Do you know what you look like when you perform?  Most musicians are so concerned about their sound that they neglect the visual side of their performances.

The truth is that audiences take your appearance very seriously.  This fact is even built into our language.  We say we “saw” a concert, not that we “heard” one.

For this reason alone, it’s important to take into consideration what you look like as you perform.  One important aspect of how you look is movement you make as you play.

There is always a balance between looking robotic or uncomfortable onstage and being too carried away by what you’re playing.  Some performers move so much that their motion is actually distracting for the audience, making it hard for ticket holders to really listen to the music.  In extreme cases, audiences have difficulty taking the performer seriously if their onstage movement seems too over the top.

The other side of the argument is that some motion that isn’t actually needed to play your instrument naturally occurs as you react to the emotions of the music you’re creating.  It’s completely normal to move around a bit as you play.

Of course, much of what’s acceptable depends on what genre you’re in.  For large-scale rock concerts, a lot of movement is expected–so much so that it’s actually rehearsed.  It’s not a coincidence that the lights change at certain points in the music, highlighting the locations of the musicians on stage.  All that movement had to be worked out–and programmed into the lighting board–ahead of time.

This makes me think about a rock band I was once in.  The record label hired a coach to help the band with our movements on stage–basically an attempt to make our stage presence stand out.  This coaching helped.  Audiences reacted more favorably to our performances, and, when we watched videos of our performances, the band really did look better and generate more excitement.

It really gets back to the question I asked at the top of today’s blog post:  Do you know what you look like when you perform?

You must have awareness of your stage presence.  The best way to do this is to videotape yourself in performance.  A day or two after the concert, watch the video.  If you were in the audience, would you like what you saw?  If not, what can you do to improve your performances visually?

I’m not suggesting that you need to worry about costumes and lighting as many rock bands do.  That may not be appropriate for you.  Instead, I’m saying that you must be comfortable with how you look.

The next time you perform, make sure someone is shooting video.  Take a look at yourself and be an objective critic of your own performance–from a visual angle.

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