In two weeks time I have to open up for a huge Metal Festival, and I have to perform with my instrumental one man band.

I never had in mind to play live since I record instrument by instrument and produce just studio albums, but a special request from the Festival organizer reached my mailbox yesterday and the offer is hard to refuse, so I'm in.

Despite the fact that my act is instrumental, I am paranoid that the show will be boring.

Any suggestions?

So far my basic idea is to go with bass/guitar and play a long my songs.

5 Answers 5


Make sure you're not mis-selling yourself. You will do yourself no favours by letting down the organiser or the audience.

It sounds as if you're proposing playing along to a pre-recorded backing track. If that's what the booker expects, then that's OK. But an audience (especially a metal audience) would be likely to feel a bit cheated. If the focal point of your music is sparkling soloing -- and that's the part you're going to do live -- then you might be OK.

If your music is sequencer based, and you can "arrange" it live in the DAW, many audiences are happy to watch that (although it's not my idea of a great show).

Watching an actual band perform instrumental music live, is usually not boring.

The absolute best thing you could do is to hire some musicians to be your band, teach them your songs, rehearse like crazy, and perform your songs live. I don't know whether you have the money to do that -- certainly the time is very tight.

This depends very much on the style of music you do. Obviously some material works fine with one musician playing one instrument.

  • Dear friend.. thanks a lot for your time replying to my question, I greatly appreciate. Yes the audience is metal, that's why I am concerned. My music is all sequencer based recorded and mastered in a DAW and the main focal points are the orchestrations topping up guttering guitar riffs. My worry is that me playing bass guitar with backing tracks is like I am there showing off for no reason. I'll have to make up something more spicy. As you said, hiring session people is the best choice, and I am opting for that next year. Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 10:20
  • Thanks for the accept. I suggest you undo it for now though, and wait a bit -- you're less likely to get more answers when there's an accepted answer.
    – slim
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 10:45

We have a similar issue - sometimes we play as a two piece, sometimes a three, but we are a five piece.

We include a wide range of fun entertainments and choreography to help make things more interesting...these include fire, explosives, bubbles, lasers, set piece solos etc

What we have found best, though, is getting guest instrumentalists in - even if only for a particular track these can add an excellent flavour. So for a track with a strong drum line, consider getting a friendly percussionist to overlay some fills or beats. In two weeks a good session musician can learn enough to fill out a single set.

Alternatively, you could include video - assuming the festival will give you a video wall or projector. This can help build your image, either through footage of guitar/drums etc., or something more abstract.

(Check my band website linked in my profile for some ideas)


Loop stations are very useful tools for this sort of situation. You can build up the track as you go along, using whatever inputs you so desire: bass , rhythm, sub lead, even vocal sounds. The basic rhythm track can with some loopers, already be there. But, you could even use a guitar percussively to put down a 'drum' track. All this could be accompanied by you explaining briefly what is happening, in jocular form, perhaps, to keep the listeners entertained. It all builds up to the scintillating final solo, by you, over all the bits you've already given the audience. Using a double or triple pedal looper will give you the options of bringing in or out different mixes. You could even cheat a bit and have some tracks already recorded. AND.....there's no more musos to pay !!

  • I do like this idea. I have been trying to perfect this (after seeing some amazing examples on YouTube) but it is hard and requires a fair amount of planning.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 16:40
  • True, it's not too easy. However, neither is rehearsing with others. At least you are available to put something down when YOU want, rather than arranging with others.No-one (except you) gets frustrated 'cos someone keeps fouling up ! Good bits get saved, rubbish junked. No-one to argue with about arrangements,etc. And you can hardly be accused of relying on backing tracks !........
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 3, 2013 at 16:51
  • Loopstations are great if you're a multi-instrumentalists and if you're OK restricting your compositions to loopable structures. But there's lots you can't do with a loopstation (e.g. start a piece all-guns-blazing). Pay session musicians, and they won't argue.
    – slim
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 10:39
  • There's 100 tracks available on mine, which can be pre-recorded with as much or little music as I need. 3 session musos for 1hr = one loop station 'till you get fed up with it !
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 13:25

I'm going to be very direct here. In two weeks you simply do not have time to go from never performing to opening for a huge metal festival, much less so since you have to come up with something crazy/creative to make your one man show interesting. You should back out as gracefully as you can; I can only assume the organizers did not understand the "behind the scenes" of your music and you can explain it to them.

Following the suggestions in the other answers is a great idea, though, just make your preparations well in advance of whenever you would like to perform live (and you should probably start with a smaller gig!). There's something to be said for spontaneity, but from your question I can't see any reason to believe that you'd be able to handle the huge transition here in one go.

  • 2
    Much agreed, I didn't backed out as most of the crowd attending know me from my other two (5 piece and 7 piece) bands so I have some support. I've been performing with these other bands for 11 years and from experience next Saturday I shall stay relax and actually do nothing crazy at all, just play my 15 minute instrumental set and say few words just after the intro. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 8:48
  • @OliverMGrech Great, good luck then! :)
    – user28
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 14:13

Forgot to give you some feedback, it went great! I kept it very simple and the outcome was great. Also had sold some good number of CDs :)

For those interested, here's me terrified on stage lol

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