How to Start Gigging as a Guitarist

So you want to start gigging as a guitarist? That’s great! There is no better way to earn a living than to do what you love! There are a few things you need to know in order to make the most of your experience.

When learning how to start gigging as a guitarist, there are many things to know as a beginner. And if you have never been in front of an audience before, then there are also nerves to deal with. But start with confidence, life is a learning journey, and this is too.

In this Killer Rig article, we will discuss the different roles involved in a band. Also, how to audition for gigs, and where to find opportunities.

We’ll also talk about the benefits of solo gigs and playing with established bands. By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to hit the stage and start making music!

Band Member Roles

The first thing you need to understand is the different roles in a band. The most common lineup is a three-piece consisting of guitar, bass, and drums. Yet, there are many variations of this setup. Here are some of the main roles in a band:

  • Lead Singer
  • Backing Vocals
  • Rhythm Guitarist
  • Lead Guitarist
  • Bassist
  • Drummer
  • Keyboardist/Pianist


Each of these roles has specific responsibilities. But all must perform in harmony together. Not joining an already-established band? Then it’s important that everyone in the group is contributing to the tasks.

No one person is in charge unless decided upon. And everyone should be working together to create the best possible music.

Outside the creativity responsibilities, it should be agreed that members be responsible for:

  • Booking Gigs
  • Finances
  • Promotions
  • Merchandise
  • Website and Social Media

It’s possible to have one member responsible for a majority of these topics and act as management. But it can be helpful when more people choose an area that they have skills in. This way, no one burns out from too much responsibility.

how to start gigging as a guitarist

Tips For Gigging Guitarists

Now it’s time to think about how you can prepare for your role as a guitarist. Whether this is lead or rhythm, you need to know how you will fit in. This includes both practicing and learning the music. As well as preparing yourself mentally for playing in front of an audience if you haven’t before.

Start by rehearsing with your bandmates or other musicians. Working on your songs and parts that need some work. Make sure you are all comfortable with the song arrangements. That everyone knows their parts. There is nothing worse than realizing that someone doesn’t know what they are doing at the wrong time.

Rehearse your stage presence, getting used to performing in front of people together. If you are feeling nervous, try to find ways to calm yourself down before the show. This could be anything from deep breathing exercises to visualization techniques.

Put in the Extra Work

In addition to rehearsing, it’s important to play on your own as well. This will help you develop your style and improve your playing. It’s also a good idea to learn as many songs as you can. This will give you more options when it comes time to choose set lists for gigs.

Gigging Guitarist Essentials

Gigging as a guitarist also includes making sure your equipment is in good condition. And that you have everything you need. This includes essential things like:

  • Extra strings
  • Guitar Picks
  • Spare Cables
  • Spare Guitar
  • Back up amplifier
  • Guitar Tools
  • Tuner
  • Gaffer tape
  • Set List
  • Batteries
  • Earplugs

You might also consider things like first aid supplies in case there is an injury. If you play pretty aggressively and cut open your hand, you will need it.

Making sure your gear is organized and easy to access is also important. This will help you avoid any last minute panic attacks before a gig. Having everything in its place will also make packing up and setting up easier.

Further reading: how many guitars do you need?

Plan For The Worst

And when you only have a few minutes to get your gear on the stage and set up, it’s crucial to be ready and have a plan.

Run through a few scenarios just to prepare, things like:

  • What happens if you break a string?
  • What will you do if your guitar falls off the strap?
  • Will your amplifier blow a tube?

Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer to certain problems that arise when at a gig. But if you can at least prepare mentally, you will react a lot better than not planning ahead at all. Making sure your rig is gig ready is crucial! Oh, and for point number 2, this is an easy one, get some strap locks!

How to Find Gigs as a Guitarist or Band

There are a few different ways to find gigs as a musician or band. The most common way is to reach out to local venues and promoters and see if they have any openings. This can be done by sending an email, making a phone call, or stopping by in person.

Post on online classified websites like Craigslist or Gumtree and see who responds. This can be a great way to get in touch with people who are looking for bands or musicians for their event. You never know who you might connect with this way!

Creating a profile on online musician directories like Sonicbids or ReverbNation can also be a great way to find possible gigs. These websites allow you to post your band’s information and upcoming shows, as well as submit applications to play at various music festivals and other events.

You can also use social media to find gigs. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great for connecting with local promoters, venues and other groups. You can also join groups or forums specifically for finding gigs in your area.

Heck, even go down to a local venue and interact with some bands there. Creating contacts and building relationships is also a great way to be considered for upcoming shows.

No matter how you go about it, always be prepared to send a demo!

Preparing the Band for the First Gig

Now that you have all of your ducks in a row, it’s time to start preparing the band for the first gig. This includes things like rehearsing the set list and working onstage presence. Also getting everyone on the same page musically.

If possible, try to get as many rehearsals in as you can leading up to the show. This will help ensure that everything goes smoothly when it comes time to take the stage. If there are 2 guitars in the songs, memorize the parts until you are sure you know them well, and never assume.

If there are any band members who aren’t able to make it to rehearsal, have a plan in place. This will help avoid any last-minute surprises on the night of the gig.

Stage presence is also important when it comes to playing live. Make sure everyone is aware of how they should be acting and interact with the audience. This includes things like making eye contact, engaging with the crowd, and having fun.

Being on the same page when it comes to communication is also crucial. This includes things like setting up cues for guitar solos or knowing when someone needs to take a break. This will help keep the performance flowing smoothly. Preventing any confusion on stage.

Last but not least, always have a positive attitude! No one wants to see a band that is just going through the motions. Be excited to be playing and make sure the audience can feel it too!

Joining an Already Established Band

If you are preparing to become a guitarist and gig in an established band, that looks a bit different. The most important thing to remember is to be prepared. Make sure you have a good selection of original songs or covers that you can perform.

You should also be familiar with the group’s material. This way, you can fit in seamlessly if you are chosen for an audition.

When auditioning for the position, it’s important to be professional and respectful. Be on time, dress appropriately, and behave politely. Remember that you are competing for a job, so you need to make a good impression.

If you are chosen and hired to join the band as a guitar player, be prepared to start practicing right away. This includes learning the material and developing strong chemistry with the other members.

Being a part of an existing band can be a great opportunity to get more experience playing live. It can also help you build your network and find new opportunities to play. Just make sure you are always putting your best foot forward and giving it your all. Many important people might be watching!

No matter how you go about it, always remember to have fun and enjoy playing music! It’s what we all love to do, after all. 

solo guitar gigs

Playing Solo Guitar Gigs

If you are a guitarist who is hired to play solo gigs regularly, then you want to make sure to bring your best. Perhaps this is the type of thing that could be reoccurring. So you want to make sure to leave a great impression on the audience and most importantly, the hiring owner.

Some of the most important things to consider when performing solo are:

  • Make sure to have a set list with lots of variety
  • Bring enough equipment to improvise and put on a lively performance
  • Sound check and tune up well before you play
  • If possible, test your volume in the room
  • Use a looper to really fill up your sound
  • Perform with backing tracks if you need more excitement
  • Play your absolute best

When you are performing solo, it can be a real challenge. You want to leave a great impression to get called back for more gigs. Sometimes it is hard to know what to expect going in, so be prepared to improvise.

How Many Songs Do You Need for a Gig?

Normally, the average gig for a band will need an hour’s worth of music. This includes any talking parts and breaks in between songs.

So if the average length is 3 minutes, you will need 15 songs. Most bands have some that are a bit longer, so you will have to calculate what your group will require.

It’s safe to deduct 5 minutes for chatting with the fans and any other show items you might include.

How Much do Gigging Guitarists Make?

This can vary quite greatly and depend on what your arrangement is with the band or management. According to ZipRecruiter, the income of a guitar player in the United States can range from 28,000 to $187,500!

This depends on if you are playing quite regularly or occasionally.

But on average, a touring guitarist will make roughly $73,530 every year. There is a lot more supply than there is demand. Especially in places like Nashville, where there are many players looking for gigs.

The saying there is that: if you shake a tree, 50 players will fall out of it. Yes, the guitar is that popular!

How to Start Gigging as a Guitarist Conclusion

If you’re gearing up to learn how to start gigging as a guitarist, remember to pack all the essentials. Be prepared for anything. Most importantly, have confidence in yourself and your abilities. That will make you shine through on stage.

And always remember to have fun and enjoy playing music! It’s what we all love to do, after all. You are ready to rock!


How do I get my first guitar gig?

This depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking to get into a band, look in the classifieds and find some looking for a guitarist. Social Media can also be a great way to connect with other musicians looking to start a band.

If you want to do the solo guitar gig thing, then it’s best to find some venues or clubs that host live entertainment. Connect with them and find out what they want, and then get a set list together. Just make sure to do your very best and have music that the audience will like.

How long should your first gig be?

If you are a band and managed to land your first gig, you can expect that it will be between 30 and 45 minutes. This will be an opening spot and will be very brief as the other bands will want the rest of the time.

So have at least 45 minutes worth of music ready, maybe a few extra songs just in case. It’s also a good idea to work on improvisational skills should you be required to do more time.

If you are playing a solo gig, ask the owner of the establishment what they expect for a performance. This could be anywhere from an hour to 3 or more. It’s a great idea to have a well-rehearsed and lengthy set list ready to go.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!