Singing is an act of telling a story, sending a message, engaging in a dialogue with the audience. It is an act of communication. Whilst a good technique is absolutely necessary for a good performance, expression of emotions and feelings is equally, if not more, necessary. When the singer believes in what the song is about, can relate with the song, we have one of the most important ingredients of a good performance, which is connection. When we are connected with the song we are singing, this instantly comes across to the audience. If we start thinking of performance as a relationship then we have many more chances for our performance to be successful.
Being a confident performer often takes a long time to master; I have seen many singers struggling with their stage presence, their expression, their movement, even though they might be excellent vocally wise; performance is a whole other story and once you get into it, you ll never want to stop!
Below there are some general tips for singers and performers that I personally found very helpful in my journey so far; these will only work with time, determination and constant practice. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t work instantly and remember to always be patient about results!
General Performance Tips/ Stage Techniques:
The obvious no 1 ingredient of a good performance is to feel confident, what we often call ‘owing the stage’: the moment we walk on stage, we need to feel at home, we need to be comfortable, show that we are happy to be there and that we are ready to share the musical experience with our audience. In order to succeed at ‘owning the stage’ we need to pay attention to the following areas:
- Eyes: our eyes are the ‘window of the soul’; by engaging our eyes, looking our audience in the eye and not looking nervous or away, chances are that the audience will have an amazing experience. Sometimes it is totally acceptable and necessary to close our eyes, if we really feel it, as long as we dont do it constantly.
- Moving/ Walking on stage: Very often owning a stage means that we have to move. It always depends on the needs of the song; when we feel like we need to move, we have to do that with confidence, and not show signs of confusion, of being unsure or hesitant about which direction we need to move. In any case, whatever we do, any movement we employ has to serve the purpose of the song; sometimes this means not moving at all. Moving for the sake of moving just to prove that we are competent performers wont give us more credit. No matter what we decide it is best for a specific performance, we should never be apologetic or afraid of the audience. In any case, remembering to stay honest to the song and delivering the message should be our priority.
- Posture: A good posture contributes in a convincing, strong performance. Slouching our shoulders can give a bad impression and a feeling of nervousness. Always remember to maintain a strong, firm, good posture and not slouching the shoulders.
- Gestures: there is not a single rule referring to what are good and what bad gestures, but generally we have to remember to never force gestures; again, gestures stem from what we want to express in a particular song- they might be minimal or a bit exaggerated; for instance, if we are performing a musical theatre song that has a very dramatic content, it might be more suitable to use many gestures. If we are performing a quiet, story telling ballad that doesn’t include many dynamic or dramatic changes it might be more suitable to control our gestures a bit more. No matter what we decide to do, we should never feel forced or act over the top in an effort to prove that we can be very energetic and animated, because that might risk to come across as fake.
- Communication between band members: As performers in a band environment, we dont only communicate with our audience, but also between each other; it is crucial that the members of the band are in sync, are engaging with each other, support each other and work together towards achieving an energetic performance and the best sound they can get. The singer is the leader of the band, which means that in most cases he/she must cue the musicians as much as possible :look at them in the eye, be in constant communication regarding dynamics and the feel of the song, cue the solos -where applicable-, the repeats, turn arounds, conduct key sections such as rubato, climaxes, stops, intros and endings when needed and make sure to connect equally with everyone. An example of a good communication is when the band members allow each other to have their moment; when there is a guitar or drum solo, for instance, the singer has to step aside a bit-without losing eye contact though- and allow the drummer or the guitarist to shine.
- Being a musician and being in a band means that you have to be a team member; more importantly, that you have to learn how to listen and interact with your team. It is crucial that each member is not only focused on their own part, but that, while performing, they are aware of what is happening around them all the time. The rhythm section has to be in total sync with the vocalist and all together must complement each other and create a consistent sound. Showing respect towards our band mates and caring about our band rather than about ourselves as individual performers is one of the most important lessons to learn as a musician. One mistake that many, and often very good performers tend to do, is to underestimate the importance of listening and feeling the music; instead they are so concentrated in showing off and proving how good their technique is, that they risk losing the essence, losing the connection with the rest of the band and losing the feel. Listening to the music, feeling the groove, being in a non stop ‘dialogue’ with your band is crucial in achieving a good sound and ultimately a strong performance.
- Dealing with stage fright: Stage fright is something that even the most experienced performers struggle with; it is the constant enemy of the performer and usually takes a long time to face it and overcome it. Some tips for overcoming stage fright are to always be very well prepared, be realistic about yourself and how well you know the song, replace the catastrophic or negative thoughts with the thought that you will do your best, even though some people might criticise you. Some effective techniques include making sure that you get through that first line of the song, doing some stretching and diaphragmatic breathing some minutes before you go on stage and mainly remember why you are there, what is your purpose and how much you love what you do. Don’t be put off if it doesn’t happen quickly- it is a long and painful process where you need to guide your thoughts and exercise your mind to think differently. It takes time, patience, and discipline.
Lastly, never forget to enjoy being on stage, allow yourself some time to familiarise with the performance space and think how much energy you will fill it with! At the end of the day, if you are full of happiness and enjoyment, your audience will also be!!