10 Stage Presence Tips Every Musician Needs
by Jessica Brandon
All musicians, regardless of experience level, need to have a strong stage persona. It doesn’t mean you need to paint your face and jump around the stage, but if you don’t make an impression on your audience, the entire performance will fall flat. Here are ten tips to improve your stage presence and knock your audience’s socks off at every performance.
1. Show Off Your Uniqueness
People want to see something different. Just look at the success Elton John and Lady Gaga have had! If something makes you unique as a performer, use it!
Even if your everyday persona isn’t wild and crazy, your “Rockstar persona” can be. Come up with a character and act them out on stage. The more unique your performer persona, the more people will want to see your shows.
2. Fill the Stage
As a performer, it’s your job to be larger than life. How can you be larger than life if you’re dwarfed by a massive stage?
Standing still at the mic makes you look tiny in the sea of open space. Don’t forget to explore. Leave the mic during a long instrumental section, and dance around and have fun. Or, if you prefer the Garth Brooks method, get a wireless mic. Then, you can walk around, interact with the audience, or do whatever you want without worrying about getting back to the mic in time for your cue.
3. No Pauses in Your Show
Song transitions can be tricky for many musicians, but whatever you do, don’t leave breaks. If you need time to swap instruments or tune up, talk to the audience or tell a funny story to fill the space. Having awkward silences throughout your show can remove the audience from the moment, kill all energy momentum, and make you look unprofessional. If you really want to put on a riveting show, get rid of the silence.
If you play with a band, solos can be a great space filler. For longer transitions, let a band member wail away for a couple minutes. They’ll keep the energy high while the rest of the band resets for the next song.
4. Dress for Success
Your outfit is the first thing people see when you step onto the stage, so make sure it matches your performance persona. That doesn’t mean you have to wear brightly colored spandex, big hair, and face paint (although you can if you want), but your outfit should make you stand out and seem larger than life. If you can step off the stage and blend into the crowd, you did something wrong.
5. Engage with the Crowd
Without your audience, you’d still be at home playing music in the basement, so make them a part of it.
Talk to the crowd between songs, tell them jokes, and share stories about the band or the songs. Even simply asking them how they’re doing is good for some easy applause. The more you make them feel like they’re a part of the show, the more memorable it’ll be. Here are a few things you can do to engage the crowd:
- Make eye contact with audience members (multiple, not just one or two; then you’re just creepy)
- Tell stories/jokes
- Ask them to sing along
- Get off the stage and dance with them
It’s helpful to come up with a plan. That way, you’ll know what to talk about, which jokes to tell, and the stories to share. You won’t have to worry about coming up with something on the spot.
Just remember, however you plan to engage the audience, keep the performance going. Jumping off the stage and interacting with the crowd is great, but don’t forget to keep playing.
6. Break Character
Your Rockstar persona makes you look larger than life, but it can also make it hard for your audience to connect with you. They want to know there’s a human underneath. So, to show off your human side, subtly break character every now and then.
If your guitarist just nailed a solo, show your surprise at how awesome it was! Of course, you’ve heard that solo a thousand times before, but the audience doesn’t know that. Pretend you’re just as amazed. It’ll help them connect with you and the band, making the show that much more incredible.
7. Watch the Legends
Most people learn to play an instrument by copying their idols. Why do you think “Stairway to Heaven” is banned in most guitar shops? Well, you can learn more from your musical heroes than just their playing techniques. Borrow a few ideas from their live performances too!
Head over to YouTube and watch some of the greats like Freddie Mercury, James Brown, or Steven Tyler. See what you like, what gets the best reactions from the crowd, and incorporate some of the ideas into your own show. Of course, don’t copy them exactly. Take some ideas and make them your own. You’ll have moves like Jagger in no time.
8. Record Your Live Shows
When you’re on stage and the adrenaline is pumping, it’s not always easy to tell how good the show is. Sure, the crowd is cheering, but there could be some things you can do to make it even better.
At every performance, set up a camera or ask a friend to record your show. Then, go back and review the footage from the audience’s perspective. Make notes about what you like and don’t like and adapt your performances accordingly. Watching yourself perform is the best way to improve your stage presence.
9. Understand Your Audience
If you want to please your audience—as all performers should—you need to know what they like. If you play EDM at a relaxing coffeehouse, it doesn’t matter how well you dress, how much you engage, or how far you move around the stage, your audience won’t like the performance.
Think about how you can make your performance suit your audience. What can you do to keep their eyes glued to you, and how can you change your performance to make a greater impact on your specific audience? The more you can cater to you audience’s likes, the more they’ll enjoy your stage presence.
10. Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More
Just like practicing your music, the only way to improve your stage presence is to practice. Every time you play, whether it’s at rehearsals or just in your basement, pretend it’s a live show. Try all your wildest ideas and see what feels good. Then, get them so engrained in your head that you don’t even need to think about it. The more well-rehearsed your show is, the more confident you’ll appear, and that’s really the key to a powerful stage presence.
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