Work That Stage Presence

Posted on September 3, 2010


Last night at rehearsal we were given the big room at Guitar Center Studios because of a booking issue. We usually take Studio 1, but they overbooked and we got the showcase stage.

It was all good, but we were there to work on a new song, instead, we took the first hour of practice to perform a run of songs like we were live. This got me thinking about stage presence.

When you are on stage, doesn’t matter if you are the front man or not, you are entertaining an audience! Be it a large or a small stage – you own it. Use it! Cover that stage live by playing to the people on both sides of it. Swap places with the guitarist; follow around the singer, jump of the bass drum. Use that space like a playground.

Most often, performers have their own space on stage, respectively in front of their amplifiers. Remember to fill that space. A month ago I caught Aerosmith and I admit I was a little disappointed that on stage, they typically stood in the spot they started in. Joe Perry and Steven Tyler roamed around, but they mostly just stood there. If you have one spot, maybe 8 feet square, roam around in it a little. Activity draws attention.

Feeling the song gets a positive response too. Many artists spend a lot of time looking at the guitar neck while they play. You know your neck and you’ve played the song hundreds of times, turn to the audience and accent the dynamics of the song by stomping, raising the instrument or just plain old banging your head. People like to see you get into the music; it gets them into the groove too.

Front men have great response when they perform to someone. Trixter wrote a song some years back called “One in a Million”. On stage, the guys ran around a lot, but during this generally poppy sounding song, the singer would address someone directly with the song – often a number of people, but it got a terrific response. Audience members would sing the song back, pointing to him and connecting with his performance. It’s a great way to capture your patrons.

Usually as sets go on, you feel the energy start to dwindle. What was jumping off amplifiers becomes walking around later in the set. Focus the energy on key moments in the set and keep it up! If you snooze, you lose … the audience that is. Give ‘em some sweat, but spread it out so the energy is consistent and the show will be like a carnival from the beginning to the end. People will talk about that tomorrow.

For best results – remember Spinal Tap and yell “Thank You Cleveland!” Okay, maybe not Cleveland, but it’s always good to remind them who you are on the way out and give great big thanks. You’ve seen dozens of bands do it – it’s a tried and true show ender that people almost expect. Be sure to throw that in.

All that said, having a wireless on your guitar and well practiced rehearsals with your band mates helps too. It comes with time playing together, but with that time you’ll see that your guitarist and bassist play off each other while giving their own individual performances. This kind of on stage interaction reveals the professionalism of the members and proves to an audience that this is a passion of artists creating something deeper than a business proposition. Sure, the Beatles just stood there, but they were the Beatles. You’ve got a chance to give patrons something more and with effort, you’re going to see yourself on You Tube because people will be holding their phones up to record your show!

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