We all know artists who blow us away visually as well as with their sound. But why is it so important as a vocalist, to be able to perform, as well as sing?
Stage How singers can improve as performers: Being a good stage performer can often be something that sets your performance out from the rest. It’s not only about how to sing the song; it’s also about how you perform the song!
Perhaps you are often being told you have a beautiful voice, but lack stage presence and don’t really portray meaning or emotion. Read on to find out how you can remedy this and why it’s such a vital skill for musicians.
How singers can improve as performers
Many well-known artists had no idea how to perform when they started out. Just because you have a lovely voice doesn’t mean you’ll naturally be an amazing performer. But it is something you can learn and develop. And it’s essential you do if you want to succeed. There’s a lot of competition out there and you’ll be left behind if you don’t make a mark.
How can I sing like a pro?
It may surprise you to learn that being a good performer is necessary for the recording studio, as well as live stage gigs and music videos. Professional singers put their heart and soul into a performance and that can be heard, not just seen. Even if you have a beautiful tone, a melodious sound and a great tune, if you don’t do anything with your act, it can end up being a bit boring for those watching and listening.
How can I become a good singer and performer?
Here are some of the ways you can go about becoming a better singer and performer.
Coaching and feedback will make an enormous difference to your act.
This includes videos and TV appearances of big names as well as watching your peers performing. This enables you to pick up tips, see how the big guns do it and evaluate what does and doesn’t work best. When you understand this as an audience member, you can implement it better when it’s your turn.
Read advice and tips
While it is a practical skill, you can learn a lot from hints, tips and theory.
Get out there are do it
Malcolm Gladwell stated that you need to spend 10000 hours doing something to be considered an expert in it. This may not be exactly accurate, but it is true that the more practise you get, the better you should become.
Attend as many local gigs as you can, not only when you’re performing. It can be a small world in the music industry so networking as well as being in the know with what others are doing is valuable.
How to be a good performer on stage
Be sure to get out there and book gigs. There’s nothing like the immediate feedback of singing in front of a live audience to help you become a better performer. There’s also the show adrenaline that gives your performance an edge (which you can then replicate when recording).
Tips for performing on screen
We tend to think of live gigs when we talk about singers performing – and as ‘live’ encompasses shows, auditions and competitions this is a very large category. But performing as a singer on screen is becoming more and more relevant. Whereas before, it tended to be bigger artists who made music videos, with the advent of platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Facebook, everyone is appearing on-screen singing.
The main thing to consider with this is the closeup.
Unlike performing onstage, the camera is usually set very close to your face. If you have a tendency to be very facially expressive, this means you might need to tone it down a little. This doesn’t mean you do nothing with your face, but rather the emotion comes from your eyes and subtle movements in the face.
Less is more. You can create an impact from something as simple as an eyebrow lift. When you’re singing to the camera try thinking about the meaning of the song, or a scenario in your own life that brings about feelings associated with it. Just by these things, they’ll show through in your eyes and face. This is a trick used by Hollywood screen actors, as well as TV stars.
Tips to improve as a stage performer
- Book gigs of all sizes. Large venues need bigger performances, while smaller ones require an intimate style. You need to practise and perfect both.
- Look at the audience. It can be tempting to shut your eyes, but by looking at the crowd, you can learn from their facial responses to what you’re doing.
- Make use of the space by moving around, using gestures or dancing.
When watching as many live and performances (or second to that recorded performances) as possible, look out for the impression you get from the artists, how the musicians interact with each other and the audience and how appropriate their stage performance is with the genre of music.
How many hours a day should you practise singing?
It really depends how good you want to be and how much time you can spare. Those studying singing full time, and professional session singers will sing most of the day – sometimes all day. But even 10 minutes of vocal exercises a day will make a difference to your tone and strength.
Once you incorporate learning new numbers and practising the performance elements, this will need to be extended. While it’s ok to do longer sessions on some days than others, a little a day helps your muscle memory to cement what you’re learning and keeps your diaphragm and vocal cords in shape.
What makes a good performer?
It’s often described an x-factor, magic or that special something, but what are the elements of performance than contribute to a great act?
Firstly, stage performer confidence. The key to being a good stage performer all starts with confidence. Playing live can be a daunting task. There are lots of things happening such as:
- Feeling a mixture of emotions, including nervousness and excitement.
- Having to remember lyrics and chords
- Being un-phased by technical glitches
- Bright lights making it hard to see
Remember, practice makes perfect so perform as many times as possible.
Movement and what to do with your hands when singing on stage
Being a good stage performer also involves moving around on stage. If you can master the act of grooving to your tunes, you will go down a lot better with the audience. Make sure it is appropriate though. It should be fitting and come across naturally. Don’t go head-banging to an acoustic ballad or stand completely still on a metal number. Your hands can often reveal your inexperience. It’s about finding a happy medium. Don’t over gesture or flap them about unnecessarily, but do use them to create effect and project emotion.
Many singers dance. If your genre is up-tempo it might be worth considering some dance lessons to improve in this area. It also solves the problem of how to move and what to do physically when singing. If you can’t take dance lessons, then there are lots of online tutorials you can follow. And even if you don’t do full-on routines, learning how to move better will help the look of your performance.
Being a good stage performer is also about communicating well with other on-stage members of the band and the audience. Here are some things to consider:
- Look the audience members in the eyes
- Sing along with your other act members
- Use eye contact and facial impression
This will help you forget about the nerves beforehand and people will recognise that you’re creating a good stage persona. Believe in your songs and the audience will too. You’ll make them feel special if you communicate strongly.
Find a spot above the audience, if you can’t look directly at them, such as on the lighting desk to create somewhere for you to look rather than at your feet. The audience will think you’re looking at them.
Try to record videos of your own performance
You may think that you are being a good stage performer but the only way to tell is to watch yourself. You can then see it from the audience’s point of view which may be uncomfortable, to begin with, but is also critical in seeing how to improve.
Stage presence lessons – stage presence for singers
Stage presence is about commanding and ‘owning’ space on stage. It’s performing with confidence and assurance in a way that creates an electric effect for those watching. It can be helpful to take some acting or performance lessons to work on this. Or if you have the opportunity to be in shows and musicals at school, college or university, it’s well worth doing.
How to develop stage presence
Again stage presence can be understood better by watching people with it. Almost every famous singer has it. There are some practical steps you can take to build your presence too.
- Stand or sit with good posture, head held high, spine straight and shoulders back. Don’t slouch or give an apologetic appearance.
- Face the audience. It’s fine to turn your back as a statement at the beginning, end or during an instrumental, but don’t do it as a way of avoiding the audience, or without thinking.
- Stand at the centre of the stage toward the front and look to the middle distance. This creates a sense of strength on stage (you don’t have to stay in this position throughout, but it is a good neutral stance to return to).
- Don’t fiddle or fidget. If you get nervous (which most of us do) practice standing and moving with clarity and confidence.
How do you engage an audience during a performance?
There are a number of tricks you can employ to get your audience on side. People love to feel involved. You might ask them to sing along, get them clapping along by clapping your hands overhead or to the front of you signalling and asking them to do the same. If covering a well-known number you could incorporate a breakdown where you stop singing and get them to take over. Don’t be afraid to use moments of stillness too. This can be especially effective for ballads.
Here are some more tips for performing on stage for the first time.
How to be a performer – more tips
It’s time to think of yourself as a performer as well as a vocalist. You are there to entertain, move and bring joy to your audiences. It will also make you more versatile and employable if you want to make a living from singing. There are many jobs in the industry that demand more than just a good sound: cruise ship singers, care home singers and club singers all earn good money, but you need to be able to hold the attention of a crowd.
Learn your song
It helps to know your songs inside and out when it comes to being a good stage performer. If you are not 100% in knowing the words, phrasing and the way you wish to sing your song, under pressure this may come under strain and you are concentrating on those aspects rather than others. Knowing your lyrics will also help when things go wrong – which they will from time to time. You’ll be able to think on your feet and react appropriately as you won’t be using all of your head space trying to recollect what comes next.
If you manage to get through a song with only minor mistakes or ideally none at all, it will make your confidence grow. Try performing the song at home in the following ways:
- With your eyes open
- With your eyes closed
- Moving around
- Laying down
- Doing household chores
- In the shower
- While watching TV
This helps so that when you’re performing, creating a good stage presence comes more naturally. Doing this will help you with quick recovery if something goes wrong and that’s an invaluable skill.
Always check your setup before you go onstage and familiarise yourself with the equipment. That includes adjusting the mic stand and doing a soundcheck, where possible. This avoids some of the common issues that artists can encounter when singing live.
Relax and enjoy yourself
Being a good stage, screen and radio performer is possible by following the above hints and tips but it is really about having fun. The audience can tell if you’re having a good time and it will pay off. Be confident in your abilities, laugh off the glitches, move around but above all, have fun!
It’s almost impossible not to improve as a performer if you’re singing regularly. But follow this advice and you can accelerate the process, making yourself even more watchable and successful as a singer.
- What qualities make a good singer?
A good voice goes without saying, but commitment, endurance, reliability and a great attitude are also important attributes. As well as becoming an interesting performer, you should have rhythm, musicality and the ability to work as hard as is required.
- How can I have a nice voice?
Some of your vocal tone is genetic, dictated by your physiological makeup. But you can work on it a great deal and breathing is the foundation for a nice voice. Develop breath control, practice vocal exercises and learn to adjust your sound using your soft palate, throat, nose and tongue.
- What is a melodious voice?
This term just means a pleasant-sounding voice, that’s in tune and enjoyable to listen to. Other similar terms include euphonious and mellifluous. If you hear any of these relating to you, rest assured it’s a compliment.
Do you have any suggestions about how singers can improve as performers? Is there anything that really worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.