Much as we would like, the singular focus on becoming good musicians doesn’t automatically make us better performers. Looking from a distance it may seem that some have that extra spark and others don’t. The jury is out whether that is true (come to think of it, Jimi Hendrix was a self-confessed introvert). Seasoned performers will most probably tell you it’s a practised skill and you can get there too.
More likely than not, it was a stellar performance that inspired you to become a musician. Wouldn’t it be great if your performance could inspire one or a few of the people out there? Here’s how to crack the science and art of getting your performance from where it is to where it can astound and delight you.
You could walk on stage, play your set and walk out, and be left wondering why the crowd wasn’t ecstatic about your music. Here’s the thing: humans like to find a connection.
Once you’ve walked onto the stage, it’s no longer about you, it’s about them. When you walk onto the stage, all eyes will turn towards you. It’s now your job to keep them there.
Find the connection as early as possible. Greet them with confidence, energy and a smile. Introduce yourself (even if an MC has done so before you) and chat a bit.
You may be scared out of your wits inside but this is the time to counter the fear. That’s why we practice to work through the stage fright and the performance anxiety. More on that later.
Your material can have more resonance with your audience if they knew more about it – and you. So, in the transitions between your songs lie more opportunities for you to help them connect. Tell them stories about how you arrived at the idea of the song (too personal and this could backfire). Speak to them about things that are universal and shared by all humans – love, hope, frustration, despair, revival, silliness – and how they connect with your work.
Not a naturally spontaneous talker? You’d be surprised at how many musicians aren’t. So, it’s better to have a script and practice it till it seems spontaneous (no, you can’t simply read it out). Play it out with a friend or two and see how the reactions are. Refine it from the verbal and non-verbal feedback that you get.
And hey! Dress up. It’s up to you to be the best that you can be for the performance.
Wasn’t Born With It?
Guess what? Most people aren’t. They choose not to despair, get smart about it and practice. However, this is about practising for the stage and it doesn’t quite work if it’s just done for your band mates or friends. You’re already comfortable with them so no progress.
Conversely, all that disappears in front of a mirror. So, that’s where you need to be. The things you notice about yourself there are the things that can make you a better performer. Here, the focus is on your movements, the fluidity that flows from them, presence and engagement.
The latter is especially important. Making eye contact may not come naturally to you but when you start doing it with your reflection in the mirror, it becomes far easier to do it with a live audience.
You can also put up a camera, record yourself and critically analyse your entire performance set. Are your movements and expressions in sync with your music? Does your body seem to involuntarily turn away from the audience? There will be many things that you will notice and they can all be worked upon. This is the craft. Work hard at it.
The Moment Of Truth
Before every show is when we need all our energy and to remember all that we’ve learnt about the craft of performing. Through all the rehearsals, all the practice sessions and all the jams, it can seem very monotonous doing the same stuff over and over again.
But this is not the moment for that. This is the time to remind yourself why you do what you do, the thrill that you get from a great performance and the fact that innumerable people will never feel what you feel at that time. That’s what you have to channel every time you feel less than bursting before you take the stage.
That should be enough to pump you up for that confident stride onto the stage that you need for the rest of the evening to become an unforgettable experience for your audience, and most of all, you.
Do you have your own creative strategies to make performances stellar? We’d love to hear from you and learn, as would our readers. Share it with us in the comments section.