Intro to Stage Performance: It Is Scary!
One of the most common fears that people share is the fear of public speaking. Getting up in front of a large group of people can be absolutely terrifying, so it makes sense that performing on stage would also be scary. Musicians are expected to get up on stage in front of strangers, while also being expected to perform their music well, and with the energy to keep the audience engaged. Although it can be scary, performing on stage is like learning a new skill, the more you practice, the easier it will be.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The best way to get better at anything is to practice. The greats that we see on stage, the rocket scientists who amaze us, and even the teachers you look up to—they all had to practice and work hard for their achievements. At some point, those rockstars on stage were, or are, nervous to perform in front of a crowd. You’ll get a lot more comfortable performing on stage if you do it regularly. Practicing an entire set from top to bottom is also a great way to get more comfortable with performing on stage. It can help with song changes and banter with the audience. Banter, or talking to the audience in between songs, helps with the flow of the show and keeps the audience engaged. Dead air can feel awkward for the audience and even you. Think of the audience as your friends, how would you talk to your friends about the music you’re about to play? Maybe talking between each song feels excessive, instead, practice going from one song directly into the next. Adding an instrumental interlude can also help the flow of a show. It can sound really impressive to an audience if it’s pulled off well.
Feed Off of the Energy of the Crowd
Crowds can really help musicians keep the energy up. They are the ones cheering you on and singing along to your songs. When performing on stage you might come across a crowd that doesn’t feel as exciting to play in front of, but think of it as an opportunity to practice hyping them up. Play your guitar behind your head, maybe try a new move that you saw your favorite musician do, but have fun! If you are having fun, the audience will have fun with you. Your music is telling a story, and it’s your job to show the audience what your story is.
Experiment and Make It Fun
Playing music and putting on a show is definitely a challenge. It can feel awkward at times to move to the music, and different types of music require different stage presence. Performing on stage and in front of a crowd allows you to experiment with different forms of stage presence. Maybe you’ve seen Angus Young of AC/DC in a video doing his signature kick and walk across the stage and thought “Wow! How is someone playing that well and moving so effortlessly?” Angus Young performed in front of countless crowds, so he had plenty of practice. The more you move on stage, the more you will feel comfortable moving your body and understanding what works for you and what doesn’t. Maybe you want to try playing your guitar upside down and behind your head. The stage gives you the opportunity to do that and have fun.
Make Mistakes and Go With the Flow
Something every musician must learn to accept is that mistakes happen, even on stage, even if you have practiced. Experimenting with new moves, playing newer songs, playing in a new space, etc., mistakes are part of the journey. Learn to accept and embrace them! Sometimes mistakes can lead to a cool new part of a solo or maybe some choreography you want to add to your performance. Mistakes help us learn what to do differently the next time, or show us what we need to work on. Although the mistakes are great teachers, don’t focus on them or let them get you down. Go with the flow! They happened, but you still have a show to put on.
Have Fun Performing and Perform Often
At the end of the day, performing on stage can be a blast, even if it is a little scary. The more you practice, the better you get, the more confident you will feel. It’s so much fun to be able to let loose and just give it your all. The stage teaches us how to be more confident in front of others, it helps us learn to master the skills, and it teaches us to enjoy the music in a special way. Get out there and perform as often as you can!
About the Author
Gaby Montoya is drawn to many different genres of music from rock to classical, blues to electronic, and jazz to metal. She has experience in many genres of singing, including musical theater, jazz, opera, gospel, and classical. Gaby also has a Bachelor of Music degree with a focus in Vocal Performance from Sacramento State. She teaches vocals and piano + keyboard at School of Rock Elk Grove.