Playing live in bands for about 3-4 years, I’ve had the pleasure of both pleasing crowds and embarrassing myself in front of them with my stage presence. Now there are certain moves that you can do, but at the end of the day it’s all about expressing the same energy with your body as you do with your musical instrument. Now I may not have the best stage presence out there but I have enough to at least get compliments from people, or maybe it’s just because I’m so handsome haha, just kidding. But anyways, I've outlined 5 tips that have helped me ‘write’ a stage performance that compliments my music.
A lot of people assume, that just going crazy is all you need to know, but actually there’s a lot more technical stuff too. Think of backup dancers that have to learn choreography. Their moves are choreographed in a way that will compliment the main artist’s performance. They’ll do things that may literally relate to the lyrics, or maybe they’ll just step back and let the artist do their little vocal solo and come out when it’s just an instrumental section or to hype up the crowd. Little things like these are what you should be thinking about when you are rehearsing for a performance. As much as you should always be spontaneous when playing live, a subtle choreography here and there can add wonders to your stage presence for your band as a whole.
1. Listen to your song many times.
Play it over and over again until you memorize every single second of the song and know exactly what everyone in your band is playing at any point of the song.
2. Play your song many, MANY times.
Take the time to practice your part so that your performance won’t be hindered by your ability to play your instrument properly. Some guitarists end up spending so much attention on playing their song right that they never even look up. You should at least be able to play the whole song with your eyes closed, and maybe a slight peek every once in a while if you’re going across the fret board a lot.
3. Feel your song.
When practicing your song, take note of how you feel during every part and how it makes you want to move. Listening to the dynamics, you may find that at some parts you just want to head bang, jump once, jump repeatedly, or just sway slowly. The more you repeat steps 1 and 2, listening and playing your song, the more you’ll realize things you want to add to your performance. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that another band member is playing something that you can move to in a certain way.
4. Practice in front of a mirror/watch a video.
As much as having a coach or manager to help you out, the best way will always be to see for yourself. Playing in front of a mirror, or even better, getting someone to record a video (can easily be done with an iPhone) can help you drastically. Many of my old stage moves I would do such as always jumping for no reason, or this weird head bang/guitar swing move I used to do really fast just looked really awkward for the audience and I never realized this until I saw it for myself when a friend posted a video on YouTube. So save yourself the embarrassment, and watch yourself first and fine tune your performance before you get out there. Not that you should care what people think, but obviously, you aren’t really performing at your best, if you didn’t approve of your performance, and how can you be sure you’re performing the way you want to unless you actually see what you look like from the audience’s perspective?
5. Play for real.
As much as I stressed on practicing and preparing for your shows, the truth is, you still can’t really prepare for a live show, because you want to be in the moment and you want to be spontaneous, and shit happens, sometimes the crowd feels it, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you think they will and they don’t, and sometimes you don’t even realize what you did, but they start going crazy. As much as you are creating art on purpose, sometimes these things just come to you, and you’ll never realize them unless you get infield experience. Playing live is a feeling that you simply can’t simulate during rehearsals unless you have an actual audience there. So practice as much as you can, but set a realistic deadline and just do it. Just put yourself out there with no dependence on the outcome. It’s the most uncomfortable, but most effective way to learn, through breaking out of your comfort zone.
So there you have it, 5 simplified steps to Stage Presence that I just wrote off the top of my head. Was many live performances as you can and take note of what they do that sets them apart from other bands. Once you decide to create quality stage performances, you will suddenly notice when bands do it effectively, and when some bands totally let it hinder their ability to move further with their music careers.