5 Tips for Better Live Performances

By Connor McCoy, Spire Contributor | October 2, 2018

4 Tips on How To Put On a Better Performance

Whether you’re playing a set at your local cafe, an underground house show, a sold-out stadium, or in your living room for your friends and family, there are many things you can do to ensure that your music comes across how you want it.

If you make these tips instinctive, you can focus more on the music you’re playing and get the reaction you want from the crowd.

1. Make eye contact

Just like when having a conversation with someone, how you manage your eye contact when you’re performing is very important when it comes to conveying the correct emotion. Even if you’re not on a real “stage,” per se, when you perform, you’re placed on an imaginary platform, with everyone’s attention drawn to you.

Very much unlike having a normal conversation, holding consistent eye contact with an audience member over a long period of time can have a negative effect, making them feel awkward and uncomfortable instead. It’s important to manage your eye contact where people can see your emotion and connect with you as much as they feel comfortable.

Closing your eyes can be effective when conveying introspective emotion, but doing it for too long can often distance people and make it harder for them to connect with you.

When I perform, I find that it helps to imagine a point above your audience’s heads, to give yourself somewhere to look without making audience members feel uncomfortable.

2. Find confidence through preparation

Holding an audience’s interest can be daunting. Expectations rise, and the attention is on you. The quickest way to lose this attention is by showing that you lack confidence or that you aren’t taking yourself seriously. Every show or performance is a way to gain new fans and supporters or to show a potential supporter or sponsor that you really mean what you do, so act like every show is the most important show you’ll ever play.

One of the best ways you can improve your performances is through preparation! You don’t want to get halfway through a show and realize you’ve forgotten your special capo or that special reverb guitar pedal. By keeping your mind at ease, knowing you’ve done everything you can before the show even happens, you can focus on bringing out the best in your playing. This gives off an aura of extreme professionalism (and confidence), and this is key when it comes to capturing your audience’s attention.

Performanceuno

3. Learn to be optimistic

Pessimism and optimism are learned behaviors! The first thing you have to do is to become aware of your inner dialogue. One of the worst things you can do is ignore the negative thoughts that naturally occur to you. Acknowledge them, learn from them, and move on.

You can turn the negative thoughts you have into positive results by learning to criticize yourself on stage in the moment and keep pushing forward. Have a positive outlook! Nothing good comes from brewing on mistakes. Instead, work to make the next line sound as best as it possibly can. Messing up a chord or hitting a wrong note during a performance is almost inevitable, and often what makes live shows so human and inviting. Don’t unintentionally place more pressure on yourself and cause unease in your audience members; everyone is there to enjoy themselves, so make note of your mistakes, smile, and move on! You can re-work certain parts later on in practice.

4. Record every performance

Sports teams do it, so why shouldn’t performers? One of the best ways to improve your performance is to record and watch every single show you perform. Ask your friends and family after the show if they have any advice on what you can do better—which line or lick you played that didn’t work for them, something you said between songs—anything is on the table.

It can be excruciating to watch yourself play and sing, but doing so can seriously alert you to any strange habits or poor body language. Remember, you are the only one who knows what you want out of your performance, so click that record button and keep playing until you’d be happy watching yourself as an audience member.

Performancedos

5. Practice like you perform

The opportunity to perform doesn’t come around for most people too often, so when it does happen, it can feel like a foreign experience and completely different from your practice time. That’s why it’s really important to practice like you’re performing in front of an audience.

This means following all of the steps mentioned above and more: working on eye contact, body language, mic technique, and following through with each practice performance as if 10,000 people were watching you.

And if you’re recording your performances, and you’re practicing like you are in a performance, then why not record your practices as well? This article can better help you design a healthier and more productive practice session, and goes more into detail why it’s best to practice like you perform.