Ready to hit the stage? Read on as Saint Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. reviews 5 rookie mistakes you should avoid during your next performance…
Singing on stage and in front of an audience is really special. Some estimate that only two percent of the world’s population will ever sing on stage by themselves. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Those challenges can seem bigger than our confidence performing. Perhaps the easiest way to feel confident singing on stage is have a short list in your mind of what not to do. As a 20-year veteran of the stage, I’ve created a list of what not to do when you’re singing on stage.
1. Stop singing
I’ve experienced it a dozen times. You’re singing just great, you feel good, then you get to the second verse, and your mind goes blank. You forgot the words. It happens. If you’ve rehearsed well enough with your bandmates or accompanist, then you can relax knowing that they’ll “come back around,” so to speak, and pick up at the moment that you dropped out. If they don’t, or if you’re performing with a recording, then you could still find a way to sing “la, la, la,” or you could even repeat the first verse. As silly as those might sound, they’re a lot better than dead air. Even a heckler or other distraction might make you think about calling it quits. Don’t stop singing.
This is a tough one that I learned as a choir kid years ago. Even a singer in a large group scratching his face on stage can be really distracting to an audience. In a way, it can take away from the show. So just imagine how much less polished a solo singer must look. Now, let’s be realistic. Don’t torture yourself. If you have an unbearable itch on your face, then so be it. But do your best to wait until a song is over, or at least until the verse is over.
3. Apologize to the audience
I once heard a fellow singer at a church where I served apologize out loud to the congregation after what she perceived to be her mistake, in the middle of the song! Truly, no one probably would have ever noticed. But by saying sorry and bringing attention to it, she not only distracted the audience from the song’s message (which is why we sing in church in the first place), but also made them feel uncomfortable. In my book, a singer’s first job is to get and keep an audience comfortable, not disengaged.
4. Keep your eyes closed
While recording, I close my eyes sometimes. I even close my eyes while I perform for an audience, in moderation. But I can think of several singers whom I’ve heard perform beautifully but kept their eyes closed for a song’s entirety. In fairness, they might have had stage fright. But it doesn’t make you look cooler or make the song more meaningful. It closes you off to the audience. It impedes upon your ability to share. The singer and the audience have a relationship. In any relationship, there’s only so far that two can go together without sharing. Imagine meeting a person with whom you’d like to develop a friendship, but then telling her, “I want to be good friends, but sorry, I can’t tell you my full name, and I can’t have you over to my place.” Your potential friend might ask, “Okay, so what exactly can we do?” Don’t let this happen to your relationship with that crowd of yours. Remind yourself to open your eyes regularly. If it makes you nervous to look at people’s faces, then look at the back wall. The audience won’t know the difference, but they’ll still be able to see your eyes and their unique expressions.
5. Argue with your fellow musicians
Musicians are not always known for being even-tempered. Even famous performers like Tina Turner and Elton John have been known to argue on stage. But even between sets or songs, it’s unprofessional, distracting, uncomfortable, and frankly, childish. I’m not asking singers not to argue at all. I’m asking singers not to argue on stage while the audience is sitting right there.
Remember, the moment that you take a stage, it belongs to you until you leave it. You essentially own it. That also means, however, that you own what you do up there. Your show could be polished and professional. With a few simple reminders for ourselves of what not to do, what to do might just come naturally when it comes to singing on stage.
Photo by Barry Lenard