10 Ways To Annoy The Open Mic Host
After 5+ years of hosting jam sessions and open mics, these are the things guaranteed to annoy me.
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I’ve been lucky enough to host two open mics where I live for 5+ years. It’s likely been longer, but in the Caribbean, it’s easy to lose track of time.
The open mics I host are set up kind of like jam sessions, and that’s because this little beach town is filled with super talented musicians. People from all over the world come to perform with us! Sometimes they want to perform solo, but most times they appreciate some backup players.
I usually sit on my Cajon, run sound from the stage, and help to organize and direct players and performers as they shuffle in and out.
Now that you have a bit of a background on where I’m coming from, these are the top 10 things guaranteed to annoy an open mic host.
1. Bring Your Own Instrument
Some open mics or jam sessions might have a house guitar to lend you. When they do it’s not typically a very nice one, so you should definitely bring your own guitar or other instrument if you plan on playing.
I have always let participants at open mic use my guitar, bass, or cajon if they ask. That being said, I really don’t like letting people use my instruments, especially players I don’t know. This is particularly true for guitar players.
I can usually tell when someone starts playing the guitar if they’re going to break a string. It’s pretty annoying to have to change a string during a set to keep the show going, and those things aren’t cheap you know!
Guitar strings inevitably break, but any seasoned player knows that how you strum and pick your strings makes a big difference in breakage.
This is a message to any newbies reading: learn how to strum your guitar without breaking strings all the time, and bring your own guitar to open mic!
If someone is nice enough to let you use his or her instrument, be careful and don’t wail away like a madman.
2. Too Many Solos
There’s only so much time for each performer at an open mic or jam session. I get that you’re excited to be on stage, but you’ve got to respect the time and other performers are also patiently waiting their turn to play.
Let’s say each group or act gets to play 3 songs and maybe take up about 15-20 minutes. There’s no need to have two, three, four solos in every song!
If your first song was 15 minutes long because you gave every single player a solo and took two for yourself, your time is up! Sorry!
I try my best to get everyone their time in the spotlight at the open mic and too many solos are something that annoys me. If it’s hot and happening, let it happen, but don’t keep throwing it to the lead guitar because you’re not sure what to do next.
Learn how to end a song and keep the solos to just one, maybe two maximum. If you’re not sure what should happen next you should probably just end the song.
3. Sing into the Microphone
This one is definitely one of the worst! I can’t tell you how many times the singer at open mic is singing softly 3 feet away and a foot to the side of the microphone, even after I set it up properly for them.
Of course, their friend is going to come to yell at me to turn up their microphone because they can’t hear the singer. I don’t mind turning up the singer if needed, as long as they are actually singing into the microphone.
If your singer friend can’t find the mic with their voice, there’s not much I can do for them. Especially if they’re singing to their feet at a whisper level.
Of course, every voice is different in tone and power and requires a custom EQ and level, and there are a ton of vocal mic techniques out there, but in general, you should just sing into the mic so that you can be heard while being aware of what happens as you project your voice in different ways in the space around the mic.
Here are some tips about mic awareness for newbies out there. Spend some time with a microphone and learn what it sounds like as you move around with your voice. Don’t point the mic up your nose and for the love of God don’t cover it with your hand trying to be cool.
As a singer, there’s nothing worse than not being able to hear yourself or not having enough power on the mic to sing comfortably. It’s a delicate balance that requires a significant amount of awareness.
4. Patience and Respect
Most open mics usually have a sign-up sheet near the stage for you to see when your turn will be. In the high season, my open mics are pretty popular and crowded. We go for about 3 hours, sometimes even 4 if needed. People sign up with me online in advance and in person at the open mic.
That means if you signed up halfway through the night, you’re probably pretty far down on the list and will have to wait your turn. That means wait your turn! Don’t go give the host attitude after every performer because you have to wait. Instead, sign up earlier!
I feel bad telling folks that it could be an hour or more wait until their performance, but that’s just the way it is if there are 4 or 5 acts in front of them. There are only so many time slots available.
As the host, I promise I’m doing my best to respect the time and be fair to everyone who comes to play.
Have respect for all the other performers who are also waiting patiently to play and don’t ask the host if you can cut in line – and please don’t be the guy that’s like, “I just want to do one song, man!” Just because you only want to do one song doesn’t mean you get to cut the line.
I get super annoyed when people think that they are special and get to cut in line on the list.
If you feel the host isn’t being fair, then say something and talk to them about it. If they act like an asshole for no reason and are obviously not being fair with the time slots, I’d recommend not coming back to that jam.
Trust me, I’ve been to open mics that weren’t fair to the performers and it’s not something you should waste your time on.
5. Know Your Place In A Jam
The open mic and jam session scene is a great way to sharpen your skills, but you need to know where you fit. I feel this is particularly true for drummers and lead players.
If you can’t keep up, get out of the way. If you don’t know the rhythms or style, don’t play. If you haven’t developed your ear and aren’t familiar with harmony, recognize that you need more practice.
Sorry if that hurts your feelings. Find some folks to jam with that are closer to your level and jam your heart out, man! It’s super awkward in the jam when everyone’s looking at each other like – who let this guy on stage? We’ve definitely had to tell some players to stop playing simply because they were ruining the sound for the performer who’s time slot it is.
It can get a little political on the jam scene and a lot of people will be nice and say yes to anyone who wants to play – regardless of ability. On the other hand, some players absolutely want to perform alone. I understand both situations and do my best to keep everything copasetic. The bottom line is, you have to know your capabilities and know how top lay, when to play, and when not to play.
Also, just because you’re a talented player doesn’t mean every song or jam requires you to play on it. If someone says they’d prefer that you don’t play on their set, don’t get offended. No one likes the first half of a song to be filled with some jammer noodling around looking for the melody or trying to add their own special flavor.
6. Self Awareness
This is a big one and it encompasses a lot. It means to be aware of your volume compared to others, and of how much time you’re taking in between songs and to get on and off stage.
It means don’t be that idiot drunk guy who jumps on stage to bang away on the congas or grab a mic and start yelling with complete disregard for what’s happening.
Self-awareness means being careful with other people’s instruments and equipment, and also being careful as you move around on stage. Most open mics and jams are in tight corners set up at a bar or something, which makes it pretty easy for accidents to happen. Oh, and definitely watch where you put your drinks!
7. Bring Something New
It’s great that you’ve learned an instrument and a few popular songs. It’s even more awesome you’ve got the bravery to try out your new skills on stage. You deserve applause!
That being said, us jammers and open mic hosts have probably heard and played those three songs you’ve chosen more times than we can remember.
Even if you choose Margaritaville, Brown Eyed Girl, or whatever that dancy folk song that goes “Hey!” at the end of every verse is, bring something new to it.
Give those old tunes a new twist; learn to play something less common or popular, or even better, start writing your own songs! If you want to be remembered and admired for your performance, put your heart into it and make it your own!
8. Keep Going
I’ve had the honor to see lots of first-timers come through my open mics throughout the years. For them, it can be nerve-racking and terrifying, even if there are only 4 people in the audience.
If you mess up, forget the words, or your nerves have you trembling, it’s okay. Just don’t stop or give up in the middle of a song. If you need to stop and regain your balance, it’s okay, but keep going on the same song and don’t quit or give up.
Even if it is a horrible performance, it looks a lot better than giving up. Most audiences at open mics are super welcoming and warm and love to support amateurs. They’ll understand if you don’t have a great voice or if you mess up, but if you stop and give up, people are just going to feel bad for you, especially if you start a song and don’t finish it.
9. Be Polite
This is a general rule for life and you’d be surprised how many people lack common politeness like saying please or thank you. I’m not bothered when people forget social decencies such as saying please or thank you, but what annoys me is when they are blatantly rude.
Want to feel welcomed or accepted not only by the jam session crew but also anywhere in life? Be nice and polite to others, even if they aren’t exactly reciprocating the gesture.
I noticed I can be a bit blunt or harsh sometimes with the things I say and I’m sure I can come off as rude at times. Now, I make sure to go out of my way to say thank you to musicians, fans, and to shake hands and look people in the eye.
It goes a long way and can help show people you care that they are there, even if they totally butchered that last song you were singing on.
10. Don’t Ask Host For Free Stuff
Every jam is set up a little differently. Sometimes there’s a hired house band, sometimes there’s not. Some bars will offer performers a drink or meal, and some bars will only extend such an offer to regular performers or the more talented of the jammers.
If you aren’t sure what the deal is with the jam, ask the host or staff. Take what is offered, but don’t act like an entitled punk. Usually the host doesn’t control any perks from the bar or venue, so if you aren’t getting showered with tequila shots after your performance don’t blame the host.
Often we musicians have to fight to keep our jobs and salary as they are, so be thankful for the opportunity to perform and grateful for any freebies offered to you at the jam.
Comment About Your Jam Experience
I think these ten ways to annoy the open mic host are reasonable to manage. Just like open mic and jam sessions though, it’s impossible to make everybody happy all of the time. Let me know in the comments what you think!
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Drop us a line and tell us about your best and worst open mic or jam session experiences. We’d love to hear from you!
I hope to see you at our open mics in Cabarete soon! Bless