Stage Performance Tips for Singers + What You Should Never Do

For singers, stage performance is the element that transforms a musician from being a singer to a potential recording artist. Learning how to perform on stage is a skill that all singers should master if they wish to be successful in the music industry.

Making a successful career in any form of live entertainment typically involves performing on a stage. There are a lot of cool things you can do on stage while performing as well as things you should never do. Check out our stage performance tips below.

Chris Grayston is Open Mic UK’s head judge and he’s shared his top tips for singers to put on great stage performances.

How to perform on stage

  • Learn your lyrics
  • Practise the song
  • Sing with emotion
  • Break from your character
  • Know your audience
  • Acknowledge your band members
  • Get physical on stage
  • Use the whole space and get close
  • Express your emotions physically
  • Let the audience see your eyes

Tips for performing on stage for the first time

how to perform on stage

#1 Learn your lyrics

There’s no point in working on any of these other tips if you can’t remember lyrics. Practise singing them a cappella and this will help you remember them. Nothing looks more unprofessional than a singer with a lyric sheet or a singer that can’t remember their own song.

#2 Practise the song

Practising your songs is essential at any stage of your career. Get it drilled in again and again so that performing it becomes second nature. This way, you can focus more on performing on stage and interacting with the crown instead of trying to remember your song.

#3 Sing with emotion

Music can stir up a lot of emotion easily and quickly and can make for a ‘magic moment’. By adding emotion to a song this will not only demonstrate your ability to connect with a song, but it will also draw audience engagement into your performance.

Choosing the right song will help you to create audience engagement. If you can connect with the song emotionally you are more likely to sing from the heart, making you feel more confident in your performance and believable to the audience.

After choosing a song you can connect with, the use of various dynamics and tone to your singing can also help add emotion to a song. However, if you have to manufacture it, it’s fake and will be picked up by the audience.

Cool things to do on stage while performing

perform on stage

#4 Break from your character

Singers who occasionally break from character can make themselves a lot more relatable to their audience. Don’t be afraid to show a small crack in your persona.

For example, if it’s a serious song with a sad theme, perhaps ramp up the emotion at the end, showing how the song has affected you. Perhaps you might even have a small anecdote you can tell the audience about, or offer a back story to the song’s lyrics.

#5 Know your audience

Before you show up to your next gig, do your research into the local area. There might be some recent news on local websites that you can refer to when opening up a song. This will immediately create a connection with your audience and let them know this isn’t just another gig.

Whatever you do, don’t get the name of the city wrong. Touring artists have a lot to remember already but this happens far more than you think.

#6 Acknowledge your band members

If you are singing with a band, then give them their share of the limelight.

You can introduce everyone at the start of the performance. Alternatively take it in turns with the introductions, perhaps during a solo section or when a song finishes where a particular member played a large part.

The band will appreciate this, and the audience will also be able to put names to the faces entertaining them.

How to move on stage while singing

How you move on stage when singing will add a huge dynamic to your performance. Here are some tips for moving on stage and reasons why these simple hacks can lead to greater audience engagement and feedback.

#7 Get physical on stage

Moving around on stage is engaging for your audience and your energy is contagious. Ideally, learn the stage where you will be performing and, if you can, take dance lessons – singers can pick up some amazing tips from dancers (and even actors).

Also, focus on moving in a way that complements your song (tempo, mood and style).

By building rapport with your audience, they can quickly become your best allies. Singers who create a great connection can mask mistakes and mean that audience members are more likely to get into your performance and get involved too.

If you can come across as being likeable, the audience is far more likely to interact back with you. This will help you buzz off them and likewise, creating a stellar performance to remember.

#8 Use the whole space and get close

Physically moving to the front of the stage also helps to engage and connect with your audience.

It doesn’t mean you have to use every inch of the stage, but you don’t want to be anchored to the floor, so make sure you move around.

#9 Express your emotions physically

Your body language gives the audience an idea of how you’re feeling when you’re on stage and conveys the emotion of the song. Becoming comfortable enough to express your emotions on stage can take time but will come with practice.

This will also help with the trust factor, with the audience feeling that emotion and connecting with you better.

To encourage audience engagement, it’s important that your facial expression matches the feeling of the song. It’s no good having a frown on your face if the song is upbeat or a grin like a Cheshire cat if the song lyrics are full of emotion.

If your expressions aren’t matching the feeling of the song your audience won’t get into it as much. The most common cause of not matching facial expressions to songs is due to lack of confidence or focusing on words and timing.

A good way to combat this is to practice your song in front of a mirror and find an expression that looks genuine, click here for more advice on facial expressions.

#10 Let the audience see your eyes

While performing on stage making eye contact with the audience helps them to connect with you, it shows you’re confident and again adds to the interpretation of the song. Standing tall and having good posture not only helps your performance, it makes you look professional.

Look at YouTube videos of artists you are influenced by and watch how they perform on stage. Notice their mannerisms and look at how they convey emotion during their performance.

However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that manic energy and movement is going to carry you as a singer.

The energy you put into your movements should also be put into the singing too!

Things you should never do when performing on stage

It’s also important to know what not to do when performing on stage.

Whilst there are a multitude of cool things you can do plus great ways in which you can move, here are some things we advise you don’t do!

  • Stop singing or get distracted by a heckler – it happens to the best singers!
  • Scratch yourself unless you really, really, can’t wait.
  • Tune up your instrument or look unprepared.
  • Say sorry and apologise when you make a mistake.
  • Keep your eyes closed.
  • Fall out with fellow musicians or audience members.
  • Do more talking than actually performing.
  • Let your ego get in the way of a great performance.
  • Forget where it is you are playing and say the wrong city name.
  • Get too drunk you can’t play and sing properly.

How and where to gain experience performing on stage

We see lots of singers enter our competitions who haven’t performed on stage before. Get ahead of the competition and perform wherever and whenever you can. Here are four actionable stage performance tips for singers that you can try out today to improve your live show.

#11 Consider busking for experience

Contact your local council and ask where and when it is OK to busk in your town centre. Not every council allows this, but if the opportunity is there then it can be an effective way to build up your confidence.

Guide to Busking in the UK

Singers’ Guide to Busking in the UK

Busking in the UK can provide a flexible, exciting platform for musicians to reach new audiences. Done right, busking can be an enjoyable way to make some extra cash while sharing what you love with others around you. In this ‘Singers Guide to Busking in the UK’ we cover some of the best practices and... Read more »

#12 Start small and work your way up to bigger gigs

Everyone has to start somewhere, but singing live can be daunting at first, consider hiring a venue and putting on a show for your family and friends, once comfortable you can work up to bigger gigs. Starting with smaller venues gives you time to adjust and improve your skills and makes it easier to land larger gigs in the future.

#13 Perform at open mic nights

Look around your local area for pubs/venues that host open mic nights, contact them and find out how to get involved. If you are under 18 let them know as some pubs won’t allow you to perform — though, most will allow it if accompanied by a parent or a guardian. If they hold frequent events, perform as often as possible to build your connections and build valuable performance experience. Networking is a great way of hearing about other live opportunities.

#14 Put on a live show at home

Do a private show at your house for your friends and family. Your friends can often be your biggest critics. This can be nerve-wracking but good friends will always back you when you need them to! Ask your friends and family for feedback to help you improve. Remember, this is an intimate gig not a show at the O2, so tailor your performance accordingly.

#15 Film yourself performing

If none of the above are possible, then film yourself performing, watch it back, show friends and family and ask them for areas you could improve. Keep an open mind and focus on those you can trust to be honest — it will help your stage performance skills and confidence in the long run!

How to own the stage for a memorable live performance

#16 Engage with the audience

It’s not all about the voice when performing; you need to be able to create audience engagement so they’re on your side. It is important to have a certain presence on stage, which lets the audience know that you are confident in your singing abilities.

This can range from simply smiling and giving eye contact to show you’re enjoying yourself, to using your eyes, face and body to reflect the emotions of the song.

#17 Make use of props

During your singing performance, make use of whatever props you have to work with. Choreograph and practise your routine; and if you get the opportunity, in advance, learn the stage so that you can use the space provided effectively. If you have a mic stand, use it during the softer bits and consider taking the mic out when the song gains pace.

#18 Consider bringing dancers on stage

If you are performing a fast-paced song on stage, why not bring some dancers — not only will you create a more enjoyable performance for the audience, it will be a more memorable one. Of course, the performance will only be as good as your worst dancer (so choose them carefully) and ensure you get involved in the routine so plenty of practice is essential! You will also have to consider your fitness if doing large parts of the routine otherwise it will affect your breathing and vocal control.

#19 Make an impression from beginning to the end

audience engagement

Walk confidently on stage and maintain that confidence throughout your performance. It’s easy to tell which performers are nervous when they walk on stage and it often takes a while to fade. The more you perform, the easier this should get.

#20 Talk to the audience during the performance between songs

Talking to the crowd. Announce yourself when you come on stage (if you’ve not already been announced). If you are performing a full set, and you feel it is appropriate for the mood, use any transition period to introduce your next song and, at the end of your set, thank the audience and let them know you’re grateful that you have had the opportunity to perform for them.

Do you frequently perform live? What stage performance tips would you offer to singers who are just starting out? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

#21 Coordinate your outfit

What you choose to wear can impact your performance and help with audience engagement. You may think the crazier you dress the more you will stand out, but you should ask yourself whether your outfit also matches the style of song you have chosen.

If no, then there’s no harm in re-thinking your outfit. Not everyone can pull off a Lady GaGa number.

Let us know how you like to prepare for a stage performance, or some cool things to do on stage while performing in the comments below!

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tyceaofficial
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tyceaofficial

As a recording artist, I found the tips in this article really helpful.
Your recent articles are spot on! Thank you!

Mike Kirk (OMUK)
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Mike Kirk (OMUK)

Thank you for your kind words. We aim to please! 🙂

Gerald Harrison Menhya
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Gerald Harrison Menhya

This is nourishing and impacting! Thanks a lot…

Chris
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Chris

Hi Gerald, that’s great to hear!

Donovan Mitchell
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Donovan Mitchell

Fundamentally important advice. The principles of Drama, well worth studying.

bankydu
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bankydu

Actually…I’m upcoming still need more tips

destiny
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destiny

thank s for such a wonderful article, is so educating..

Laura
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Laura

Thank you 🙂

Promise omini
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Promise omini

Thanks a million, I was nourished.