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Ramones onstage, by Helge Øverås, under CC BY 2.5

Last month we discussed strategies for singing live performances. The topic is particularly relevant to Molly’s Music students this month, because we’re holding our Summer Recital this coming Sunday. Most of last month’s strategies pertained to rehearsing for a performance. This month’s strategies apply more to your actual performance. As promised, here’s Part 2 of How to Sing Live Performances.

1. Learn What Makes You Most Comfortable on Stage.

If you know you perform best by looking at the audience members and feeding off their energy, by all means, go for it (unless, of course, you’re playing a character in a show with a fourth wall). If you know you’ll freak out and forget your song when you see the audience, try looking just over everyone’s heads. You’ll look as if you’re looking at everyone, when in reality, you’ll have an easier time tuning the audience out. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t work on performing both ways–it’s important to slowly push yourself out of your comfort zones. But pushing out of your comfort zones requires that you know what your default comfort zones are.

2. Sing to Someone, Even if the Person (or Animal, or Fairy Godmother) is Imaginary.

If it’s a musical or opera, this may already be taken care of if you sing the song to another character. If this isn’t the case, and if you aren’t going to directly sing to the audience, pick someone imaginary to sing to. Know where he or she is in the room–probably just over the heads of the real people in the audience–and sing the song to him or her. If it’s a love song, pick someone you love (whether it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend, a close friend, or someone who doesn’t know you exist). If need be, move the imaginary person around the room to different points you want to focus your gaze on. This will keep your performance focused and outwardly driven. Too often, I see performers “feeling” a song by closing their eyes the whole time or passionately looking at a spot on the floor.

3. Get Into Character.

I know what some of you are thinking: “This only applies if I’m performing in a musical or opera. I sing contemporary music, so I don’t have to worry about this.” But getting into character is something you do in every type of performance, from Broadway to punk rock. Do you think that Joey Ramone in his private moments was the magnetic force of nature he was on stage? Or that Alanis Morrissette felt enraged at her ex-lover every single time she went on tour singing “You Oughta’ Know”? I’m not saying that you don’t draw from your own experiences or that some of that character doesn’t live inside you off the stage. Every great performer finds something internal to help develop his persona. But it is a persona, even if your character is simply a girl at a coffee shop sharing her intimate thoughts with some caffeine lovers.

4. Know What Your Tendencies Are, and Work to Counterbalance Them.

If you’ve been told again and again that you show no emotion in your face even when you’re feeling a song deeply, don’t get frustrated. Just make sure you exaggerate your facial expressions more than you feel like you should. If you’ve been told that you look overly theatrical, try dialing it back in your performance. If you feel like you’re singing loudly, but people keep telling you they can’t hear you, it might be a good indication that you need to sing a little more loudly than you feel is necessary.

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