Becoming a bard – first material

So you want to be a bard, and you plan the first step of taking some material out. If you’re anything like me, and anything like most of the bards I have ever met, you’ve got a fire in your head and dreams of glory. You want to wow them. They are going to cry, laugh, wet themselves… you will hold them in the palm of your hand. Thus the first instinct is to pick out the longest, hardest, most impressive piece of material you have ever run into.

It’s not a good plan.

The thing is, if you haven’t performed much, or at all, outside of your home (shower?) there are things you won’t factor in. The impact of adrenaline on your body is something you won’t have a measure for until you’ve performed in public. Hands that shake in response can make strings tricky, blown instruments unreliable, adrenaline makes singing and speaking voices quavery. Unexpected nerves can elope with your second verse.

Things that were perfectly easy and you could do brilliantly at home, alone, are a lot harder to pull off when there’s an audience in front of you.

It’s also worth being aware that the space may not be very forgiving – lighting, acoustics, other people messing about, and if you’re outside, darkness, and wind may thwart you. Singing or talking against even a light wind is quite hard work.

Start safe. Ignore the urges for something that will blow them all away, and opt for something that you might still manage to do even if your trousers were on fire. Although probably don’t do it with your trousers on fire unless you’re into circus skills and have the right kit. Do something you can’t be frightened into forgetting. Do something that isn’t your fastest piece, so you can weather the nerves.

If you go out in public for the first time with an over-ambitious project and fall flat on your face, you do yourself no good at all. It’s better to have something you can be totally confident about (which reduces the scope for nerves to start with) and to pull off a solid performance, and enjoy the confidence boost this gives you. Sooner or later, you will mess up in public – every performer does. It can be disheartening, but its way better to avoid starting out with something that goes wrong.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Becoming a bard – first material

  • verdant1

    This is similar to advice I received as a dancer: practice to the limits of your ability, but perform within your comfort zone. It’s much more comfortable for your audience too – they won’t be spending your performance feeling anxious for you, so they’ll be better able to relax and appreciate your show.

  • Sheila North

    Not a bard, don’t ever expect to be. I do read poetry & stories in public, and sing at folk club. This blog is also excellent advice within those contexts. I have been far too ambitious at times with both the spoken word events, and the folk club. Folk club was no big deal, as I don’t take my singing too seriously, but the recent spoken word event where I fell flat on my arse – oh, deary me!

    • Nimue Brown

      ‘bard’ is one of those words I’d like to see more people using, rather than holding up as some exclusive, elite thing 🙂 Although ‘on the bard path’ might be an easier term to use…. and there is no doubt that you are very much on the bard path.

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