Stage Presence

Want to put on a good show? Can't afford lasers, smoke and/or s--tloads of stage props? This may help you.

Ultimate Guitar
anrgyskykitten with (again) a beginners lesson here, this time on preforming live with a good stage presence. You got some songs, you got a band, you got a gig. What now? First things first: if your band can't play the songs well, don't bother reading this - get the music down, THEN focus more on your image. You may notice something about unsigned bands or local groups performing live, and that is that a lot of people say 'this band is great' if they simply play their stuff without too many outlandish mistakes. They might not do much apart from stand there and play in time and in tune on songs that everybody knows, but they'll be the ones people will immediately recall as 'good'. But there's no such thing as a 'good' live performance, >>>PER SE<<<. It's more about how well the band functions as... well a band. Right, enough waffle. Onto to the main steps on how a band can be seen as putting on a damn good show. They are as important as each other, but I'll go in the order that the audience tends to notice them. You'll find that if you get, for example, the first two steps down to a T, some people will come up to you and mention something about the third. Number One - Know your s--t As I said above, if you don't know how to play your songs or how you intend to perform them live, your show is going to suck. End of. Number Two - Enjoy yourself and be confident If you don't have fun on stage, basking in the attention of the crowd listening (and in some cases PAYING to listen) to you then you are wasting both their time and your own. But you also have to have CONFIDENCE. If you have no faith in what you're playing, it's gonna fall apart so soon. I can't teach you how to be confident, but I'm sure you can find some other articles on UG or anywhere else to help you with that. :) Wear a few smiles, stand tall and proud (after all, you're band is the most important thing in the room at the moment) and maybe have a little banter with the crowd between songs. More on that shortly. Number Three - Work as a unit You don't just want to perform as a few people reciting some tunes. You want to play AS A BAND. Bounce off of each other, play along with little things like headbanging together or whatever. Number Four - Dress code Now this may seem a strange thing to include, but look at all these professional bands when they play live. What do you see? There's a consistancy in how they look. Metallica (more so these days) tend to wear all black, dark colours and such. 80's glam rockers had the long hair, the glitter, the platform shoes etc. Hell, Kiss dressed right up! The Beatles wore suits and AC/DC were mostly in jeans and t-shirt... but hang on? Do you notice something about AC/DC? What's that little bloke playing the guitar doing in a school uniform? That is part of Angus Young's stage presence. More on this later, but his eclectic attire and attitude are what gives him a memorable and great stage presence. Wear stuff appropriate to your music. If you're a classic blues band, maybe dressing up as a memeber of the Kiss army won't work. If you're a heavy rock band, avoid the stylish look and aim for something a little more rugged. Check out what other bands of a similar genre/style to yours wear and work from that. Number Five - Include the Audience Now this is quite a late step because it's generally one of the more difficult ones to achieve for a relatively unknown band. If you're at a pub surrounded by all these people who are listening to you, but mainly there for a casual pint, chances are you are gonna struggle to get them shouting replies to you or singing along on every cover - unless it's a bit later in the night of course ;) Talk to the audience. - Thank them (but not copiously, otherwise you just sound desperate or worse - fake) - Include them ('How's everybody doing tonight?' But don't expect too much of answer) - Tell them little things about yourself ('Hi we're the Amazing Band, we've been working on this next song for a little while, it's about our hometown!' You're a live band after all, not a jukebox) - Banter with the rest of the band. Now this kind of ties in with Step Three. Show that you are a band, a group of mates playing together and enjoying yourself and that you want the audience to share your enjoyment. And LOOK at them! You are playing to THEM, not the wall, the ceiling or the rest of your band. NOTE: Those are the five basic steps. There are two more I want to mention, but they are for giving a more memorable performance that'll make people say 'Man, I saw this awesome band... crazy!' and get you more recognised but for now, if you just want to put on a good show in general, perfect those five steps. I hate to use the term, but I guess you could call the final two steps 'Advanced' stage presence. Step Six - Be yourselves I've mentioned Kiss three times now. That's cos it's so hard to forget them. I mean, just look at them! Their truly outrageous style is recognisable almost instantly in the rock world. Angus Young is another. Very few guitarists run around on stage with more energy than a kid dizzy on lemonade AND in a schoolboy outfit than he does! Their stage presence is without a doubt, killer. Find something that could set you apart from other bands. Do something onstage that's something different. Show your energy. It doesn't matter if you can't afford lasers, dry ice or guys dressed up like the devil (Iron Maiden, very good live as well). Have a gimmick maybe. I can't tell you what's a good gimmick. I can't promise your gimmick will get you noticed any mroe than anyone else. I CAN say that you should do onstage what you are comfortable with. Step Seven - When in doubt... copy Let's be honest. How long have live performances been around? Yeah, long enough that so many good ideas have been taken. Watch other live bands that have good stage presence or whatever and just copy them. DON'T do exactly what they do. If you do, people will just think you're trying to be them. Take what they have and make it your own. Let things happen naturally that you have been inspired to do by others. If you force yourself to be something you're not... it's all gonna fall apart faster than you can say 'woops'. The Cheeky Eigth Step - Listen I know I said two more, but this one is kinda important even to beginners so LISTEN UP! If someone comes along, gives you constructive criticism then LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN! I said this in my 'How to Write Lyrics' lesson - someone who says to you 'you suck' is being daft and you should ignore them, but someone who says 'I like this, but this wasn't so good' then LISTEN and take on baord what they say. :) There we have it. I apologise that it's soooooo long, but I wanted to break it down into bits to help explain my point. I hope you found my lesson helpful and of course, please tell me what you think and how i can improve my future lessons in the comments section below. To summarise: - Know your music - Enjoy your music and be (or act) confident - Work together as a band - Look the part - Be an act, not a recording - Be yourselves - Be inspired - LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN That last bit's important. Thank you very much for reading. :) Good luck.

16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Pretty good tips! A good way to get crowd participation is to play a cover of a really popular song for the genre you play. My old band used to cover Death's "Pull the Plug" and it always got the crowd singing along. If anything it will at least make people pay attention for a few minutes
    Nice article! It is very hard to tell someone to just "be confident" though. I think it might be better to persuade people to gradually push their comfort zone with each performance to develop a more confident stage personality? But good overall
    Definitive stage presence for a small band: Check out Hell - Blasphemy And The Master On YouTube.
    Andrew Joshua
    Thanks a lot! I needed it! Am startin a band called, 'Zethrins'. Your article was so useful. Thx again!
    Sam Britton
    im in a band called ABOVE ALL GODS and here pretty soon and ur tips hopefully help us out. thanks for the tips
    Sam Britton
    im in a band called ABOVE ALL GODS and here pretty soon we will be playing a show and ur tips hopefully help us out. thanks for the tips
    Kunda wallace
    Thanks a lot. I'll definately share these tips with my fellow church musicians. I like how you put it; "You're a live band after all, not a jukebox". Thanks. ~Kw~A nation.
    Well put! Enjoyed the article...If I may, I would have mentioned one thing...stay away from booze! I have seen and been in bands where one of the other musicians embarrassed the other members with their drunken antics. Nothing worse than being know as the band with the drunk singer falling over...
    this is a great article. one way to get a crowd started is if you have a song with an undeniable beat, such as the drummer stomping the bass drum on eighth notes, get the rest of the band to clap over their heads. the crowd will almost always immediantly catch on and start along with you.
    Great article man! I'm in a band now and we want to show our energy when we perform and these are great tips! I completely agree with the alcohol comment. In some cases it actually helps a performer (loosens them up and such) but it most cases it just makes them sloppy. I also agree with the clapping. Try to get the crowd clapping at one point or another, I think the very beginning would be a good spot.
    this is absolutely golden information that most amateur bands totally disregard. there truly is a gap between the hacks and the greats