Stage Presence

Some bands try to use fancy gimmicks to improve their shows, such as dressing up, crazy moves, or pyrotechnics, but without stage presence, it can't get to the, I can't go to work because I rocked out too hard at the show last night level. So how can a band properly use stage presence? Here are tips to help you command the stage.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
0
So your walking out of the venue, your voice raspy, your neck sore, and your body covered in sweat. A smaller un-signed band had just put on one of the most amazing shows you have ever seen. They don't have vastly expensive instruments, or huge gimmicks, yet you just had an amazing night. So what's their secret? Stage presence. Some bands have it, some don't. It can be the difference between being opener's and headliners. So what is this phenomena? It's the art of commanding a show, and creating the energy of three acts put together. Some bands try to use fancy gimmicks to improve their shows, such as dressing up, crazy moves, or pyrotechnics, and as good as those things are, without stage presence, it can't get to the, I can't go to work because I rocked out too hard at the show last night level. So how can a band properly use stage presence? Here are tips to help you command the stage: 1. Synchronization Have you ever seen a band that performs like a well put together machine, like they can all read each other's minds? This is the art of synchronization. A show from a fan's eye can look like a totally random crazy display of skill, yet in reality it is a choreographed set of movements mad through vigorous practice, like a dance crew routine. To achieve this, talk to the rest of your band about some cool things to do at shows, then practice it with them. During practice move and play/sing with the energy you would at a show. Tell everyone what your going to do, and make sure you know what they are doing. Sure, random things will make the show more fun, but at least you and your members know what to do in the situation whenever you should decide to do it. It also helps to make it so you plan particular movements during a particular part of a song, such as synchronized head banging during an epic rhythm break down. 2. Movement Now I don't know about you, but to me it's a bit boring to just watch a guitarist stand there head banging with his feet together in the same exact spot. The key is to move with the music. Don't just stand in your assigned spot by your amp. Move, walk around the stage. Head bang then jump around. Don't keep your feet together, spread them apart. Play your guitar down low, then sometimes pull the guitar so the guitar neck is vertical. Stand in the back round, then during an explosive beat, go up in the front and rock it out. Just don't be a scare crow. 3. Interaction Interaction with band members on stage during a song can not only be fun for you, but it can be fun for the crowd, because they can see the relationships you have with your members unfold. Get up and play face to face with your singer, head bang next to your bassist. Singers go put your arm around to your guitarist and let him sing into the mic. Guitarists can stand back to back and push and shove against each other fighting for the spot light. Commanding the Crowd: Commanding the crowd can be one of the most difficult things in stage presence, yet is absolutely essential for the crowd to get that WOW effect. The key of this is to command the crowd, like you're the maestro in a grand choir of kids in tight pants and band t-shirts. The object is to get the crowd to move as you want them. When the band gets extreme in the music, the crowd starts to mosh, and when you slow it down, they sway. This factor all really depends on the crowd, where you are, and if they like your music. Now people can not like your music, yet totally get crazy, it all varies from person to person, but it may be difficult to get people who have never heard of you before to move around and get excited. Try to just get up to the crowd and interact, get them to clap in rhythm, get close to them. Make them feel like a part of the band. However this job may largely fall to the singer. He is (usually) the spokes-person of the band, so he needs to try to get the crowd to clap, jump and down, and mosh. Screaming Get Crazy! in a key, heated part of a song can mean all the difference in the world. Just see how the crowd responds to certain things and try to get them to follow you. Something that may help when you are at an unfamiliar venue is to bring a couple of your fans and put them in the crowd and get them to riled up, or find one of the more loose people in the crowd and get them to participate. This usually results in a domino effect, and people gradually drop their ego's and rock, and then from there it's a lot easier to get the show to a higher level. (Also bring the crowd really close to the stage, it makes things much easier!) Stage Antics: Now like I said stage antics can be very good things. They can make, or break a show. Sprinkle some synchronized head banging, some guitar swinging, some cool wardrobe maybe in with stage presence and it can be really fun. However try to have some idea about the crowd you are playing for, some may go for it, and some may think you look stupid. For instance, a local crowd of friends may love every minute of your dressing up like pirates, yet an unfamiliar cold crowd may think you're an idiot for getting on top of the speakers and doing back flips. These are just a few things to help your stage presence, and the basic premise is, to make yourselves bigger then you really are, not fake, but being able to put the presence of twenty musicians into five. And remember, all this stuff require a lot of practice and being able rock with your band like a finely tuned rock machine, which in turn takes lot's of practice.

102 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    apak
    Dream Theater needs to read this XD. But it's cool because they're gods at their perspective instruments.
    Pepefloydean
    This is true for the vast majority of musical styles, but in reggae or jazz the stage performance is much more different. For example in a Reggae concert musicians need to flow with the music and be part of the crowd, make the crowd feel the message. In jazz the stage performance is much more serious so it is rare to see a jazz guitarist running arround.
    crystaldragon75
    I agree completely. I've seen too many local and even big name bands roll through town that had soild music, but their presence was almost non existent. Bands need to loosen up more. They are there to perform and entertain, not to practice.
    johnff
    John Entwhistle from the WHO stood "LIKE A SCARECROW" yet the WHO were one of the most visual bands around. I believe you should just act naturally on stage..if the music moves you, then move. Nothing more ridiculous than watching a band "try" to look cool by forcing stage precense.
    CG138
    Pepefloydean wrote: This is true for the vast majority of musical styles, but in reggae or jazz the stage performance is much more different. For example in a Reggae concert musicians need to flow with the music and be part of the crowd, make the crowd feel the message. In jazz the stage performance is much more serious so it is rare to see a jazz guitarist running arround.
    This is quite true. The only disclaimer for this article should be that this is for bands who are trying to generate that kind of manic energy. Some bands are meant to be quite laid back and some music is obviously not meant to mosh to. Also, if you're playing something and you can't move or look up from your guitar, then you're simply stretching yourself too thin. You can't expect anyone to be energetic about mannequin's doing sweep arpeggios and snarling, you just look like an a**hole.
    justinb904
    Icarus Lives wrote: I'm a keyboard player. It restricts my movement having to stand behind the keyboards but I always stamp my foot, nod/headbang and I even use my shoulders to some effect. It catches people attention when I swing my arm before hitting a huge chord or something. My singer moves around aswell but we can't get our bassist and guitarist to move. And 2 is not enough, if even one person in the band is a zombie it detracts from everything!
    keyboard players are usually the guys who have the craziest stage presence
    Toker420
    I think the trick is to get into the music. If youre not into your own thing then how can the crowd be?
    StraitsSantana
    Matt-92 wrote: The Who. watch them and learn. Pefect mix of aggression, musicianship and humour (banter with the crowd and other band members is crucial)
    This^
    SwampAshSpecial
    I loved the article, but I'd lie to see some info for guitarists who also sing. I can't hold a mic so I can't walk/run around while playing. I need some good solos so I can run around
    sw1ss023
    Icarus Lives wrote: I'm a keyboard player. It restricts my movement having to stand behind the keyboards but I always stamp my foot, nod/headbang and I even use my shoulders to some effect. It catches people attention when I swing my arm before hitting a huge chord or something. My singer moves around aswell but we can't get our bassist and guitarist to move. And 2 is not enough, if even one person in the band is a zombie it detracts from everything!
    Get a key-tar, lol. Good article
    Icarus Lives
    I'm a keyboard player. It restricts my movement having to stand behind the keyboards but I always stamp my foot, nod/headbang and I even use my shoulders to some effect. It catches people attention when I swing my arm before hitting a huge chord or something. My singer moves around aswell but we can't get our bassist and guitarist to move. And 2 is not enough, if even one person in the band is a zombie it detracts from everything!
    Matt-92
    The Who. watch them and learn. Pefect mix of aggression, musicianship and humour (banter with the crowd and other band members is crucial)
    demitriv
    But tehn again some guys it might be a guitarists personality to stand still and look cool, i.e. the guy from the Killers.
    Phoenix-Kun
    This is pretty good, and it really does make a difference Honestly, matching outfits at shows, and when i say outfits, i mean matching shirts, can really make you stand apart from other bands, as well as set you apart for fans to know your in THAT band, they'll know you on sight. Thats what my band does, and it really works. Syncing up on stage is essential, as well as movement. Even if your in a metal band, build a box to stand on, so when that epic solo gets ready to hit, you step up and your automatically in the center of attention. It really was a good article for bands that don't move much. I'll add in that having your own lights are a HUGE HUGE HUGE plus, and i don't mean like multi colored lights. My abdn bought some work lights from a hardware store, and some larger ones to flash, and one strobe, and we got a timer so that they flash in a rhythm. we also built a switch that allows us to trigger power to each set-up, so that during breakdowns the strobe hits and chorus's get flashing chaser lights, and the focal hits and chords get the bright accents. It really gives a larger than local apperance when you roll with your own lights.
    tomrgane
    Good article (Y) It should be accomponied by a video of Angus young on stage, that is stage presence and perfomance at its best
    nick_b
    BSM123456789 wrote: Josh Geohagan wrote: I am far too focused on what I'm playing to do anything more than headbanging. My band and I don't play 3 chord rock, so it's a little difficult to jump around and make a scene. what would you guys suggest to do if you are playing something like necrophagist?
    slaughter a goat onstage, and then when you're doing fermented offal discharge, point out the organs individually, before vomiting into the ribcage as a finale
    oncetaken
    No stage presence = why Metallica is boring live now...
    I disagree. I saw them last year and they owned the crowd. Decent article though. A lot of this should come naturally from being in the moment and the music.
    chaos13
    justinb904 wrote: keyboard players are usually the guys who have the craziest stage presence
    This. Check out Mushroomhead. If it weren't for J Mann the keyboardist would be the biggest presence in the band.
    postmortem2006
    Avery very good artile, some good points made. ten points! One ting I did in previous bands is, if we played a cover, ask if anyone in the crowd wanted to come up and sing it with us. It sends them absolutely mental.
    Shane0s
    FretboardToAsh wrote: For instance, a local crowd of friends may love every minute of your dressing up like pirates, yet an unfamiliar cold crowd may think youre an idiot for getting on top of the speakers and doing back flips. I think that so far we've had like 20 of these kind of articles, yet not one actually gave info on how to work a cold crowd like that.
    Indeed. Someone, do give some tips for this!
    FretboardToAsh
    For instance, a local crowd of friends may love every minute of your dressing up like pirates, yet an unfamiliar cold crowd may think youre an idiot for getting on top of the speakers and doing back flips.
    I think that so far we've had like 20 of these kind of articles, yet not one actually gave info on how to work a cold crowd like that.
    liledman_76
    Yeah, playing with your guitar down low is like, THE coolest thing ever man, you look like a ****ing rock star...
    IsThereLoveInSp
    Its a good article, but its a little bit more metal friendly than others. For example, Im in a shoegaze band and cant seem to think of a song that would have an appropriate moment for headbanging
    ec50playa
    thank you sooo much for this. my band are going to start looking for gigs pretty soon. This came at the perfect time.
    FUT55
    ^ it only lowers playability. haha i think what he means is look like a rock legend even if its your gig
    filthylittleboy
    watch jeff loomis play the last solo in enemies of reality, and if you don't shut the hell up, then you never will and should leave UG.
    Avenged7Fold332
    No stage presence = why Metallica is boring live now... Good article, alot of it was simple stuff, but it's very important, especially if you're a local band.
    BSM123456789
    Josh Geohagan wrote: I am far too focused on what I'm playing to do anything more than headbanging. My band and I don't play 3 chord rock, so it's a little difficult to jump around and make a scene.
    what would you guys suggest to do if you are playing something like necrophagist?
    Suav Nitebeest
    Good article, but some bands also have great stage presence that for the most part actually is "a totally random crazy display of skill" like you mentioned. The biggest example in my mind would be the Dillinger Escape Plan. It would probably be pretty tough for Greg Puciato to choreograph running on top of the audience...
    DoomsdayArsenal
    demitriv wrote: But tehn again some guys it might be a guitarists personality to stand still and look cool, i.e. the guy from the Killers.
    That's hillarious...I actually thought of him as I was reading this. Tom Morello has my favorite guitarist presence...he can go from super-mellow to jumping off of monitors within one song.
    Aziraphale
    Good article, planning all these points beforehand is very "un-rock n' roll" but it's necessary. Playing the local scene is competative as all hell and you need to stand apart from the legions of other bands, not just musically but visually too. A lot of musicians, once they get some actual skills, get a bit elitistic and think gimmicks and image etc. is just for talentless posers who're compensating for bad music. In many cases that's true, but those bands pretty much always run laps around more talented bands anyways because they get the attention, and that's what matters if you want to be successful. Marketing is the same thing, if you spend all your time practicing, who's gonna run your myspace? You need to do everything, the music is just one part of the equation.
    tate_ms777
    what would you guys suggest to do if you are playing something like necrophagist?
    Thats exactly what I want to know, because when your playing something that technical it gets a little hard to move around and make a show. In my opinion
    willwelsh816
    wtf with all the head banging? That always looks a little stupid whenever I watch a band,and they start doing that.
    ljubavjelijepa
    Toker420 wrote: I think the trick is to get into the music. If youre not into your own thing then how can the crowd be?
    I agree, you have to just get into your music. Good article too.
    Metal_Edog
    Josh Geohagan wrote: I am far too focused on what I'm playing to do anything more than headbanging. My band and I don't play 3 chord rock, so it's a little difficult to jump around and make a scene.
    Haha dude are you in Meshuggah or something? What a douche.
    eric12321
    Decent article. Check out some live Maximum the Hormone, they have amazing stage presence.
    wtfmates342
    I don't think a band should rehearse choreographed movements, then you might end up looking like a bunch of wannabe Michael Jacksons (too soon?). I think the band should feel the music and interact with the other members judging on their body language and things of that nature. That's always worked good for me.
    Let It Be0o0
    CurbstompBass wrote: "Wear your guitar low" Really? I don't see how that helps stage presence at all.
    Well if the guitar strap is adjusted high/tight you'll be pretty damn stiff. If Hendrix never wore his strap loose, you think he'd be able to do his teeth cover of The Star-Spangled Banner? Which was awesome
    WiggityJoe
    i agree totally, although sometimes it is not really possible. my first concert was on SUPER small stage, and there was almost no room to move. so in order to compensate for lack of space, i had to do a LOT really small movements with my body and bass.
    luyano
    apak wrote: Dream Theater needs to read this XD. But it's cool because they're gods at their perspective instruments.
    true XD
    Pencil Man
    Icarus Lives wrote: I'm a keyboard player. It restricts my movement having to stand behind the keyboards but I always stamp my foot, nod/headbang and I even use my shoulders to some effect. It catches people attention when I swing my arm before hitting a huge chord or something. My singer moves around aswell but we can't get our bassist and guitarist to move. And 2 is not enough, if even one person in the band is a zombie it detracts from everything!
    But what about AC/DC? Only two people move around, and yet they have amazing presence.
    Mr.LeadGuitar
    Matt-92 wrote: The Who. watch them and learn. Pefect mix of aggression, musicianship and humour (banter with the crowd and other band members is crucial)
    I saw a Performance of theirs on Palladia and they were AWESOME with stage performance. They interacted well with each other (a good portion of the time Pete was messing with Keith, haha). It was just fun to watch.
    ShadesOfNight
    Icarus Lives wrote: I'm a keyboard player. It restricts my movement having to stand behind the keyboards but I always stamp my foot, nod/headbang and I even use my shoulders to some effect. It catches people attention when I swing my arm before hitting a huge chord or something. My singer moves around aswell but we can't get our bassist and guitarist to move. And 2 is not enough, if even one person in the band is a zombie it detracts from everything!
    Watch DragonForce lol. They can't play for shit, no, but that's not everything. If you want to hear someone sound like a "machine" with complete perfection...buy the CD and jack it up. DragonForce have awesome stage presence (on the 3 times that I've seen them supporting anyway) and put on a hell of a show, regardless of sound - the keyboard player being one of the best every time. Crack out a keytar aswel, it helps join in with the axe men
    AdamDK
    I like this article apart from the "Wear your guitar low" as people like Tom Morello have there guitars high and can still rock out.