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By Selena, 29/09/2020, Category:Confidence and Mindset, Singing with freedom and creativity, Unlock your vocal potential
I’ve been giving singing performances since I was 17 so I’ve learnt a thing or two about what does, and what doesn’t, engage an audience.
Obviously your music and song, and how you play it, has to be decent quality. That’s essential. Assuming that’s the case, then here are the 5 Top Tips that will help you engage, connect with, and captivate an audience, so they want to hear you sing again and again!
One : Tell The Story
This is the deepest power you have to engage an audience. Explore the song before you practise and perform it. What’s it about? What’s the storyline? What are the main emotions that create the song’s message?
Really FEEL those emotions while you’re practising the song. Put the message across through stepping into and experiencing the story. BECOME the person who’s singing those lyrics.
E.g. ‘and they sold me down the river’ – feel what it is to be that person who is sold.
When you do this, the energy of the song will become fully charged. Your voice will naturally alter with subtle nuances that express the varied meanings of each line. Your audience will feel you expressing the story, and be totally drawn in to the journey of the song.
Two: Engage With The Audience
Well, this is pretty obvious but it’s amazing how many singers DON’T do it. Remember you’re singing for THEM, not for yourself. So make sure they know that. Reach out to connect through your facial expressions, your movements and your gestures.
Make eye contact.
Sweep your eyes across the whole audience from side to side, from front to back. Here or there linger a moment so you really catch someone’s eye. (unless your dazzled by the lights!)
I had a friend who, when he gave solo performances, kept his eyes shut the whole time. It was quite alienating as a listener.
Of course its fine to have your eyes closed some of the time. It helps you tune in to the feeling of the song and can even show that you’re really in it. It can be great as a mode of expression – to mark particularly intense or intimate moments of a song.
But don’t stay there!
Another way to engage with the audience is to have a little chat with them in between songs. Tell them why you’re going to sing the next song, what it’s about or where it came from. Be natural. Be funny if it comes easily. Tell them something that helps them feel special, like why you chose to perform in that town for example.
Obviously at the moment ( Autumn 2020) a lot of live performances have been replaced by virtual ones, so you don’t actually see your audience.
But you can still imagine them watching you and connect with them anyway. Look into the camera of your screen to reach that audience member sitting on their sofa listening to your music.
And don’t be stiff! Let yourself move with the music!
Sway, dance, gesticulate, whatever is appropriate for the song you’re singing. You need to be seen be enlivened by, in tune with, and expressive of the music yourself, otherwise how will they?
Three: Plan The Shape Of Your Song
Almost every song has a journey to it. It’s not just one emotion all the way through. So don’t just churn out the lyrics with equal volume from beginning to end.
This is similar to ‘Tell the story’ but as a bigger picture. I remember realising that many children’s stories had a common pattern: Scenario 1, repeated several times with a slight variation each time; then a BIG surprise; then a high-impact ending with a slight twist. It is a very satisfying pattern. (all the Axel Scheffler stories are like this – the Gruffalo etc)
Now, I know songs aren’t children’s stories but they do often have a beginning, a middle and an end, with mini-episodes in each verse. And the chorus is usually the repeated ‘high point’ of emotion.
So plan your dynamics (volume levels) to take your listeners on that journey. Often a good pattern is starting gentle and quiet, building up to loud and energetic at the end, with waves in between.
Try it out. I think you’ll find it’s very emotionally satisfying!
Four: Turn Nervousness Into Excitement
Most performers, of any kind, will tell you that they get an adrenalin rush before and during performances. Even those who have long-term performing careers will tell you it never goes away. You just have to learn to live with it.
But what makes all the difference is your attitude.
The adrenalin rush could be described as nervousness or fear. You may feel your legs go to jelly, your bowels want to move, your hands sweat, your throat go dry. We can’t deny these physical experiences.
But when you tell yourself mentally that the adrenalin is EXCITEMENT, it makes you look forward to the performance. It’s a switch. It makes you to feel you’ll get a ‘buzz’ out of performing to an audience. It puts energy into your heart and brings you joy. This will FUEL your performance rather than paralyse you.
Honestly! This one simple mental switch can make a HUGE difference! Try it.
(I have a whole amazing toolkit for transforming performance anxiety so get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get your hands on this.)
Five: Let Your Love Of The Song Beat Your Fear Of Performance
Now there is some similarity between this and the previous tip but it is different too.
Each time you're about to sing a new song in your set, think about the song and why you love it. Feel the feeling of how much you love singing this song. How much joy and delight it brings you in your experience of singing it.
Now stay in this place of love and delight. This love will overcome the fear of performance. If you have any anxiety around whether the audience will enjoy the song, whether they will approve of your performance, or whether your delivery will be good enough, this will beat it down.
Love cannot exist in you at the same moment as fear.
And the audience will feel your love for the song, and resonate with it. It’s your JOB to take them on a powerful and moving emotional journey. That’s the gift you bring as a musician.
Again this is a simple tip but incredibly powerful.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my 5 Top Tips for Giving Engaging Performances.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and please share this article with your friends.
Here’s to YOUR performances!
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