7 Tips to Improve Your Stage Presence as A Performer

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7 Tips to Improve Your Stage Presence as A Performer

Playing music on the mainstage can be a vastly different experience than playing in the studio. There are very few chances of a do-over, and stage fright becomes a natural reaction for many. But besides this, there is another crucial component to being on stage: your stage presence.

Having the right stage presence not only helps your listeners have a good time, but it’s also a great way to command attention to your music. It provides a living and breathing soul to the body of your work to make it stand proud. And best of all, it makes your music memorable in a way that might not have otherwise been possible.

But nailing the proper stage presence can prove to be challenging for many musicians out there. It’s one thing to be there on stage; it’s another to be present in the real sense.

To help you navigate this process, we’ll be sharing 7 tips to improve your stage presence as a performing musician. This will give you the drive you need to get out in front of a crowd to play your heart out.

1 – Make it About More Than Just the Music

As a musician, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the technical side of things. You might be splitting your focus on perfecting your technique or getting the right sound mix. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, it can leave the experience of the performance on the far side of the equation.

The fact is, a live performance will rarely get judged based on only its music content. If someone wanted to listen to your tracks, they could stream them right at home. But for the same reason, people go to watch movies at the theatre, people will gather in droves to a concert or performance. It’s about the unique experience of it all.

Often times, it helps to take a step back and look at the big picture. You want to offer your crowd an experience that they can’t get elsewhere. 

Most artists already do this with their music by playing in a different tempo or improvising parts of it. But you can take that a step further.

Consider experimenting with different elements of your performance. This can be things like tinkering with lights, have props on stage, getting themed costumes, and more. Nothing screams presence like having something to offer both the eyes and ears of your audience. 

Bands like Pink Floyd and Metallica have practically made this their mission statement. That’s why they have such an excellent stage presence. And that’s why you should think about adopting the same approach for yourself.

2 – Demo Your Performances

Predicting the outcome of a live performance is never easy. But although you may not have the ability to peer into the future, you can try to anticipate it. 

To avoid that unknown feeling of crowd reaction, it can help to hold some mockups of your performance. It’s best to do this as many times as possible to start building a good sense of direction for your stage presence. 

The key here is to demo your performance in front of different types of crowds. Friends and family will be able to offer you encouraging support. People in your musical circle will help give you a good reference point for your experiences. Veteran peers will provide you with honest feedback and actionable advice. They will all help you out in some way.

Besides getting your feet wet with your performance, it offers a window of opportunity into how your performance will look and feel. 

If all else fails, you could always go the route of recording your performance and watching it back. You’ll be surprised at just how much that shift in perspective brings. Suddenly all those little quirks and habits are able to bubble up on the surface. 

That’s helpful information that you can use towards fine tuning your performance and presence. Whether you’re fidgeting, not making the right eye contact, or slumping your posture, it’s all something that you can work off of. It’s rare to have many opportunities to study yourself, so use them while you can.

3 – Mask Your Nervousness with a Persona

Being nervous is a relatively normal reaction to being on stage with lots of people listening and watching your every move. Unfortunately, one of the only real long-term solutions is to get used to it with the passage of time. But in a pinch, it is possible to shroud it for the purposes of a show.

When you’re playing on stage, you have the ability to ditch your mundane self in favor of a more flamboyant persona. And the added effect this provides is being able to come out of your shell to be fast and loose with your interactions.

It’s a technique that works wonders for otherwise introverted or trepidatious performers. Artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Rihanna, and Adele have used it to try and break away from their nervous images. Legends like Freddie Mercury and David Bowie have practically used it to build their fan following. 

That’s not to say that most artists don’t have different ways of dealing with interviews, family, and fans. But to truly enter the realm of an alter ego is something else entirely. 

The great thing about this approach is that you can dial it in as much or as little as you want. You don’t have to go all out cult-of-personality if you don’t want to. As long as your on-stage self is a bit livelier and more energetic, then you should be alright. It’ll do wonders for your anxiety, and your fans will appreciate it that much more. 

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4 – Talk to the Audience

When playing live, it’s important to remember that your relationship with the audience shouldn’t feel one-sided at any point. After all, you’re playing for them, not at them. It’s essential to keep that distinction in mind. 

Talking not only helps you connect with the audience, but it’s also a way to kill all that dead air between sets. Every time you end a song or tune your instrument, you create awkward silences that have the potential to destroy the vibe of the show.

During these moments, it can be an excellent approach to call back to the crowd. Anything from a good old joke to improvising with the audience can have some desirable results. 

One of the best examples of this is Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth. He’s run the gamut from cracking jokes about his bandmates, mimicking the singing styles of Christina Aguilera, and eating a big mac on stage offered to him by a fan. This helps him create a fun, banter-filled environment for his live shows. And it adds up as a significant selling point for his performances. 

If that’s not your cup of tea, you can go the Tommy Emmanuel route of sharing stories with the audience that are very personal and inspiring. A practice that helps Tommy form deep emotional connections with his fans.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to stick to these ideas. You can even try your own. Use the opportunity to tease an upcoming album, talk about your future gigging plans, plug your merch, or just try to make someone laugh. The power that talking with the audience can have on your stage presence shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

5 – Rehearse the Performance (All of It)

As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. But nowhere is this more applicable than in the subtle art of performing. No matter how confident you are with yourself, it never hurts to get a few more rehearsals in.

Instead of limiting your practice runs to just polishing your musical skills, try to use them to hold full rehearsals. This helps in two ways: it helps you build familiarity with your show’s lineup, and it lets you practice things in context. 

For example, you may be tempted to jump right into practicing your vocal runs. But it might be better to take a step back to rehearse how you’ll be entering the stage, greeting your fans, making eye contact with them, and then launching into your performance.

Once you start to find your footing, try to keep going with the rehearsal until you reach the end. It might end up draining the life from you, but it makes for one of the most holistic approaches to strengthening your stage presence. 

Coming into a show well-rehearsed means you’ll be filled with plenty of confidence. And that’s something that audiences respond well to. It will also give you some leeway to fall back on should you miss a cue or make a mistake. 

After all, you don’t want to be caught looking like a deer in headlights if you forget where to transition to. The fewer stumbling blocks you have in your way, the fewer chances there will be to mess up. 

6 – Don’t Be Afraid to Bomb 

Fear of failure can be one hell of a demotivator. All it takes is the slightest mistake to send your confidence shattering. That can only spell trouble for your ability to keep a substantial stage presence.

No one is born perfect. That’s a simple fact that every performer comes to learn sooner or later. Even a popular stand-up comedian will tell you that they’ve bombed more times than they can count as part of their early career.

It’s essential to remember this because it’s what many beginner performers can struggle with. Bombing on stage, or even the fear of it, can stop you from stepping up in the first place. But you shouldn’t let that get you down. Don’t be afraid to bomb; use it to be the bomb.

A helpful way of putting this into practice is giving yourself some room to fail. Keep a realistic minimum threshold of failures that you can use as a metric to measure yourself against. If it takes a thousand hours to get good at playing music, then that same rule applies to executing your stage presence. 

The next time you come off a little awkward, instead of hyper-fixating on the consequences, acknowledge the blunder and move on. That’s one of the healthier approaches to have. Your performance should be as fun for you as it is for the people in the crowd. And it’ll help make the process of building a presence a lot less painful. 

7 – Build an Energy Curve for the Performance

Crowd energy is a big part of how your presence is perceived. As a performer, it’s something that you can control to lead the audience in a particular direction. 

A good live performance doesn’t just have a start and an end. It has an entire flow. That’s what makes the highs and lows of a well-maintained set list so prominent. And it’ll be your job to arrange them in a way that gets the most out of your audience.

It’s not a coincidence that some of the artists with the best stage presence also happen to be the ones that know how to get a crowd riled up. 

After all, stage energy translates to crowd energy and vice versa. Whatever you give to your fans, they’ll give back tenfold.

To get the ball rolling on this, you might have to do some research about your audience, your repertoire, and the kind of feelings you want to convey. 

Get an idea of how all this works by watching other artists perform. Most bands start with a high energy track to kick everyone into gear. In the middle, they might transition into a softer, paced track to keep things interesting. And at the end, they’ll either end back up on an upbeat song to leave everyone pumped or an emotional ballad to draw into their feelings. 

Bear in mind that how you set up your energy curve is all up to you. As long it results in everyone feeling enthusiastic, then you’re doing something right. 

Closing Thoughts

Nothing means more to a performer than to be seen, heard, felt, and acknowledged. It helps carry the performance and translates it better to the crowd. After all, it’s only natural that you should be present when trying to deliver your music. 

Crafting an aura on-stage is an art in its own right. And that art takes time to master. But if you follow the pointers above, you have a good shot at improving enough to get there.

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