Tips for music performers

Tips for music performers…

Just because you’re not rich and famous doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put some thought and effort into how you look up on stage, whether you’re performing for 10, 100, 1,000 or 10,000 people. When you’re performing in front of a crowd, I think it’s important to dress differently than everyone else. You need to stand out visually. You don’t have to go as far as Lady Gaga, but you should consider wearing some accessories so you look interesting to people.

Canadian artist Greg Sczebel may or may not need glasses, but the fact is he wears black “nerd glasses” which distinguishes his “look,” the kind of look you don’t forget. Make no mistake about it, you know people in the audience will notice and remember his glasses, and if he doesn’t wear them down the line, they’ll ask, “What happened to your glasses?” Same goes for performers who always wear a certain hat, necklace or pair of shoes.

My one musician friend, for instance, wears “nerd glasses.” Another one, a rocker, wears armbands and a military style cap. My own band dresses alike: the three of us wear upscale black shirts and khaki pants, which works well at the Senior Homes where we perform.

Dressing alike can make your band stand out from the rest of the crowd.

I’ve come up with 10 tips for non-famous performers of popular music, in order that you/your friends might be able to project an image of professionalism.  Here are tips for music performers:

10) NO GUM.
Singers should not chew gum while singing. I’ve seen this done before, and it’s distracting to audience members– and it cannot help a singer sing.

If it’s really hot out, shorts and sandals may be comfortable, but you’re up in front of an audience– pants and shoes look better on stage.

If you are overweight, wear the color black; it’s slimming. Black is the best color a person on stage can wear because it makes everyone better looking than they actually are, and, as a bonus, it doesn’t show sweat stains.

A lot of singers, especially in the Gospel music genre, tend to close their eyes, sometimes for an entire song, while they’re singing a heartfelt, emotional song. However, I’d advise you to keep your eyes open and literally look into the eyes of various audience members to connect with them. Nothing says “I’m in my own world and not in yours” like someone singing with their eyes closed in front of a crowd.

If you touch one person in the front row– literally touch them with a high five, a hug, a kiss, etc.– it’s like touching everyone in the place, and that makes people feel good. Your audience will feel more connected to you and the music you’re making because you’re directly acknowledging their presence through touch.

Singers and musicians are their own worst critics. Miss a note? It’s not the end of the world. You know when you’re not singing or playing “up to par,” but remember that the audience rarely knows every word, note or chord during a song. Audiences also tend to be very forgiving if you make a major mistake. I’ve found it’s best to “plow through” your mistake and you’ll be better off not even mentioning it/drawing attention to it. “Just keep going!”

There are a lot of times when you’re in front of a crowd and something on the technical side is not working. What happens? You/your band are silent and not sure what to do. Your audience is frustrated. Best thing to do? The lead singer should use that “stalling time” to have a conversation with the audience– ask the front row for questions, talk about meanings behind the songs, share website/merchandise info with them– maybe even do some sort of giveaway if you have an item to give. Use the “stalling” time wisely– you only get a limited amount of time in front of your audience and “dead air” is not a good thing.

When you have especially long gigs, 2-3 hours or more, pace yourselves accordingly. Do some instrumentals. Take a ten or fifteen minute break every hour to rest and re-energize. If you sang/performed non-stop for 3 hours, you’d be really tired and your audience would be really tired. Timing and pacing matters when it comes to music. Balance your sets with slow, medium and fast tempo songs.

Is your audience looking like a bunch of dead zombies? The best way to wake them up is to connect with them– I’ve found that if the lead singer goes out into the audience, everyone in that venue will notice– and that way you’ve got the crowd’s attention and interest. It has been said that there’s an invisible wall between a performer and an audience. Think about it– a lot of music fans are actually nervous to approach a singer/player, because of that invisible wall. Break that wall, and it puts your audience at ease and “wakes ’em up!”

Finally, know your limits. I, for instance, do well with certain songs and not with others. Even though people request for me to sing “New York, New York,” I know that I do not sing it well; I do not do that song justice. Therefore, I just tell them, “Sorry, that’s not in our repertoire.” I know that I am a decent lite jazz singer, and my voice is not suited to heavy metal. The more time and energy you invest into performing, the more you’ll know about yourself and your limits, so that you know which songs “do well” with audiences and “make sense for me to sing/play.” You’re better off telling a requester, “Sorry, I don’t know that one; that’s not one ‘we’ do,” than attempting a song that’s out of your range/a song you don’t quite know, which can sound like nails on a chalkboard to an audience.

Hope these tips help.

Like music? Check out Mark Weber’s Days Like These

Mark Weber, singer

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