How To Develop ‘Stage Presence’ As A Guitarist
As a guitarist, have you ever asked yourself if you have good ‘stage presence’? It might be you first time or 100th time playing live on stage in front of an audience, but have you consciously thought about how you will ‘perform’ on stage?
Stage presence is one of those things that a lot of guitarists don’t think about much. It’s kind of complicated to define exactly how to improve your stage presence. If you were to compile a list of artists who have a great stage presence, you would quickly realise that everyone is different and performs in their own unique way.
So, here is my attempt at providing a general guide for developing and improving your stage presence as a guitarist.
What ‘Stage Presence’ mean?
Basically, ‘Stage Presence’ is the conveyance of being comfortable on stage and complementing your guitar playing with the appropriate ‘energy’. Appropriate is the key word here. Some forms of showmanship will fit better with certain musical style than others.
For example, you don’t typically see a jazz guitarist playing his Gibson ES-175 behind his head in the middle of a song, whereas this would be totally normal for a blues guitarist (ie. Stevie Ray Vaughan).
6 Tips To Develop ‘Stage Presence’ As A Guitarist
Here are some general tips to improve your stage presence that you can apply to just about any musical style.
1. Confidence – ‘Fake It Til You Make It’
This is the basic fundamental behind stage presence. If you are going to do something on stage then you need to put your all into it. So if you jump around, jump like a crazy guy or if you make a joke see it through to the end. Confidence starts in knowing what parts you are playing and what you will be doing to support the song. This could be as simple as making a mental note “What is the next song on the list?” or just thinking ahead in the parts you’re playing. Even at some point you don’t ‘feel’ confident, you must at least look like you’re in control.
When you play music ‘live’ there are so many things that can go wrong. You’ve probably experienced a power glitch, broken string, bad stage foldback/sound, technical problems, or just plain old brain-farts while trying to perform a song or two. Preperation can help, but it’s just a part of live music to experience and deal with problems.
The key as a guitarist is to maintain your composure and keep the audience unaware that something is wrong. Keep on your happy face and stay confident no matter what happens. Everyone came to listen to good music and have a good time rather than notice the way you fixed all the problems. One of the most valuable skills to learn as a live musician is the art of a ‘quick recovery’. If you make a mistake, ignore it and move on. The audience will forget it as fast as you do (if they noticed it in the first place). Facial expressions or comments only draw attention to the mistake and make it easier to remember.
2. Think Of Others
When playing guitar live, you will most likely being either playing with others, for others or both
Live music is a shared experience and you need to be aware of what’s happening around you. A classic mistake for beginners is to be so focused on getting their parts right that you forget everything else happening around you on stage.
The classic example of what not to do is the guitarist that lurks in his corner of the stage, never lifting his eyes from his instrument and sometimes drifting out of time because he is not listening to his band mates.
It’s important to listen and interact with your band mates as you are playing music together. Are you playing lead under a vocal line, try walking up to the lead singer and lean in for that part. Are there a bunch of accents played in unison with the drummer? Get up close and really play together. Don’t forget to interact with the crowd. See that guy in the front row playing air guitar while watching your band, why not walk to the front of stage and play to him!
3. Enjoy Yourself
Avoid sending out bad vibes at all costs. Make sure you’re enjoying playing guitar on stage. If you aren’t enjoying yourself on stage, the audience probably won’t either. It’s amazing the difference you can make just by smiling. Trying looking at your drummer and laughing in the middle of a song. Turn to the keyboard player and give a nod of approval when you hear a great keys line in the song. Even if you’ve just had an argument before getting on stage, put on a fake smile so that the audience can enjoy the music.
4. Record Videos Of Yourself
It’s amazing how many little details you notice when you watch yourself back on film. Get one of your mates to record your performance on stage and then watch it later. At first it may be uncomfortable to watch, but it offers great rewards in regards improving your stage presence.
5. Develop Your Personality
When you step on stage, it’s time to leave your quiet personality behind. It’s amazing how many famous guitarists are actually really quiet and reserved when not on stage. Yet when they get on stage they are a teeth-picking, guitar-burning, rock star! It’s important to step out of your comfortable zone and entertain the crowd. Make it easy for people to get out of their seats and enjoy the music.
6. Watch Live Music
Try and get to as many live performances as you can. Watch how the show starts and ends. What impression do you get from watching the band/artist playing live? How do the musicians interact with each other? How do they interact with the audience? What are the transitions like between songs? You can learn so much from watching live bands/artists.
What are some ways that you have developed ‘Stage Presence’?
Have you seen any great videos where the band has a really good ‘vibe’ on stage? Feel free to share in the comments below.