It’s hard to be cool and suave on stage. Professional musicians often make it look easy, but for every great one liner they shout out at a crowd, rest assured that they’d flubbed about a hundred lines to get there. It takes a lot of time and practice to be comfortable in front of an audience.
Sometimes, though, what you don’t say is as important as what you do say. Here’s a look at a few of the worst things that a musician can say on stage.
1. “Wow, I screwed that one up.” Never admit a mistake on stage, even if it was very obvious. You won’t do anything to lessen your tension. The best thing you can do is to play on as if you’d never made a mistake, whether you’d flubbed a chord, forgot lyrics, or committed any other stage atrocity. Chances are good that the audience will never notice the mistake if you simply don’t acknowledge it, but talking about it will draw attention to it and make you look unprofessional.
2. “Feel free to talk while I play.” This is a surprisingly common statement among musicians, particularly acoustic singer/songwriters. You’ll look around the room, realize that people are itching to get out of their seats and talk to each other during a performance, and, wanting to be nice, you give them permission.
You’ll assume that they’ll think that you’re a really polite, cool guy, and they’ll listen anyways. They won’t. Giving an audience permission to talk during a performance will open the floodgates; nobody will shut up until you’re done playing. Command the respect of your audience–if anything, you should admonish them for talking (but don’t sound whiny). Above all, never, ever tell an audience to pay attention to something other than you during your performance.
3. “I’m going to start that one over.” Even if you’ve royally flubbed a song, don’t restart it. This is one of the worst things that a musician can do on stage–especially with a band. Always keep playing. No exceptions. You can shorten a song if you’ve made some massive error, or find other ways to recover, but restarting a song is an undeniable sign of an amateur (and you want to look like a professional, right?).
4. “…” Sometimes, it’s what you don’t say on stage. Make sure that you mention your name or your band’s name at least a few times during your performance. Introduce songs, and tell the stories behind them if they’re interesting. Tell the audience if you’ve got CDs for sale, and let them know where your next show is. Talk about your band’s mailing list. Never stay completely silent on stage, or you’ll be missing a prime opportunity to promote your music.
What do you say on stage? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.