You’ve rehearsed with the band, and everyone knows how the songs all go. You’ve memorized your lyrics. You feel good about the show. You know you’re going to sing well. You’re not even nervous this time! Isn’t that enough for a great show?
OK, maybe the subject line is a little harsh this week. You’re not going to RUIN your performance by doing these things. But you WILL dilute it – a lot – and you may direct the audience’s attention at the wrong thing… or lose their attention entirely.
10 Ways to Ruin Your Performance
Especially if you’re singing with a rock, metal, blues, or funk band, the on-stage volume can be way louder than you expect, as a vocalist. You may feel like you have to yell to be heard over the band. But remember: the sound person has you turned up as loud as you need to be in the house speakers! The room can probably hear you. You need the monitors turned up so you can hear yourself – you don’t need to yell instead of scream.
2. Do the Funky Walk
It’s so tempting! You want to get from Here to There while the music is playing, so you do the Funky Half-Dance / Half-Walk. What this means is that the music is controlling you. It needs to be the other way around. You CAN walk like a normal person from one side of the stage to the other. Try it once, and feel the surprising sensation of power and authority of walking normally across stage when the beat is going strong.
3. Assume the audience is there just for the music
Nope. It’s NOT just about the music. It’s about entertainment, feeling some emotion, watching someone having fun, finding distraction from the rest of life. I’m sure you can add more things if you think about why you go see live music. If it were just about the music, you could stay home and listen to CDs.
4. Dress inappropriately.
What’s appropriate varies widely depending on your genre, but please, unless you plan on playing in bars your entire career, don’t wear jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt and a baseball cap.
I saw a band last weekend that looked like they had just skied off the slope and into the bar – complete with ski jackets and woolly ski hats. Fortunately, their Phish-like sound kind of matched…
And the local cover band the Nacho Men, “cheesy” as they might be (haha) with their color-coordinated, sequined jackets and vests, are dressed appropriately for what they do.
Think about it. And when in doubt, dress up instead of down. You’re on stage, for god’s sake! Everyone’s looking at you!
5. Ask the audience, rather than tell.
If you’re on stage, you’ve been given the authority to determine the atmosphere for the night. You have to live up to that authority like a true leader. You are responsible for directing the action, the applause, the audience’s attention. Everything you do should TELL, not ASK.
6. Hang onto the microphone for dear life.
It’s not going anywhere, and neither are you. If you are gonna hang on with two hands, it better be a powerful song moment. But when the moment passes, let go. At least with one hand.
7. Don’t make meaningful eye contact.
Meaningful eye contact takes a few seconds per person. It involves looking at a person’s eyes (or close enough that they can’t tell; foreheads and ears are fair game). It is NOT meaningful eye contact to stare at walls, ceilings, or feet. It is NOT meaningful eye contact for your gaze to flit around the room constantly, jumping off someone’s face if they are actually returning the look.
8. Wander aimlessly around stage.
Be Where You Are. Then go somewhere else, and Be, there. But don’t wander. Do leaders wander?
9. Overdo a gesture
Do you do the same hand or arm gesture all the time? Videotape yourself and find the common ones, and see how often they occur. You might be surprised. A gesture that happens 20 times every song soon looks like a nervous tic.
10. Cut off the applause too soon
The applause rises, peaks, and falls. Don’t cut it off by trying to talk while it’s still rising. Bask in it, let the audience return the gift you’ve given them via your song, and when the applause is waning, then you can start thanking them.
Want more tips? You should have signed up for the Core Stage Performance Skills class! It starts tonight, and doesn’t run again until 2010. Let me know if you’re interested, though, so that we can create a schedule that works for everyone who wants to participate.