move that you won't have any trouble carrying out with minimal practice, it's just a case of hopping, with your side facing the audience.
Obviously, you'll need to time it with the rhythm of the music, or it'll look a bit awkward. You'll definitely have fun, and it'll really heat up the crowd. Don't let them cool off though! Keep the fire burning by...
# 2: Jumping Into the Limelight
You'll have seen this one before. Use it to finish off your duck walk, or just throw it in at the start of a sick riff. You don't have to jump extremely high, but you must commit to it, or you'll look like you just had a particularly aggressive hiccup.
For bonus points, channel Bruce Lee and turn it into a jumping kick. If this seems a little too easy, simplistic or overdone (don't worry, it never gets old) then you might want to risk the next suggestion...
#3: advanced acrobatics
It can be really difficult to do cartwheels, handstands and the like when you're mid-solo, but if you've got a band with you then you'll be in a better position for these as they can help out by becoming human gymnasiums. Just make sure they know what you're about to do in advance, or you'll never live down that time you decided to start rolling about on the floor like a fish.
A good tip is to actually perform these particular kinds of stunts when you don't actually have to play any notes, such as when you can let the sustain carry a chord for the duration. Of course, if you can play a more complicated lick whilst balancing on the bassist's back, go for it!
Don't forget why you're cavorting about though, this is for the crowd, not for your weekly workout goals. Make sure you keep the whole room involved by...
#4: Encouraging the head bangers!
If there's one move that every musician has used since cavemen first banged sticks together, its the head bang. Whilst it seems basic, there's a reason everyone is doing it.
Leading the whole crowd in synchronised head banging uses a sneaky psychological trick that binds you all together. Anyone who isn't following is an 'outsider' who 'doesn't get it'. The small effort to start head banging quickly builds to more commitment from your audience, whether it be screaming your name, or deciding that they would like a copy of your album, thank you very much.
Of course, you can't stop here and call it a night. Show a sense of camaraderie between the band with these next guitar moves.
#5: Tear it up on the playground
Chances are you'll remember doing this as a kid with your friends. If you've got kids of your own, you'll know just how much they love jumping up on your shoulders and seeing the world the way you do.
If you remember that feeling of being a giant, and how cool it was, how much more epic do you think it feels when you're also playing guitar in front of a crowd that's literally exploding from how crazy and awesome you guys are? The crowd love it too, since it'll show the band in a really playful light.
Or how about hurling your guitar into the air while you've got your feet firmly on the ground...
#6: GUITAR HURL SPECTACULAR
Have you ever seen the film Dirty Dancing?
There's an iconic scene where Jennifer Grey and the Patrick Swayze do something that every woman wishes she could do with her man. It's the bit where she runs and jumps straight over his head, and he catches her in his hands and holds her in mid-air.
Don't tell anyone that's where you got the idea, but throw your guitar up in the air and catch it again. If you can slyly pull on that whammy bar when you catch it, do it. Just don't blame me if you have to pay for damages after the roof blows off the place after everyone collectively loses it.
#7: You've been playing a while, loosen up by windmilling
This one's an instant hit, and it's backed by some of the greatest legends in rock history. It's like mainlining devil-may-care juice. All you have to do is give the impression that you're wildly swinging your strumming hand from the shoulder in broad circles.
In reality, you'll need to practice this one a little bit because it's far too easy to simply smash your hand into your guitar and potentially screw up the rest of the night from that point onwards. If you do pull it off, it's a real crowd pleaser.
On that note, don't neglect your guitar's needs too! Don't worry, I'll show you how next.
#8: CRAB MOVES
What better way to pump up the crowd than getting down and dirty like the Discovery Channel?
No, I don't mean getting frisky with your guitar. What you and your instruments get up to in the privacy of your own home is your business, but it should probably stay there.
What I'm trying to say, is that for some strange reason, squatting down and doing your best imitation of a crab during a breakdown, is the most metal thing ever. Don't ask me why, but everybody likes it.
#9: And then top it by doing the impossible
Playing behind your head. If you don't know what you're doing with this, don't even try. You have to know your music inside out. You have to know your guitar inside out. And you absolutely, categorically can NOT mess this up if you try it in front of a crowd.
Unfortunately, there's no real trick to pulling this one off. It's just fiendishly difficult. Start with a simple part, but beware that your guitar will be upside down compared to how you would normally play, so this is yet another thing you'll just have to get used to.
So there you have it. Nine crazy ass guitar moves that will take your next gig to a whole new level. They're difficult, tiring, and aren't entirely risk free.
On the other hand, you'll never have a better night and more fun than you will if you pull off one of these. It will leave an impression, that's for sure!
What's your favourite guitar move?...
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.