How to Have a Remarkable Performance
Did you know that 95% of a major artist’s revenue comes from their live show?
You heard that right!
Not CDs. Not publishing.
The live show.
But somehow when artists perform live, they feel they have to be spontaneous and “wing it” on stage which leads to mixed reviews from their audience.
If you ask these same artists if they rehearse for recording, they’ll say “of course”. Why do we treat the live show differently?
Artists have difficulty understanding that the live show needs to have a vision and be rehearsed to be great every time.
We’ve all seen a performance that has blown us away.
Just look at rock history and you’ll see some mind-blowing performances.
They can make us feel the emotions they want.
And the audience is just putty in their hands.
Now while it’s important to have a great singing voice, there are lots of amazing performers that don’t.
That’s because there are many parts to a remarkable performance that have nothing to do with singing.
So before you go on stage, follow these simple tips to have a remarkable singing performance.
Performance Tip #1: Have a Plan
Without a plan, there is no show.
In the case of a singing performance, your plan is your set list.
The set list is a list of songs that you’ll be performing.
But it’s much more than that!
Think of your set list as the plot of a movie.
How do you want your vocal performance to go?
I’d recommend arranging the songs in your set list according to the traditional story arc.
Take a look at the story arc for Cinderella.
Things start slow, but the energy of the plot starts increasing until Cinderella goes to the ball and dances with the prince.
At this point, the audience is ready for something different, so the story gets dramatic as Cinderella is forced to leave and the energy plummets.
Then in one final sequence of plot points, the prince finds Cinderella and sweeps her away into ecstasy.
What the heck does this have to do with your set list?
The truth is people love this story formula.
So let’s apply it to your songs.
Try this formula for arranging your songs:
Song 1: Start things off with an easy song to play. Nothing too high energy. Right down the middle.
Song 2: Song 2 should be the same. Right down the middle.
Song 3: The energy needs to start picking up here. Play your first great song.
Song 4: The audience is ready for something different. Play a song that’s different musically from the first three.
Song 5: The energy really needs to start picking up here. Play your second great song with lots of energy.
Song 6: This is the climax. Play your best, most high energy song and go out with a bang.
Performance Tip #2: Remember the Lyrics
Many singers have a hard time remembering lyrics to songs.
Even famous musicians forget the lyrics to their own songs.
If Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande can forget the lyrics, so can you.
So let’s be prepared.
I’ve written an article with 10 Tricks to Remember Song Lyrics Easily.
Check it out.
But here’s a quick summary of the different tricks:
1. Memorize the music and lyrics separately--If you have to play an instrument as well as sing, learn to play the music perfectly first. Then worry about the lyrics.
2. Surround yourself with the song--Have a copy of the song everywhere: in your car, on your phone, on your computer. And play it all the time.
3. Sing along--It’s one thing to listen to a song. But in order to get the muscle memory of actually singing the phrases, you need to sing along with the song.
4. Memorize the first lines of each section--Memorize the first line of each verse. Just by remembering the first lines, you’ll have a clear trigger to remember the structure of the song.
5. Stack the phrases--Now let’s get into memorizing each line of the verse. Start with the first line of the verse. Once you’ve gotten that, add on the second line. Then the third. And so on.
6. Remember the rhyme--Rhyme is a powerful trigger for memory. So let’s use it. If you can remember the rhyme in each verse, then all you have to do is remember the order of the words that rhyme.
7. Create a story--Most songs are stories set to music. So use the power of the story to help you remember the lyrics. What are the characters going through? In what order? That will help you remember the lyrics.
8. Know the song meaning--Some songs are very literal and have to do with actual events that have taken place. So why make up a story if there’s already a literal one that you can learn. Check out http://songmeanings.com/ for the stories behind famous songs.
9. Connect emotionally with the song--The best way to remember a song is to make it mean something to you. The best way to do this is to relate the story of the song to something that has happened in your life. We’ll expand on this topic later.
10. Write the lyrics down--If all else fails, just write the lyrics down repeatedly. This will help visual learners.
Performance Tip #3: Practice for the Performance
Everyone knows that they need to practice before a big performance.
But it’s even more important to practice correctly for the performance.
Singing in front of a thousand people is a very different from a coffee shop gig.
When you’re singing in front of that many people, you’ll be singing into a very expensive and powerful PA system.
At the coffee shop, you can probably get away with just your guitar and your voice.
You may not even need a mic.
So if you’re going to be performing in front of a lot of people, make sure to practice with a PA system and the right microphone.
That will help you prepare for the venue you’ll perform in.
Performance Tip #4: Practice in Front of a Mirror
Very few singers actually practice their vocals in front of a mirror.
So they only have a vague idea of how they seem on stage.
But if you practice in front of a mirror at home, you can take control of how you appear on stage.
Do your eyes get wide when you sing a high note?
Do you have an uncomfortable look on your face as you sing?
These are all good things to know.
And they’re easily avoided.
Always try to have a relaxed expression when you’re singing.
Also, practicing in front of the mirror is one of the best ways to avoid the most common singing problems.
So get a large, full-length mirror and run through your set list while watching yourself.
Performance Tip #5: Warm Up Before You Sing
Many singers don’t warm up before a big performance.
That’s because they think that warming up will make them seem less genuine.
But in fact, the opposite is true.
The truth is that singing well across your range is way more difficult if you’re not warmed up correctly.
So in order to sound your best, make sure to warm up your voice.
I’ve written an article with 6 professional warm ups you can with videos demonstrating each.
Each exercise will help you sing with a mix.
But if you’re in a hurry and you only have time to do one exercise, here’s a quick video to help you out:
Performance Tip #6: Overcome Stage Fright
Let’s be honest: everyone gets nervous before they play.
Even Ringo Starr, the famous drummer for the Beatles admitted to Conan that he still gets nervous before every show:
If Ringo still gets nervous before he plays, it’s totally natural for you to also.
But over the years, I’ve found several methods that reduce the anxiety related to stage performance.
Here they are:
If you have a big performance coming up, it’s worth it to work with someone with a lot of experience in the genre you sing.
2. Practice measured breathing--Breathing is incredibly important for singing.
But it’s also the first thing to go when we get nervous.
So practice a measured 4-Count Breath in order to balance out the O2/CO2 levels in your bloodstream.
Here’s a quick video to show you how it’s done.
3. Increase your heart rate in practice--When you get on stage, your heart is going to be pounding.
So why not be ready for it?
Try to increase your heart rate while you’re rehearsing your songs.
Run in place or do some jumping jacks for 30 seconds and then sing the song.
Once you get on stage, you’ll be amazed at how much calmer you feel.
4. Visualize a positive outcome--Nobody in the audience wants you to do poorly.
In fact, they’re hoping that you’re going to rock their socks off.
So visualize a positive outcome for the show.
This will prime your brain for a successful performance.
5. Start small--The stress of preparing for a performance can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why it’s important to start small with low stakes performance opportunities.
It could be in front of family, karaoke, or even a recital.
The idea is to force yourself to get through a song despite your emotional response.
I promise, after one performance you’ll be hooked.
If you need ideas, I’ve written an article on 3 place you can perform right now for free.
Performance Tip #7: Connect with the Song Emotionally
We pay rock stars millions of dollars a year to make us feel emotions.
The power for a singer to transport us to another time or feel a certain way is a huge part of a remarkable performance.
So how do you do it with your singing?
You need to connect emotionally with the song.
Now there are lots of ways to connect with a song, but my favorite is using the Stanislavski Method.
Stanislavski was a 19th century Russian actor and director.
His system for teaching acting instructs actors to put themselves in the place of the character they’re playing.
In this method, it’s important to ask:
What is the story of this character?
What are their flaws and desires?
To apply this to singing, read the lyrics.
How can you relate your life and experiences to what the character in the lyrics is going through?
Here’s a fantastic article on the Stanislavski method and how to implement it.
Simply substitute your lyrics for the script and go through the exercises.
Performance Tip #8: Make Eye Contact
Keeping eye contact shows that we’re engaged and paying attention.
But lots of singers keep their eyes closed the entire set!
Don’t make that mistake.
When you’re on stage performing, make eye contact with the members of the audience.
A great way to do this without staring is to divide the audience into a grid like this:
Start making eye contact with the back of the audience and start moving your gaze across the rows from left to right.
Even if you do this with a crowd of a thousand people, selecting one person in each square will make everyone think you’re looking at them.
Performance Tip #9: Move
We all know non-verbal communication is important.
But so many singers have a killer voice but zero stage presence.
That’s why one of the biggest parts of a vocal performance is movement.
We’re not talking about jumping around like a crazy person for an hour.
Instead, we want to connect the movement of our body with the song.
There are lots of ways to move when you’re on stage.
Here are the 3 most common ways:
1. Pivoting--You’d be amazed at how a small movement like changing the direction you’re facing will have a huge impact on your audience.
So try this: Let’s say you sing the first two lines of the verse looking straight ahead.
Try pivoting for the 2nd two lines of the verse to face the right side of the audience.
Do this while you maintain eye contact and you’ll be amazed at how the audience responds.
2. Walking--Walking on stage can get complicated.
Many performers will seem to wander all around the stage with nowhere to go.
Others stand stock-still in one spot.
In either case, when you walk on stage, you must have somewhere you intend to go.
So try this: You’ve played a great rocking introduction to your song from the back half of the stage.
But the first verse is coming.
Walk from the back of the stage up to mic and begin singing the first verse.
3. Running--Running on stage is the most energetic form of movement.
So use it when there’s a lot of energy in the song.
Try this: You’re playing the solo of your most rockin’ song and the last chorus is coming up.
As soon as the solo finishes, run up to the mic and sing the last chorus at full blast.
Performance Tip #10: Film Yourself and Take Notes
You can take each one of these tips and turn your show into a remarkable performance.
But there will always be little things you can improve to make your performance even better.
The only way to catch these missed opportunities is to film yourself performing and take notes on what’s missing.
Do all the songs look the same in your performance?
It’s time to change them up.
Are you too busy running around to sing the vocal lick correctly.
It’s time to learn some more breath control.
These are examples you will only catch if you film yourself.
So keep yourself accountable and you’ll be amazed at how great the performance turns out.
With any luck some of these tips have made your singing performance even more remarkable.
If you’d like to see how these tips can help you improve your own stage performance, feel free to book a half-day performance coaching.