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
#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
#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.
#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
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!