Playing live shows is the core effort of the majority of all musicians. When many people start to learn a music instrument, they often see themselves in a vision of playing like crazy in front of a huge crowd as well as their favorite player. But when it happens, not all the musicians and entire bands seem good on the stage even if their musical skills are good. It happens often to beginner bands but not only to them. Why is this?
In general, many musicians focus just on practicing their instrument, developing technique, speed, accuracy and all the other related things. But when they come on the stage, it´s totally different, they make much more mistakes, they are nervous and overall appearance doesn´t look good.
The fact is that practicing playing on the stage is as much as important as practicing technique, but many musicians (and almost all of the beginners and semi-professionals) don´t do this. They don´t know that they should do it. If they do, they don´t know how. In order to avoid these mistakes, let´s go through some basic tips of what to do. As I am a guitar and bass teacher, I will focus primarily on guitar and bass players, but the principles will be similar also for players of different instruments.
I use these principles on my own as a musician with my own band. I also teach those principles to my guitar students and see the great results. It really works. And great thing is that it´s easy to do and everybody can do it.
Practice what you will do with your band mates (not just what you will play)
Don´t do the mistake about thinking that everything on the stage is spontaneous and that it looks super cool. It´s not truth. Instead of that, think and plan what coordinated moves you can do with your band mates. Think IN ADVANCE about what to do on the stage (every little detail) and discuss it with you band mates on regular basis. Then practice it together during rehearsals. Don´t just play the music but practice the coordination of your moves.
Record your shows
After doing the first step, be sure to record each live show (if possible) on video. The purpose is not to share the video online, but to sit with your band mates after this show, see the video and analyze, what looks good and what looks bad. Set what you will improve on the next show. And then repeat the process. Record it again and analyze if your steps were good or not. This is a longer-term process, and you can refine it over and over again. It does not mean that you are bad when still improve something. Remember, more times you will refine it, the more professional it will look like.
Do the same while practice alone
Do not practice the stage presence just with your band mates but do it also on your own while practicing at home. Develop your individual movements. You can record yourself on video and then analyze it or you can do it in front of a mirror.
Make the conditions for practicing more difficult
When you play live, one of the aspects why everything is different than playing at home is that the visibility is dramatically reduced. You do not see the fretboard so clear, because it´s dark in one moment while there´s bright light a second after and a fog in another moment. You can prepare for this at least partly by making the conditions for practicing more difficult. Switch the light off in your practicing room and play this way for some time (not the whole practice session).
These principles are simple, but after you master them, they will bring you a huge difference in result. Moreover, after you will know that your shows look really good, you will be more confident and will enjoy your live playing much more.
About the author: Tom Sklenar is the professional bass player and the owner of the Guitar School of Chropyne (Škola kytary Chropyně), Czech republic, where he teaches and trains his guitar and bass students.