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Performance and Stage Presence by Carl Dawkins

Performing on stage is something we all have to think about and evaluate at one point or another when we start to play live. Everyone has their own views and ideas on what they should and should not do, and most importantly, what their performance will bring to the live show.

This is just the opinion of one musician. When I attend gigs, I don’t want to be standing there having nothing to look at, nothing that’s catching my eye. Frontmen/women who are energetic have always made an impression on me, and I always remember them.

Now, this applies to all of the musicians in a band. When you hear a track on your IPod, you may be occupied with another task, a bit like talking on the phone to someone – they’re not going to be able to see you, so you don’t have to worry about how you look. Think of a live gig as having a conversation with someone in person—you are using your music to talk, however the audience can see you while you are talking to them. This is just one of the ways you can view your performance on stage.

I do realize that with every genre comes a certain level of demand on different instruments, but no matter what style of music you are playing there is always room for “performing”, be it subtle or exaggerated. I will be trying to focus on genres as a whole, as well as general performing tips that we should all take into consideration when playing.

I am currently at the international guitar festival in Cheltenham UK. I’m the house bass player along with the house drummer Henry Appleby. Henry is a pleasure to work with, and shares my views on performing. Every person involved with the performance needs to share the same respect for a good show, and be willing to perform out of there comfort zone if required.

Being the house Rhythm section, we have had to play a diverse range of styles over the last the 10 days. This gave both of us the opportunity to practice changing our performance style to suit the music, and the other musicians we happen to play with.

What I have realized over the last 5 years is that many musicians play with their back to the crowd. At certain times, that’s acceptable, as you need to cue someone who is behind you, or to rock out with the drummer for a few bars. However, if you have your back to the audience, it defeats the objective of the crowd coming to see you play. You wouldn’t turn your back on someone while talking to them, and the same should hold true for your performance on stage.

Here are some great examples of this:

Both of these performances are from Glastonbury. Pendulum’s stage presence is incredible…take note on how the band is playing to the crowd, and also how they are standing. Your stance can make a lot of difference to how you are perceived on stage. This is one thing a lot of people seem to underestimate. You could unintentionally look awkward on stage. It happens to all of us at one point or another, so try to be aware of it.

The second video is the very talented Beyonce and here remarkable backing band…now there is a serious amount of choreography. Each member has an assigned space on stage, yet each musician is holding there own, performing and fitting in place with the theme of the set.

We all rehearse and do production rehearsals before a tour to make sure everything fits before taking it to the stage. This preparation is always a must. You want to rehearse as if you’re playing live. This is something I have always done in bands, on all levels, just to make sure the show is going to come across in the right way, so you know the show was good after you’ve finished.

A good tip; practice something while being recorded, or in front of a mirror, or get a good friends feedback. I have always been in favor of adding some kind of character to my performance, and not just in my playing. Some may disagree, but from a live aspect, they work hand in hand.

The most important part of performing is making sure everything fits in with what is happening during the songs, “that” is what truly makes a great performer.

Carl Dawkins

www.caldawkins.co.uk

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