Stage Presents

Preparing yourself for the stage is no different than preparing for Christmas. Even though most of us wait until the last minute, the reality is you can start planning right now. Summer months are a notoriously hard time to network and gain momentum in the industry – be it the national or local club scene. So use the hiatus to improve your skills. The best time to learn new warm-up routines is when you are not under any pressure to perform. Expanding your range and experimenting with different tonal options should also be explored outside of band practice. Another productive use of time is to record yourself a cappella using a primitive cassette or micro recorder to see if you’re telling the story of the song with conviction. The point being that inferior equipment should never prevent you from conveying the sentiment of the lyrics.

When the band finally regroups you’ll be way ahead of the game and able to focus on the details. Just think of yourself as Santa Claus and your band as a bunch of elves. Choosing a set list is like deciding what you will give as presents. Rehearsing is like wrapping and planning how you’ll present the gifts. Bands tend to waste an incredible amount of time due to unproductive rehearsal habits. Most musicians use band practice to work on their individual chops. Which means the practice of playing as a unit doesn’t occur until they’re on stage. Which means the art of engaging an audience doesn’t occur until many, many gigs have been played – if at all. Singers are just as guilty. Individual skills need to be addressed at home. Band practice is to develop group synergy. Shows are for the audience.

Hitting the stage unprepared is hard work. The mind races with commands to the body as you try and navigate through a warehouse of emotions. Your distress when you inevitably get overwhelmed is broadcasted through awkward body language and stressed vocal tones. It’s as easy for a listener to identify as a large man in a red suit with white fur trim. An audience always assumes a performer is up on stage because he or she wants to be. It is confusing then, when a performer projects an uncomfortable vibe. People naturally pull for a performer – they want you to succeed up there. So they focus their attention on what you’re thinking rather than what you’re doing. Don’t think the show is going well? Then neither will the audience. Wish you had prepared more? So will they. It’s not their fault. The least you can do for an audience is focus on something positive. It’s easy to sabotage a performance by wishing you were better than you are at that moment. It’s the same as handing someone a gift and then apologizing for not buying something better the moment it’s opened.

Of course there is always a risk when you give someone a present that they won’t like it. That’s especially true when performing for strangers. This is typically what makes us stress out and procrastinate until time runs out, leaving us scrambling to put something together last minute. If that sounds like a familiar routine it’s important to remember how it feels to be on the receiving end, whether it be a gift or a show. It’s a pleasant surprise to be given a gift – especially from a stranger. It’s also a wonderful feeling to be in the audience anticipating what the performer has planned for the show. As performers, we forget the most basic truth about gift giving. It’s the thought that counts.

Since the thought behind a performance is what really moves an audience, it’s a good idea to always ask yourself just one question before you step on stage. Why are you about to sing? Hopefully, you reply with one of three answers. You love to sing. You love to perform. You love the songs. Any or all of these statements are all you need to front a band. Love is what’s inside Santa’s bag. It’s the bottomless reservoir that every performer draws from. Each song represents another gift for the audience. Be generous when handing out your stage presents and the love will come back to you. Be well prepared for that moment and you will be as relaxed on stage as Santa in the summer time.