by Jamey Mann
During normal music instruction, I feel there are some important topics that are often overlooked. These topics include basic organizational skills, how to be prepared for a gig, and possibly most important of all is being safe when performing.
Many view music as a benign activity. In general, practicing at home or coming to lessons is possibly one of the safest things a person can do. However, this changes when it is time to perform on stage. In recent years many famous musicians such as Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Marilyn Manson, and Madonna have suffered serious injuries while performing. In the most severe cases accidents have resulted in the deaths of performers and concert goers.
Although a stage is a place where we can have a ton of fun, it is also a place that has many hazards that can cause severe injury and damage valuable equipment. Here are a few tips stay safe.
- Ear protection – exposure to sound above 85 decibels will cause damage to your hearing. With the average rock concert being about 120 decibels, it is strongly recommended to have ear protection on stage and in the audience.
Hearing loss occurs over time as well which can make it hard to detect. Even though music may not seem very loud, hearing damage may still be occurring.
- Be aware of your surroundings – It is important to note that stages and other performance venues vary widely. Some stages may be simple while other are large with portions that can be moved for theatrical performances and risers for choral performances. (and combinations of these)
A stage has many instruments and sound equipment with cables running all over. Be careful not to trip on cables or run into instruments. Be aware of the edges on the stage and your relation to them always. It may sound silly, but it is very easy fall off a stage if not paying attention.
- Be aware of your instrument – It is easy to hit someone next to you with a guitar head stock. It is also possible to bump someone else’s instrument or sound equipment causing it to be damaged. Make sure the instrument is secure with proper strap or supporting device when playing and a secure stand or case when not in use.
- Be rested, hydrated, and eat well– Prolonged rehearsal in a stage environment can be long and stressful. Add to this hot stage lights, amps and sound equipment generating heat, a stage crowded with people and you have the potential for people to pass out due to malnutrition, dehydration, or being over heated. This in my experience is the most common cause of injury and most preventable.
Be sure to get a good night of sleep and eat and hydrate at every opportunity. Also, do not be afraid to speak up if you are not feeling well. It is better to take a little break than it is to pass out.
While I do not want to scare any students away from performing, I believe that talking to them about these safety issues is important. I make it a point to speak to all my students before any kind of performance about being careful with themselves and their instrument.
When thinking back on my music education this is something that was rarely (if ever) discussed. Through my years of performing I’ve had to learn some of these lessons the hard way. Please discuss this with your student so they so not have to do the same.