Taking the Stage: 5 Tips to Improve Your Live Performances
As concert-goers we have a certain expectation when we go to see a live show. First and foremost we expect the performer to be able to sing well or play their music with little to no mistakes or hiccups. But what about all the other things that go into a great show? They may seem like common sense but putting on a great show means incorporating a lot of physical movement, audience engagement and dynamic energy that directs our emotion, energy and focus. So let's dive into the details on how we can best perform as singers.
Tip #1 - Bust out the camera
One of the quickest and easiest ways to see first-hand how your performance looks and feels is to record it! Take out your phone, set it up so that you can see your entire body and a "mock stage" area and run through your whole set. You can record yourself song by song or the whole routine at once. The key here is to capture your performance from the audience's perspective. The main things you want to focus on are:
1. Eye contact and engagement with the audience
2. Moving throughout the space comfortably
3. Dynamic energy depending on the vibe of each song
Addressing your audience is important. You want to create special "moments" with them by making eye contact with members of the audience throughout the performance. Engage with them using facials expressions and even casual conversation or light hearted banter in between songs. Giving the audience a taste of your personality goes a long way.
Moving throughout the stage is another important aspect of a performance. If you stand in one spot the entire show your audience will grow bored. So loosen up those legs and walk about the stage with confidence and grace. Practice moving around enough so that you're comfortable with the tempo and timing. You don't want to move around aimlessly or frantically as this will distract your audience and make you appear nervous. If your instrument requires you to be more stationary you can still create motion on stage through emotional expression and allowing yourself to feel the music.
Lastly, you want to switch up your performance based on the vibe of each song. You'll often see singers start off a song seated in front of a microphone stand and as the song progresses and picks up in energy they stand up, grab hold of the microphone and start moving across the stage. These are all actions you want to practice and get comfortable with even if they seem like common sense. The more rehearsed you are with these performance supporting actions the more your audience is going to feel connected and interested.
Tip #2 - Bring in family & friends
Family and friends are typically your greatest supporters and will often be happy to provide some well-intended advise on how to improve your performance. Have a family member/friend or two sit and critique your performance. Perform a couple songs in front of them and ask them to provide you with feedback on the same things we covered in Tip #1. Not only do you get the benefit of direct feedback but this also helps with building confidence from performing in a very intimate setting. Singing in such a small environment in front of a tiny audience may feel completly uncomfortable at first but the more you can do it the easier it will become. Truly great singers will perform well no matter how much discomfort or anxiety they feel on the inside. So say goodbye to your comfort zone and work on making your "uncomfortable" zone your best friend and frequently spend time together.
Tip #3 - Plan your outfit ahead of time
Looking good the day of your performance is always at the forefront of your mind with an upcoming show but it's only one of many things that occupy your headspace the day of. So take some time a day or two ahead of a performance to plan what you will wear to take some of the pressure off come show time. You want to make sure you're comfortable and can easily maneuver around the stage. You also want to plan a back-up outfit for those rare instances where something breaks, comes apart or becomes dirty just before showtime. Looking and feeling good during a performance is an often overlooked aspect of singing but nonetheless important.
Tip #4 - Get hydrated
We know drinking water is good for us and that staying hydrated has many benefits. We especially want to stay hydrated for a performance. But if you wait until the day of the show to throw back a gallon of water you'll be too late. Instead of reaping the benefits of being hydrated you'll be fighting the urge to use the bathroom the entire time. What can be more distracting and limiting than that? To get the most out of drinking water you'll need to start a few days in advance. This allows the water to reach all the areas of your body and provide a healthy environment for all the muscles that will be put to use during the performance including all the ones required to sing properly.
Tip #5 - Warm it up!
Last but not least, a good vocal warmup is essential to enhancing your live performance. No matter where you are, what the weather is like or how you currently feel, warming your voice up prior to singing provides you with a solid foundation to support a performance. Developing a consistent warm up routine will also help you identify weak spots in your voice allowing you to implement proper singing techniques to overcome any potential issues. If you're running short on time a short warm up is better than no warm up at all. It's never a good idea to go in cold and warming up will set you up for a much better performance.
Put these tips to work and you'll see just how much more confident and prepared you feel for your next performance. Minimizing stress is one of the most important things when it comes to singing. All the practice in the world will be set back if stress gets the better of you. So take comfort in knowing that you properly prepared for you next performance with these essential tips and get lost in the fun of it rather than overwhelmed by the stress of it.