I'm going out to catch a show with a friend. As they dim down the lights, the audience walks to the front while the band goes on stage. It's the first song. Good energy, great sound, the music fills the room, it will be a beautiful evening. Both of us grab a beer at the counter and get closer to the stage.
Second and third songs – great energy, cool vibe, we’re having a good time.
By the fourth one, it's still enjoyable, but it seems a bit repetitive.
At the fifth song, I tell my buddy, "I'm going to go get another pint. Do you want one?"
Between the sixth and seventh, rather than waiting for me to come back, my friend joined me at the bar. As we cheer, I ask him, "Is it just me, or do all of their songs seem the same? »
- Yup, he says.
- Get your cell phone out and take a look at what I sent you.
- Hahahaha, that obnoxious cat sitting at the table again! I love it.
Now, they get to the eighth song. It should be over soon. We chat a bit to kill some time.
- Did you watch the game last night?
- Yeah, and we're missing a good one tonight as well. Take a look at the score.
He shows me the results on his phone.
Ninth, tenth, eleventh songs.
- They still have more songs?
- No, I think it's over.
- Seriously? Are they force-feeding us with an encore nobody asked for?
The crowd gives a polite lukewarm round of applause. It is finally over. My friend and I order shots to wash this whole showdown (pun intended).
45 minutes that lasted forever. They had a good start, though. So what happened?
Notice that I did not describe the band. We don't know their style, we don't know how many members there were, we don't know what language they sing in, we don't know the size of the venue. We know nothing, but we've all been there. We've all seen artists who, after a good start, gradually lose the interest of the audience.
Here are three mistakes you should avoid and three simple solutions you can apply when preparing for a show. These principles are almost universal, so whether you're doing metal, folk, hip-hop or Croatian rumba, you can use them.
Mistake: Just singing your songs
Solution: Singing moments
It may sound strange, but the first piece of advice is not to overestimate your songs and believe that playing them well will be enough. Artists have a powerful emotional connection to their repertoire. They know the lyrics intimately and have mastered all the subtle differences between the songs. Many believe that what they have in their guts will be transmitted directly to the audience by osmosis. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
Instead of stringing songs together, I always tell performers to create moments by giving each piece a specific function. Think of a game plan for your show. No matter how long your set is, you need an introduction and a conclusion. The choice of songs that will be played first and last will set the entire show's tone. The first song must have some unique qualities to grab people's attention right from the start, even if it means rearranging it. You must also find a way to highlight the lead singer as quickly as possible. The last one must leave the audience on a good vibe. You have to create an atmosphere that will be remembered for a long time.
Between the introduction and the conclusion, there are several other blocks to place. The length of the show and the progression curve you want to achieve will influence the songs' choice and order. Here are some examples of blocks to insert in a performance:
- Contact with the audience
- Audience Participation moment
- Emotional moment
- Great moment
- Acoustic moment if you are a rock band
- Rocking moment if you play quiet folk
- Comic moment if you are an introspective artist
- Introspective moment if you are of the comic type
- A moment of virtuosity
There may be other types of moments; this list is not exhaustive.
By adopting this method, the show will gain in dynamic amplitude, and you will keep the audience on their toes.
Mistake: Loving YOUR music too much
Solution: Loving MUSIC itself
You have created songs, practiced them, arranged them, recorded them. I guess you like YOUR music, that goes without saying. But, even if you've spent hundreds of hours working on your album, you still can play differently on stage. If you get too hung up on your studio versions and don't want to try out something new for the show, the result may sound predictable. It's a pity because usually, your audience wants to be surprised.
Music is a living art form. Arrangements must serve the needs of each moment and captivate. Ask yourself questions such as:
· In the introduction, how will I capture the audience's attention in the first fifteen seconds?
· Which song has an easily memorable chorus that the audience can sing along to?
· Which song will become incredibly touching if I slow down the tempo for an acoustic version?
· Can I perform one a capella?
· Which one will be surprising if I perform it in a different style?
· In what order will I place all this?
Think outside the box. Instead of loving YOUR music, I challenge you to love MUSIC itself and explore new ways to play your repertoire. This will keep you from limiting yourself to singing songs and allow you to create moments.
Mistake: I want to people to listen to me
Solution: I must captivate the audience
You go on stage, so you expect to be listened to. That's normal. But if that's your only goal, you're in trouble. People's attention is earned little by little, especially at the beginning of your career. Your goal should not be "to be listened to."
Try instead to say, "I must captivate the audience." The first formulation is passive. By saying, "I want to be listened to," an artist refuses to be the one in charge of the performance and tells the audience they must listen.
The second formulation is active: "I must captivate the audience." The task rests on the artist's shoulders, who takes full responsibility for developing original ways to win the audience's attention.
2 more tips to help you create magical moments
Listen to your instincts.
Think about the bands you admire and that are successful. Remember the shows that made you want to play music. What was so special about them? What made an impression on you? Real pros have this talent to develop a unique vision for their shows, and they build it long before they go on stage. A brilliant idea can come very spontaneously while walking down the street or cooking a meal. If you have a bold flash for your performance, it's your instinct talking to you. Write it down and try it out at your next rehearsal. Trust yourself. Maybe you can even see the audience's reaction in your head.
Listen to the audience.
You had a particular flash to create a special moment, you tried it in rehearsal, and now you are testing it live? Pay attention, listen to your audience. Are they reacting the way you planned? If the answer is yes, you've won. If it's no, you have to rework the idea. With time, you will develop this ability to always aim more precisely. It's called experience.
Ces conseils s’appliquent pour tous styles de musique. Je veux surtout dans ce billet provoquer une réflexion sur l’art de concevoir un spectacle et faire prendre conscience du point de vue du public.
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Photo by : Harry Shelton