In a world where making music, sharing music, and collaborating with other artists is becoming the norm, fans are expecting much more from a band than their musical talent. It’s one thing to form a solid, personalized setlist, but connecting with your fans is another feat entirely. You need to stay ahead of the trends and keep your fanbase growing. In order to do that, you have to perfect your live shows. Here, we've gathered 5 important steps to help you practice, prepare, and improve your stagecraft and performance.
1. Know The Music Inside And Out
Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Before a live performance, your music should be practiced to the point that you no longer consciously think of individual notes or chords. Many artists like to practice with a “handicap” to stimulate other parts of the brain. If you're a guitarist, try playing the set blindfolded. If you're a drummer, wear wrist weights. Get your bandmates to really listen to each other without relying on visual cues by playing songs in the dark. If you feel like regular practices aren't enough to accomplish your desired skill level, try using a training tool to record your band practice.
One thing you'll want to make sure you and your band agree on is rehearsal etiquette. As Jeff Black from Vandala Magazine said, “Its not just HOW MUCH time you put in, but the QUALITY of time you contribute.” Show up on time, be ready to play, and leave distractions at home. Try to avoid getting sucked into a black hole of snack breaks, video game breaks, phone breaks, etc. Make sure to use your time wisely and get what you deserve out of it.
After playing becomes as natural as breathing in and out, you'll want to practice exactly how you would perform. Arrange the band the way you’d play onstage—face a wall as if it’s the audience, put some mirrors up, and arrange speakers to face your "crowd." Play the setlist you've created as if it's your live show. Once you're comfortable with this mock performance, bring in a few buddies to get their feedback. Good friends will likely be brutally honest, so keep their intentions in mind when they're giving you criticism.
Rehearsals aren’t for playing perfectly. They're for learning, experimenting, evolving, and preparing to share your music with your fans.
2. Relax Onstage
Don’t take yourself too seriously before hitting the stage. Focus more having a good time with your audience rather than trying to impress a crowd. Some artists use relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga stretches, and breathing exercises to curb their pre-show jitters.
We also recommend using a little humor to help relieve tension. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter increases your intake of oxygen, releases endorphins in the brain, and aids in muscle relaxation. Not only does it have physical benefits, but humor also keeps you from taking things too seriously—a relief from toxically overanalyzing a situation. Listen to your favorite standup comedian, watch compilations of people falling, play tricks on your band members, whatever it takes to make you giggle. Laughter really is the best medicine!
3. Fake It ‘Till You Make It
It can be easy to imagine the worst if you feel doubtful or stressed about an upcoming gig. DON’T. Push these thoughts aside and visualize a smooth and flawlessly executed performance. This is best done when relaxed—before you fall asleep or first thing in the morning. You'll want to make this a daily visualization exercise starting at least one month before you're expected to perform. Thinking of positive performance scenarios helps you get mentally prepared.
A person’s behavior, movement, and emotions are all directly correlated. When you feel confident and excited, your posture is better and you're more alert. A good way to push yourself into this mindset is to pose with confident body language and allow the associated feelings to follow—or fake it 'till you make it. According to social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, "power posing" can actually affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain. Practice using this power-inducing body language during rehearsals, and before long, your self-assurance will be authentic and present in your performances.
4. Keep Your Focus On The Crowd
Most successful artists realize that their music, especially in live performances, is not simply a way to showcase their talent. Yes, it's a form of self-expression, but it's also an offering to your audience, and if you seek a career in this industry, you have to connect with your fans.
Start your set with an attention grabber—an energetic and recognizable song. With an upbeat, celebrated cover, you can easily encourage your audience to dance, clap, shout, and sing. Continue that momentum throughout your set. When your fans walk away feeling awed and exhausted, your show will be imprinted in their memory.
5. Stay Creative
It takes an enormous amount of creativity and style to craft music that's unique to you and your sound. Mastering the skill of songwriting helps you establish your place in an industry saturated with other artists. However, fans want to see your creative efforts beyond the song lyrics. The experience is what they're after. Imagine yourself as an indifferent listener in the audience. What would grab your attention? Use your creativity to take your performance to the next level. It's hard to forget a performer who envelopes their audience.
Clearly, with the advancement of sharing platforms, tools, and technology, fans are beginning to expect much more from the modern day musician. The artists who stand out are the ones who create an extraordinary experience for their audience. If you can practice your instrument until it feels like an extension of you and put your full, creative energy into every engagement opportunity, you'll turn your fans into lifers.
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