For those of you who “play out” or perform your songs “live” in clubs, concerts — even at musicians’ and songwriters’ workshops — here are some notes I’ve taken while listening to literally hundreds of singer/songwriters:
1) If you’re not working with a little video camera, so that YOU see how YOU look in front of your audience, DO IT! This doesn’t have to involve an elaborate, expensive set-up … just some way for YOU to see YOURSELF in action. No one else has to see it, ever! It doesn’t hurt to audio/video your performance each time you perform, so you can hear/see how much you’re improving. You’ll learn a lot just from doing that.
2) I realize we live in a society in which we can pretty much wear whatever … but, puhleeeze, do give some thought to your appearance before you get up on stage. Even if you’re creating a certain casual vibe, make it look intentional, and not like you just walked through a second-hand store and stuff stuck to your body indiscriminately. There’s a reason why pros use ‘stylists’ – so, if you need to, ask your high-design friends to help you get a ‘look’ if you’re not sure about your ‘image.’ People do remember and identify you visually.
3) Do you realize you’re keeping your eyes closed the whole time you’re singing to us?
Remember that you’re cutting us off … and we’re the very people you say you want to communicate your songs to. It’s just a habit. And by the way, if you are staring at the floor, or out the window of the club, while you’re performing, then I’ll be just as disinterested in your songs as you are.
4) Did you remember to warm up your voice? There are several excellent tips on how to do this … including singing in the car on the way to the gig, if you’re pushed for time. We’ll get back to this in a future post.
5) Did you take a moment to relax and focus … not just for speaking in public, but before any performance. A tried-and-true method is to sit quietly and visualize the details of what you’ll be doing — even if you’re doing the ‘same old songs’ or a well-rehearsed speech. Do a mental walk-through. And then, imagine being liked by the crowd!
6) Try to remember that we don’t know the words to your songs. And if the words are important to you, please enunciate them so that we can understand what you’re singing. It’s one of our biggest pet peeves, straining all evening just to hear the words.
7) Between-song-banter. No need to tell us, as you tune your guitar on stage, how you just recovered from laryngitis, or that you still have the flu, etc. No need to tell long and involved stories about your song if, in fact, those details will be in the lyrics anyway. No need to apologize for forgetting the chords or lyrics … we may not even notice if you play on through. (Next time, learn your songs!) No need to tell us all about how and where the song was written, unless it’s really interesting and entertaining to us. If you have to tell us what the song means, then you haven’t written a good enough song. Do tell us, however, if it was co-written, and with whom. Or if it was written by someone else. It’s worth your while to study professional singer/songwriters to learn what it is they say between songs that delights an audience. There is an art to it. It’s not just filling time.
8) It’s okay to be gracious. If you’re the first performer of the night, you can welcome the audience and thank the club (owner/manager) for having you. Surely there’s something else you can say other than, “How y’all doin’ tonight?” If you’re the last peformer, thank the audience for coming, etc. You do have manners.
9) It’s very much okay to promote your CD for sale … and hawk your website, etc. But there are ways to tuck those announcements into your performance so you don’t sound like a late-night infomercial. You can be tasteful.
Hope this helps … it’s meant to do that.
Plus here’s a brief article I found that is what got me started on this topic today:
5 Powerful Hacks to Immediately Improve Your Presentations
(written by Scott Young – but found on Ririan Project).