Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Your songs don't sound the same, why should they look the same?

I was watching a Tom Jackson video recently. Tom Jackson’s work as a Live Music Producer has helped shape the public presentation of many of today’s artists from the stage. Originally from the LA area, he is now based in the Nashville area.

One of Tom’s comments from his video presentation was “Not all of your songs sound the same, why should they look the same?” After thinking about this observation for a while, I’ve decided that this is a big part in making the difference between an amateur music performance and a professional show.

Whether you work as a single or a band, there are many things you can do to keep your performance visually varied. If you are a singer, you have the choice of using a microphone stand or holding the microphone. M ix it up. Even within the same song, you could start out with the mic on the stand and then take it out and hold it as the song builds dynamically.

Another bit of visual variety that can be added is the use of a stool. Sit on the slow, soft songs, stand up on the more exciting stuff, and move around a little when the song really starts to build. You could start off a song sitting on the stool and then get up and place the stool behind you when the song picks up steam.

And when you decide to not use the stool or microphone stand, even the way you move it out of your way can show professionalism. Be quick and decisive about getting the stool or stand behind you, and don’t linger or stumble with the process.

Some props can also add visual variety. Hats, sunglasses, rubber noses, funny neckties or bowties, etc. are some examples. Don’t be corny, but rather, be tasteful when using prop gimmicks because they could backfire and make your act look cheap and amateur.

Move around on stage for visual variety. Sign part of the song from the right of the stage and part from the left. Return “home” to the center of the stage. Walk across the stage slowly as you sing on slower songs, of walk quickly and decisively to get from one point to another on the livelier songs. Or you can sing an entire song from the left, and then later in the show, sing an entire song from the right.

Body movement and “steps” can add some visual variety, but don’t try to do full-on Motown choreography unless that is what your act is all about. Just a simple side step to the left followed by a step to the right will suffice. Or you could just stand in one place and turn your body to the right or left. Little hand jesters such as a wave or a finger snap can help.

Where are you looking when you are on stage? Add visual variety by looking at different things and different places. Look at the front row of the audience. Look toward the back of the house. Look at another band member and share a smile or a head nod. Don’t just stand there all night looking at some noon-existent dead spot in the distance like a lot of performers do. Sometimes you can’t really see the audience because of the lights, but that shouldn’t change any of the above. Just try to see past the lights, or pretend that you can see.

There is more I could add, but I just wanted to get you started thinking about how you could apply this to your own band. Every act is unique and individual, so what works for one act won’t work for another, and not all this information I presented today will work for everyone. We can use the “comment” feature of this blog to share additional visual gimmicks that have been successful for you in the past. While I thank Tom Jackson for getting me thinking about this topic, I wanted to mention that all these ideas were my own from past experience, and although some are so common they might mirror things Tom has said, I had no intention of plagiarizing his teachings.


At 8:52 AM, Blogger Tom Smerk said...

I thank everyone for their comments, but I wan't asking what your favorite songs were. This article is about how to improve your stage performance, and is intended for entertainers. Also, on this board, we like to know who you are, so please don't post anonomously. Thank you for reading my blog.


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