10 Killer Stage Performance Tips for Singers
Level-up your on-stage performance skills with these ten tips. Look confident, interact with the audience and lead your band in a professional way.
How to Perform On Stage as a Singer
You’ve rehearsed your set time and again and you know it inside out, but when that crucial moment comes to go on stage and wow the audience, do you think you’d freeze up? The truth is, it happens to even the most seasoned performers. There might be times when nerves get the better of you but this doesn’t mean that your performance has ended before it begins.
Learn how to conquer your stage performance fears with these top 10 killer stage performance tips for singers. Being a performer is not just about having a good voice or being able to hit all the right notes. It is also about how comfortable you feel in front of an audience, how well you connect with them, and how engaging you are without coming across as fake or forced.
1. Always move the microphone stand behind you
One of the first things you should do when you get up on stage and you are ready to start singing, is to take the microphone off the mic stand and put the stand behind you. This simple action frees up your surrounding space on stage and helps the audience instantly feel like they have more access to you.
For so many singers (myself included when I was just starting out), the microphone stand becomes a comfort zone. Something to hide behind and cling to for dear life.
The problem is, is that it stops you from moving around the stage and using all of the space available to you and can make you look less confident; always stuck in the same (boring) spot. You want to be free to move around as you sing and get into the emotion of the song and you can’t do this if the microphone is attached to a long pole in the middle of the stage.
Take the microphone off the stand and use the stand as a prop. That’s what it’s there for. I use it when I change from singing something upbeat to singing something slow like a ballad. It helps to calm the audience down and singing with the stand really works when you’re delivering a ballad.
2. Go LARGE with your hand movements
Now you’ve got a free hand because it’s no longer clinging to your mic stand, you can become all sorts of expressive with it.
The key take away here though is to be deliberate with your arm movements. Noone wants to see a chicken wing looking arm flapping about haplessly in the breeze. If you think about dancers, they really stretch their limbs out; right to the finger tips. They do this because it looks better that way. The same thing applies to you on stage. Go large and you will look better and appear more confident.
3. Make sure the stage front is cleared of wires and clutter (ie: no trip hazards)
Friends, you may think that the sound guy is there to do his job and clean up all the wires and cables after himself, but alas. This is often not the case. What usually happens is that you have a stage full of intersecting cables and extension chords, just waiting to trip you up when it’s dark.
I mean… take it from someone who knows. Teetering on stage in a short skirt and high heels in the dark is difficult enough, let alone with cables catching your heel or getting underfoot and at best, making you roll your ankle… or at worst, seeing you trip arse-over into the audience flashing your knickers for the whole world to see. Not really the act you were hoping to pull for this particular show, so do yourself a favour and just check the stage when you’ve finished sound check for any hazards that might be in your way.
4. Always acknowledge the audience when you first walk on stage
Oh yeah, this is HUGE. I was at a Norah Jones concert ages ago and I had really been looking forward to it. I went by myself at the time because noone else wanted to go with me (sniff), I mean I was that committed. So there I was, in my seat eagerly awaiting for the lovely Ms Jones to appear.
But then she and her band walked on stage and… just started playing. I didn’t get a ‘hi there’, or even a little wave. I got ZERO interaction from her and I felt…. well, like I could have saved money and just listened to her tracks at home instead.
The point here is that people are at a gig for the LIVE performance experience. In other words, they want to hear music that isn’t on the CD. Listen to you talk, feel like they know you a little bit better after spending their evening and hard earned cash with you. So the very least you could do is flash a smile, give a little wave and say ‘hi’ when you get on stage.
5. Go all-out on your outfit
Costumes has got to be one of my favourite aspects of being a performer. It’s the ultimate excuse to buy as many sparkly dresses, tiaras, earrings and shoes as you want. So when the time comes to step out under the spotlight, wouldn’t you rather shimmer brilliantly, than cast a dull black shadow back over the front row?
This quote from Old Hollywood movie icon Marilyn Monroe has always stuck with me. She said, “My fans expect me to be glamorous. I won’t disappoint them.”
To me, that summarizes why you should pay attention to the visual aspects of your performance and on-stage appearance. Depending on which genre of music you sing, you are creating a brand and an expectation. My shows are all usually in sophisticated jazz clubs and people know that I dress up. They EXPECT glamour. Now how do you think they would feel if one night, I couldn’t be bothered and rocked up in jeans and a tshirt? I bet they’d feel a bit ripped off. If you’re not sure what your singing style is, click here to read more.
Always aim to exceed your audience’s expectation and give them an experience they will LOVE.
6. Laugh Openly at Your Stuff-Ups
This will save your life on stage. There is nothing worse when you make a mistake and do the obvious cringe. Noone wants that. It’s uncomfortable for you, for the band, for the audience and everyone will end up staring at you… and not in a good way.
People are there to be entertained but we know that it is only human for the occasional small (or large) mistake to happen. It could be anything from missing the start, or the bass player not paying attention and starts playing the wrong notes, or your voice cracks massively mid-note… Of course we don’t want these things to happen, but if they do, how you handle them can make all the difference.
The best way to handle a mistake if it’s big enough for the audience to pick up, is to talk about it openly into the microphone so you’re sharing the experience with the audience. Laugh at yourself and act like it’s no big deal (because seriously, it isn’t!) and this way, the audience might find it funny, you get the opportunity to start again with Grace, and your band can make some sort of funny crack at you that also makes the mistake more enjoyable for everyone.
This way, you can turn the mistake from being a total cringe-fest, into the highlight of the show!
7. Call your band by their nicknames
Trust me, audiences LOVE this. It endears your band mates to the audience. Depending on the kind of band you have, sometimes all the attention is on the singer and the instrumentalists stick to the shadows at the back of the stage. This helps to bring them out of their shells. (HINT: If you do have a player that loves the limelight, then encourage it!)
I always call my piano player ‘Benny’. His name is Ben Clarke and I introduce him as such, but throughout the show I’ll chat to him (while speaking into the mic so the audience is involved) and I’ll say something like ‘hey Benny, what song is next’?. He’ll make up some wise-crack at my expense, the audience laughs and everyone is happy.
Some cheeky audience members will go on to call Ben ‘Benny’ as well, but most understand that it’s a nickname so they call him ‘Ben’ when they go up to chat to him… and they only go up to chat to him because he’s become familiar to them now I’ve interacted with him so much during the show. It’s a nicer experience for the audience this way.
8. Take water up on stage with you in a vessel that is easy to consume from
Ok… thats a bit of a mouthful… but trust me when I say that trying to bend down and find a small glass of water while you’re high up on stage with a short dress on is fraught with danger. Danger of the knicker flashing variety. (Again with the flashing…. there’s a theme here…)
I take a drink bottle with a flip top lid that won’t spill and is tall enough for me to elegantly reach down with my finger tips and grab it. I turn away from the audience when I take a swig.
9. Make sure to sound check your vocals with the band playing at full volume.
Picture this. It’s your gig and you’re onto the third song of the evening. The first two songs went well and the sound tech has gone off to grab herself a drink. It’s an upbeat number next and you’re really into it. BUT THEN… the volume of the band increases because the song is more upbeat and then suddenly you’re finding it harder to hear yourself through your foldback.
You know that there’s a horn section ahead and suddenly the trumpet and sax hit the next decibel and… you can’t hear yourself singing at all.
That must mean your audience can’t hear you either right?
What you hear in the fold back isn’t always what the audience hears. So you might start singing rough or even (gasp!) out of tune because you can’t hear yourself… and the audience will HEAR IT ALL.
You have no sound tech to cue to up the fold back because the set is well underway and what’s worse, your band also can’t hear your vocals properly so they’re just jamming away ignoring you and the whole gig slides into a collosal mass of ruin.
The moral of the story? Sound check your vocals with the band at full volume before your gig starts.
10. Never, EVER ask the audience a direct question that requires a response
Heed my warning my songbird friends. Asking a direct question can only end in doom. One of three things is likely to occur in this scenario:
A. Noone will answer. An awkward silence will descend upon the room and you will look stupid.
B. Someone will say something negative and the whole mood of the night will fall into the toilet.
C. You will encourage hecklers and depending on the amount of alcohol consumed that night, they can be distracting at best, or downright rude at worst. So do yourself a favour and stick to rhetorical questions, or questions that don’t require an answer in order to finish what you were saying.
So there you have it! My top ten stage performance tips for singers. I hope you have enjoyed this post. If you did, let me know in the comments below.
In the meantime, you might like to check out some of these other performance blogs/ videos I’ve created for you.
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