Stage Antics: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

A small collection of the big scary world of stage tricks, stunts, and antics. Disclaimer: Stage stunts will not, I repeat, will not replace stage presence.

Ultimate Guitar
We've all seen this before; some punk ass guitarist pulls off this sweet solo behind his head and between his legs with his tongue while the bassist swings the entire thing around his body and back between every single note, jumping ten feet in the air clear over the drummer with little or no effort. Well maybe not to that extent, but still, you can certainly catch my drift is. The fact remains that there are still some pretty sweet moves out there that wow us at one point or another. In all honesty, stage tricks can make or break a performance (save a few truly amazing bands that have such brilliant songs they could sit down behind a curtain and still make it the best show you've ever seen)... Most bands don't need flashy gimmicks or tricks, stage presence is simply enough, and I assure you that nothing will replace amazing stage presence. But for those that simply don't care, here are some other options. 1. The Hardcore "Swing Around the Body and Back" Trick I think it looks neat sometimes. Other times it makes the perpetrator look like a complete douche. In short, you simply take the guitar, swing it clear around your body, and back again. Pretty self-explanatory. But if you're gonna try this, make sure you're damn careful because this can completely waste your guitar and your body if not done correctly. First of all, try starting with a light guitar, and either shovel out the money for some strap locks or buy some duct tape. You need to make sure the guitar is nice and secure. Secondly, practice this in a nice big open space. Don't improvise this on stage because this simply cannot be a spur of the moment thing if you've never done it before. And PRACTICE. And please, don't over do it. I'm not too familiar with the band, but the link above is the best example I've seen so far. 2. Solo Behind The Head The link is to a Zakk Wylde performance at Ozzfest. This one is alright I guess. Pretty simple, you put the guitar behind your head and solo away. Relatively easy given the right amount of practice. If you're freakishly tall, make sure you check the ceiling space in your gigs before attempting live. Try to go with a light guitar and remember not to balance on your head. If you really want to end the night with a bang, then yeah, go ahead and have an ambulance come to the show to wheel you away, that'll keep them talking. Otherwise, remember to balance on your shoulders. Lastly, playing chords will be relatively difficult, so try and stick with solos and smaller licks and riffs. 3. Talented Teeth And Tongue Trick The trick to this one is that there really is no trick. it's all illusion. Unless you want to lose your teeth or make out with some dirty strings, it's all illusion. Granted, yes, many players actually do this with their teeth and tongue, but I don't advise this. Instead, just turn up the guitar towards your face, and let your fretting hand do all the work. The strings will taste like crap, so just give the illusion and remember to stick your tongue out like a maniac afterwards, and your audience will never be the wiser. Good Ol' Mr. Hendrix is one of the most well known users of the tongue and teeth, with the exception being that he actually used his teeth. 4. The Windmill Simple, fun, and most times effective. Best for use towards the end of a song or in a progression where there are small pauses between chords and notes. You can stand up straight, or spread your legs out for power, and just swing your arm around, reminiscent of a windmill (hence the name). Signature move of Pete Townshend. One of the easier stage tricks out there. 5. Power Slide Another popular one with Mr. Townshend. Easy as hell, just find some room, grab some momentum, and slide down the stage. Don't have to explain this one much at all. 6. The Levitating Guitar Yes. It had to be done. But this one gives us a little "two for the price of one" deal. First we see the guitarist in question playing with his hand over the neck rather than under, and then a little guitar levitation going on. Self-explanatory really. 7. The Angry Guitarist Popular in the 90's, now a little pretentious. But nonetheless, if the glove fits, wear it. Just take that little puppy and smash the hell out of it. I suggest using something cheap, like a guitar you don't necessarily need. Just don't over-do it. You might find your credit card bill getting a bit too high. And for a little extra spark, try smashing your bassist with the guitar. Now that would definitely pump the crowd up. 8. The Duck Walk Kind of hard to explain, but we've all seen it at one point or another. The guitarist balances on one leg in the sitting position and jumps a few steps while still playing along with the rest of band, usually with his tongue out at a ridiculous length, and head banging. Created by Mr. Chuck Barry, and seen often with Angus Young. Although, like most of these, don't over do it if you value your mobility. 9. Making Sweet Love. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth has done this numerous times. You basically put the guitar between your legs, knees on floor, neck protruding from your crotch, and bring it up and down like you're making love to it, while still maintaining the song. Or in Thurston's case, making as much noise as possible. Couldn't find a decent example, so you'll have to use your imagination. 10. Chicken Solo I've seen maybe a few small-time bands attempt this. Basically the guitarist sit's on the shoulders of maybe the singer and the guitarist plays some unbelievable solo as the singer, or whoever is beneath the guitarist, is dancing around, or standing still. Whatever. 11. Pyrotechnic Insanity Ah, fire tricks. Guaranteed to shock and awe unsuspecting audience members. Now you can go along the lines of Hendrix and just set your equipment on fire, go Jackson style and set your hair on fire, or pull out some kiss and do some fire breathing. I don't exactly suggest this, unless of course your band sucks and is a waste on society. In that case, please, let it burn. Otherwise, leave it to the professionals, and always remember to get approval from the venue owner. And hey, try playing a solo while the guitar and your hair is on fire. 12. Stage Dive! Now I'm positive we've all seen this one. My suggestion is to leave your equipment on stage, unless you want to whack people in the head, and in such a case, please by all means proceed. But anyways, if you're taking your guitar with you, unplug it, otherwise, take a dive and enjoy. 13. Wait, That's Not A Pick Jimmy Page executed this one often. Using a cello or violin bow to string out some long beautiful notes. You'll almost instantly be criticized for ripping him off, but hey, to each his own. 14. It's Halloween Time E'rybody A lot of bands often times dress up as a bit of an antic. If done properly, this can be a very memorable addition to a good show. Chances are, fans will more likely remember you. it's best to use the content of the songs to draw some ideas. For example if you've got a metal sound, maybe go for some horror film characters. Political? Dress up as politicians that are often subject to harsh criticism, the kind no one likes. Or just as whatever. Dress up as a sumo wrestler if you want. Point is, it can often times make a show just that much more interesting. 15. Dialogue Something that can brighten up your stage presence a bit is by actively interacting with your audience. Talk about something that pisses you off before an angry song and get everyone in the mood. Make a vulgar joke. Tell a story behind a song before playing it. Try monoluges, poems, and the likes. Or hell, pick up a conversation with a hot chick in the front row (be prepared to be booed off stage by jealous male and lesbian audience members). Regardless, something other than just music might lighten up the mood. 16. Cocaine + Red Bull Last, but not least, just have some crazy energy. If you're a singer, or a guitarist with wireless, dance around. Jump off amps and use the mic or headstock to bang the drummers cymbals at appropriate times. Other than that, the best thing is to play your songs the best you can. If attempting some insane stage trick is keeping you from playing the song, then forget it. And REMEMBER, stage tricks cannot make up for stage presence. If you like, dance around a little, but there is no shame in standing still and playing a damn great song. For other articles based on the common issues and questions of guitarists as performers and writers, please check out my site of catchy classy alternative music theory.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Every link is broken because the V is big in them. e.g. watch?V=zl6oXW0CDG8
    Good summarize of different stage behavior, yes have seen some of these. But the links doesn't work for me. Youtube tells me it's a "malformed URL" dunno,,, Good nevertheless
    Blas3 wrote: Every link is broken because the V is big in them. e.g. watch?V=zl6oXW0CDG8
    Okey, thanks
    Blas3 wrote: Every link is broken because the V is big in them. e.g. watch?V=zl6oXW0CDG8
    will be fixed in a moment..
    David Blackbird
    Ok, the links work, but YouTube removed the 'levitating guitar' video you chose, and I can't find any good replacements. This is kind of interesting, but, like you said, tricks can't make up for presence. I think you should link a Buckethead video for an example, cuz he just walks around a little, if he even moves.