We all know what it’s like to go see live music and feel totally blown away — not just by the artists’ ability or technical skills at playing their instruments and singing, but by the overall experience of the show. It’s the element that separates the experience of a live show from just playing an album really loudly on the speakers (in a crowd of sweaty people). It almost definitely plays a huge role in defining your favorite musical acts. Stage presence is the special something that sets these shows apart.
Stage presence refers to the way that the performers present themselves in a live setting. It includes dancing, engaging with the audience, even dressing up in interesting outfits and employing creative stage design or special effects with lighting. But while stage presence is such an essential component of giving a live musical performance, it’s not thought of as something that artists work hard to master and improve at, the way that actually playing their music is.
But even if a strong stage presence doesn’t come naturally to you, there are ways to improve upon it. With a little effort and confidence, these tips for stage performance can help you transform your act.
Presenting an engaged and enthusiastic expression does more than just make you better to look at. It has an infectious effect on the audience. If you’re obviously enjoying yourself on stage, they’ll be more likely to enjoy themselves in the crowd. The first step to improving stage presence is simply to smile and keep your eyebrows lifted (which instantly brightens your face).
More often than not, those who are naturally good at stage presence are also intrinsically confident people. Many people, even seasoned performers, suffer from stage fright and feel anxious about playing music for an audience. But even if you’re feeling nervous, a few physical adjustments can help you create an air of confidence.
Relax your shoulders and neck to improve your posture, and breathe deeply into your diaphragm to help you calm down. Stand straight up and don’t slouch, with your feet shoulder width apart. If you’re a singer, don’t hide behind your microphone stand — step out in front of it once you begin singing to open yourself up to the audience.
Move around while you’re up on stage as much as you can. Whether it’s the singer dancing, the guitar player headbanging, the bass player bopping around or the drummer twirling sticks, any movement on stage is much more enjoyable to watch than a four-piece standing in place and strumming. Incorporate movement into your show as much as you can while ensuring that it looks and feels natural, not forced.
Hand and arm gestures can express a huge range of emotional stages such as anger, openness, gratitude, pride and sadness. Pepper in appropriate gestures and don’t be afraid to hold your arms out wide — it’ll catch your audience’s eye and make you much more engaging to watch up on stage. If you feel uncomfortable at first, practice your performance in front of a mirror until you’ve nailed the movements.
Any one of these three relatively simple tips will go a long way toward making you a more dynamic performer and making people more excited to see your live shows. Don’t neglect this important aspect of being a performing musician — performers at any stage of their career can always benefit by making their shows more fun for the audience.