Singing on Stage: Tips for Performing on Stage for the First Time
Your first time singing on stage in front of the general public can feel nerve-wracking. Knowing some tried and tested tips for performing on stage for the first time can help boost your confidence and give you an air of professionalism when you sing on stage.
Performing is more than just the act of singing on stage. It’s about how to make use of the space in the most appropriate and effective way. Your presence, movement and image all play a part in your performance when you sing on stage.
Stage performance for singers: If you’d like to know how to shine in front of an audience when singing on stage, then check out our guide below for the best stage performance tips for singers.
Tips for performing on stage for the first time: getting started
Let’s begin by going right back to the basics of stage performance for singers. If this is your first time singing on stage, there’s some vital prep needed for the days, weeks and months ahead of that initial gig.
It might look easy and effortless when the stars do it, but a great singing performance is the result of a lot of groundwork. And this is where you get started.
How to sing on stage with confidence
No matter how nervous you may be feeling, know that it is totally possible to sing on stage with confidence. Follow our tips for performing on stage for the first time and you’ll be amazed how much more self-assured you’ll feel.
#1 Learn your lyrics before singing on stage
One of the best ways you can prevent any kind of panic setting in, or help you cope if you do get stage fright, is to learn your words. Now there’s learning your words… and there’s really really learning your words. Inside out, back to front, in your sleep kinda learning your words.
Your muscles have memory – including those in your tongue, lips, jaw and throat. So the more you’ve sung lyrics and notes, the more your muscles will store that information. The same applies to your brain.
The magic of this is that you have a natural auto-pilot system in your body that takes over. It’s not infallible or guaranteed, but its success rate is high. This means that after lots of practice and work learning your song, you’ll be able to sing it effortlessly, finding the right notes and words, with less concentration than you’d need with a song you don’t know so well.
#2 Use a lyric learning technique ahead of your performance
There are many ways to learn lyrics, including writing them out and getting someone to test you. But when it comes to vocals, nothing beats singing it through – over and over and over. Because not only will you store the words, you’ll store the timings, notes and intervals too. If you do get lost in a song, this helps you find your way back.
If you do blank when you get on stage, try to relax as much as possible (we’ll talk about techniques for this later on), trust your body, and let the words float back to you.
Try this: Want to know if you’ve learned your song enough for it to be stored? Try singing it while doing tasks involving movement (not driving, as this needs your full concentration), while compiling a shopping list in your head, or doing some basic sums.
#3 Know how to use the stage for singing
There are some common mistakes made by newbie performers. These are easily identifiable for audience members, but things that in the heat of the moment, you might not recognise.
- Face the audience and keep your face and eyes visible. Unless it’s an artistic choice to turn your back, or just an opening or closing move. It gives a feeling of alienation for those watching you if you appear to be in a world of your own.
- If you’re using a mic, practice with it first. Hold it close enough that you’ll be heard, but not so close it becomes distorted and if you move your head, move the mic with it to give sound continuity – again unless this is a style choice, to intentionally trail off the end of a note.
- Keep good posture whether walking, standing or sitting. Audiences react better when they feel they’re in ‘safe’ confident hands. It allows them to relax and enjoy the song, rather than feeling on edge, because the person on stage appears unprofessional. You might feel anything but confident and self-assured, but you can still give that impression, even if you’re trembling inside.
#4 Consider some coaching
It might be worth investing in some time with a vocal coach if you haven’t already. Sessions will enhance your technique and make you more polished.
If this isn’t an option, YouTube has a wealth of tutorials you can use instead.
If you have friends and family with singing experience, ask for some feedback. Recording yourself and playing it back is also a good vehicle for self-critique. This all helps to refine your act.
#5 Self-care, as a person singing on stage
Look after yourself. Eat and drink well, get plenty of rest and exercise.
You’ll feel ready and energised ready for the big day or night.
#6 Spatial awareness when you sing on the stage
You’ll know if you’re the clumsy type. If so, nerves can cause you to lose a sense of your own space in the room. Before you go on, check out the performance area for potential obstacles – particularly mic stands and lights. Some performance stages have what’s called a ‘rake’, meaning they have a slope (why it’s referred to as ‘upstage’ and ‘downstage’).
If you plan on wearing platforms or high heels, wear them in the house, out and about and at the venue run through. It’s always worth packing a spare pair of shoes too, in case a heel snaps, or you find the floor is too slippy.
How to move when singing on stage
Don’t usually perform whilst singing on stage; the question of whether to stand or to sit?
Both standing and sitting when singing on stage have their benefits. Sitting is better suited to a more intimate setting, perhaps during open mic events.
However be aware that you will have to compensate for not moving with facial expressions, hand gestures and eye contact. Standing gives you the freedom to move wherever you like and is a more open style of performing.
Singing on stage: enhance your singing performance
Try this: Keep your hands busy. It is a common mistake for singers to just hold their hands by their sides or in their pockets where they are least effective. Some techniques to implement include:
- Clench your fists
- Swap the microphone between hands
- Move the microphone stand
Body Language for your stage singing performance
Body language is just as important, if not more so than the ability to sing. Imagine watching a musician go on stage and stare at their feet as they sing their songs without moving once. They wouldn’t be using the stage in the slightest.
Body language is a tool in which you can convey the song to the audience. It can be as small as waving at a fan in the front row or running across the stage from side to side. Always remember when singing on stage, body language is important but it has to be fitting to the performance, don’t move just because you feel you have to.
If your genre is pop, and your number is up-tempo, you’ll want to incorporate some dance into your piece, This can be something very simple, or a more complex choreographed routine. If you have dance training and a flair for movement, this can add a lot to your performance. You may even want to bring your own backing dancers.
Dancing while singing takes a lot more energy. Is this something you can maintain without losing anything in your vocal delivery? If so, go for it. Breathing techniques will really help you here.
Tips for singers before a performance
Warm your voice up with some scales on your own, but also have at least one run through with the equipment you’ll be using. The speakers, PA or musician you’re working with might sound different than what you’re used to. And you’ll need to set levels that are right for you and for the venue’s size and acoustic, taking into account that this will deaden slightly once the room is full of people.
Have a light meal a few hours before going on stage, of something that’ll be easy to digest and won’t produce undesirable effects (this is not the time for baked beans). Avoid sugar and starchy carbs and stay hydrated.
Relaxation techniques will enable you to stay in the moment and be focussed. Yogic breathing, meditation and mindfulness exercises are valuable for grounding and calming the nervous system.
Cool things to do on stage while performing
Be completely still
Not for the whole song. But a period of sustained stillness can be incredibly powerful when combined with a piercing and emotive gaze to the back of the auditorium. If this suits your genre (think of Adele’s stage singing performances)
Get the audience involved
Big stars do this all the time – cut the music, hold the mic out and encourage the audience to sing the chorus. This won’t work if they don’t know the song but is fun with well-known, upbeat covers. If it’s a slower song, cut the lights. But first, ask everyone to turn on their phone torch and hold it aloft. It’ll look like a room full of fireflies and creates a magical atmosphere.
Surf the crowd – but not as a beginner!
Crowd serving is undoubtedly a cool gimmick to incorporate into a set. But, this is not one for the novice performer, as it involves a fair bit of risk. Neither is stage diving! Learn and hone your craft first, then you can explore the more daring tricks.
Singers with great stage presence
The legends of music rarely became so purely because of their writing or vocals. Think of the likes of Freddie Mercury, Morrissey, Bjork, Katy Perry, Eminem, Kate Bush – the list is long. These artists are all completely different in terms of their musical genres and style.
Some of these singers move about a lot, take endless dance lessons and have flamboyant costumes. Others are downplayed, still and even dour. Yet they all possess a huge amount of stage prowess, with a mixture of impressive technical ability, big personality, charm and smart branding. And of course, they have that x-factor that’s an unfathomable combination of charisma and talent.
If you study the biggest stars of all time, you’ll notice start to notice some of the tricks that we’ve covered though. These acts had years of coaching and moulding from the best labels, choreographers and stylists, usually before they hit the international big time. So don’t feel bad if you’re not quite where you want to be… yet. Everyone has to start somewhere. And your journey begins here. Aim high and work hard.
Steal moves from these big guys for your stage singing performance
Go ahead; no one is going to fault you if you take some pointers from well-known singers. Don’t copy one person, and don’t copy their whole routine just adapt little bits from here and there. You can be sure your favourite artists have done the same at some stage.
Take stage tips that you feel you can accommodate in your personality and as a part of your act – also use styles that are appropriate to the emotions of the song. Take the bits that you enjoy the most and make them your own.
Eventually, after seeing how comfortable they are doing “crazy” stuff whilst using the stage, you’ll feel more comfortable in your body doing your own stage moves.
Try this: Utilise all areas whilst performing and singing on stage which in turn will help you connect with the most audience members. Don’t feel like you have to stay in the centre, give it a go reaching out for the people top right!
How to develop stage presence: stage presence lessons
Keep an eye on the atmosphere when singing on stage
Bear in mind when using singing on stage, that the bigger the stage, the more room to play with and what would have seemed atmospheric on a little stage may need more work here.
During shows look at how other acts are performing when singing on stage, watching a variety of acts you can see the atmosphere amongst the audience and how it can change rapidly. Make sure your performance encompasses what your song is all about.
Singing on stage
Try this: Analyse the performances of others singing on stage during sound check or by watching other acts. Think about where the best spots to walk to and from will be or where the most dramatic spot for your final note will be.
Type of song chosen will affect how you perform whilst singing on stage
If you’re singing a love song, look into the audience’s eyes, move slowly across the stage and really bring the atmosphere into that room.
If a dance or urban song then you need to be strong visually and perhaps best to incorporate routines and have other performers there whilst you’re singing on stage with you. This is key to learning about performing whilst singing on stage. Consider some dance lessons, or working with a performance coach to develop your stage presence further.
What to wear on stage when singing
Depending on your level of interest, thinking about what to wear on stage while singing, will either be very exciting, or seriously tedious. Image matters tremendously. That doesn’t mean you need to look formal, or smart. But it does mean that your clothes, accessories and makeup should fit your vibe. They should also fit your song, although a conflicting style works well too.
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s grungy look is arguably quite different to his sound. But that’s a conscious mix and clash effect, and it works really well. Contestants who are working this, are often seen on The Voice. It causes a stir when the judges turn around to find someone who looks nothing like their presumptions, based on the singer’s voice and song.
The key is to put thought and effort into it. Your clothes and image are the first things the audience sees before you start. It’s your first impression, so make an impact.
Your set will affect your clothing. If you’re going to be dancing you’ll need appropriate gear. Otherwise, reasonably comfortable items that don’t constrict your diaphragm or throat are important. Be comfortable in yourself and let your clothes reflect who you are and who you want to be as an artist.
Try this: If you’re short on cash and are going for a quirky, retro, indie or alternative look, hunt around charity shops – particularly those in affluent and student areas. There are some gems to be found. As well as saving money, it’s ethical shopping.
You’re ready to sing on the stage
You’ve done your prep, practised, picked out an outfit, worked out some cool things to do on stage while performing and had an opportunity to warm-up and sing on the stage itself. You’re all set to go live in front of an audience.
Now all that’s left to do is to get out there and have a blast. There’s nothing quite like singing on stage in front of a crowd of people. So the last of our top tips for performing on stage for the first time is – to enjoy it!
- What is the best thing to drink before singing?
Keep hydrated with plenty of water and herbal teas (room temperature or warm). Swap in your latte for a lemon and ginger infusion. You can read our full guide to the best food and drinks to take before a performance, here.
- How do you become a good stage performer?
Some are born with a natural charisma that can fill a stadium. But every performer – not only musicians but actors and comedians too – will tell you that practice and experience are the only routes to perfection. You’ll make mistakes along the way, but that’s all part of the process and helps you improve.
- What should you not do on stage?
Some artists love to push boundaries and shock. But this isn’t usually the best path for new singers. Don’t be offensive or abusive, don’t do anything criminal or dangerous and don’t walk off stage in a strop. Ok, we know Justin Bieber did it once, but only stars that big can get away with it.
Do you have any performance tips for singers singing on stage for the first time? If so, do share them in the comments below.