Live music concerts are every musician’s dream. After all, you get to showcase your skills, enjoy the just deserts for your hard work, meet and greet your fans, and get some useful feedback on your music from the people you make and play music for. There is no substitute for a show with no retakes, no NG (‘no good’ for the unversed) shots, no do-overs; it is that now or never time. This is what gives performers and audiences that heartracing thrill, the adrenaline rush through your veins as you put on the show of your life! 

So, how do you ensure that you put your best foot forward on stage? Some basic checks and routines could enhance your performance on stage. Of course, every musical performer has his/her own routine, practice schedules, stage plans, and even superstitions that ensure that the performance is one-of-a-kind, spectacular, memorable, and, basically, a big hit! However, some of these live performance tips could help you perfect your own routine. Also ,to improve your live music performance, benefit from some insider tips from Ambi Subramaniam, violinist, composer, performer, and co-founder of SaPa music academy. 2022 has seen Ambi on back-to-back performance tours in the US, Europe, India and the Caribbean.

5 Tips for performing on stage 

1. Practise well 

One of the ‘positive’ takeaways of Covid (excuse the pun!) was the time you got to practise and perfect, compose, and produce – and really dig into those basics that laid the foundation to the performer you are today. So you could re-play those forgotten scales and practise those beginner songs that helped hone your techniques. 

However, now that the world has opened up, you may be on the road without much time for regular practice. Chances are that you will have a hectic schedule, in different time zones perhaps, with very little group rehearsal time. So, at these times, you can only try to sync up with the rest of your band or orchestra. You will have to practise your individual part in your own time and save those precious group times for coordination alone. This is when your regular practice schedule will pay off as well as your ability to synchronise your different instruments and really listen and play are tested. 

“I used to practise six hours a day in college, 10 hours during the pandemic but now, with a tight schedule and back to back concerts, jet setting across continents, you get less time to practise. Sometimes you only get together a day before the show,” reveals Ambi. 

Interestingly, you can use this titbit (your hours of group rehearsal) to draw the attention of your audience. Have you ever tried it? It would be like throwing a challenge to yourself in front of everyone. A thrill for you and for your audience. That extra zing that sets you apart from the rest. You will pique their interest for sure.

2. Be prepared with a song list 

All performers prepare their song list in advance. You must have some favourite tracks that you regularly play. Apart from those,  when you prepare your song list, keep in mind the mood you want to create. It would be a good idea to vary your song list based on the occasion or venue also to connect better with your audience. This would mean knowing your audience, which is possible to an extent at least. For the rest, it will be a test of your ability to gauge audiences. What a thrill when the audience responds and sings along or claps or catches on to your raga and taps rhythmically to the tala! This is what a performer lives for after all!

You can sing and play songs on the spot if you are a solo artiste but when you are performing as a group, improvisation might be tricky. 

Ambi suggests, “It would be a good idea to prepare more songs than you plan to play and choose then and there. That will give you some room to choose songs based on the mood you sense in the audience.

Read some expert tips on how to build your band

3. Transition & contrast

Transitioning seamlessly between songs helps you keep the flow of your performance. Interestingly, contrast achieves the same thing; you can carry your audience to a different mood and time. Both techniques can hold your audience effectively. If you have the time and opportunity, you could even test your performance on a smaller home audience before your ‘big show’ to see how a sample crowd responds to it. 

“Consider bringing in different colours – technical, fun, and emotive aspects, to create different moods for your audience. As far as song lists go, I would say, ‘Mix it up with transition and contrast’,” shares Ambi.

How popular are live performances today? 

You might wonder if things have changed out there? Are audiences still interested in live performances? Ambi Subramaniam, says, “The audiences are back with a bang. It is as it always was with shows running full house.” With the world more or less completely open, live music concerts are starting to look like they always did – fun, exciting, and every performer’s dream – palpitating music, cheering crowds. So, just go out there and rock it!

4. Test your limits; don’t be afraid to make mistakes

A performer wants to thrill the audience. This is possible only when you leave your comfort zone. When you put yourself out there. Sometimes without knowing what will happen next will propel you to those dizzying heights of creativity and spontaneity – this is what the audience waits for – the high point that challenges your limits.

“If you don’t make mistakes, you are playing safe, and not challenging yourself,” says Ambi. 

So, don’t be afraid to try for fear of failure. Just go into it with a positive attitude and enjoy the journey!

5. Interact with your audience

To form a bond with your audience, you could introduce yourself and your team and interact with them. Try giving them some interesting trivia about a song you wrote or some funny incidents that occurred backstage, titbits about practice, background of the song, any epiphanies you had while composing, your struggles, the time it took to learn a new song and so on. All these things will help your audience feel for you – and appreciate you in an intimate way. And it would differentiate you from a CD player! 

Of course, this would be appropriate at informal gigs rather than at formal classical concerts. 

6. Pre-performance routines 

All performers have their fair share of butterflies. While you perform in different venues across continents sometimes, in front of an unknown crowd, your performance may vary and make you feel like an alien in your surroundings. So, one of the best tips for musicians performing live is to have a familiar routine before every performance – a huddle with your band, a favourite snack, a prayer, a jog to warm up, practice of scales, fingering exercises, and breathing exercises to name a few.

These not only help soothe nerves but also start you off on your performance before you get on stage. So, in a sense, you are already in the midst of your ‘act’ even before you start performing. This optimises your performance.

7. Take care of your health

Performers have to safeguard their voice and general health as they are exposed to different weather conditions, gruelling practice schedules, allergens, and dietary patterns that may not suit their palate. You have to do what you can to maintain a regular schedule amidst a chaotic lineup of events where you are expected to match the energy of hundreds or even thousands of people. 

“I try to jog whenever I can wherever I am, exercising within the hotel at times. I snack on power bars to keep my energy levels up. I try to eat healthy and I follow a strict diet as I am allergic to dairy. So, I look for appropriate substitutes,” says Ambi.

“At the end of the day, enjoy yourself ! Go for it! Have fun!” says Ambi. So, go ahead, own the stage! Your positive attitude will infect your audience and they won’t be able to help going along with you! 

Would you like to learn more about the art of stagecraft? Watch and learn from veteran performer Usha Uthup with SaPa’s self-paced courses.

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