I recently was at a music conference that had a stage setup for acts to showcase their music. The singers and bands were all talented and the songs and music was great but it was hard for me watch the shows because a lot of the performers were wearing clothes that blended into the background and kept stepping off the mic to sing at the front of the stage which was out of the spotlight leaving them in the dark.
As a classically trained opera singer, as I went through college, every stone was turned over to make sure we were prepared for the stage. There were a lot of little tips on everything from stage makeup – you usually need to wear a little more so you don’t look washed out in stage lights, not wearing an abundance of perfume that may affect your fellow singers and more details around performance wardrobe, traveling and dietary needs around shows.
There are three specific small tips that I think can really help every performer that are less obvious and I often see even seasoned acts not doing. Here they are...
1. Test Your Shoes
When you go onstage for sound check wear the shoes onstage that you plan to wear during the show. This doesn’t just go for girls. Sometimes the stage has carpeting and certain men’s dress shoes can slip on that. I’ve also seen shoes that randomly squeak on certain stages or make too much noise otherwise.
I find it so important to feel grounded on stage so I can perform at my best and my shoes are the root of that. This may mean stepping onstage in sweatpants and heals but hey, isn’t that in style now?
Of course ladies, make sure you can walk in your heals. Sometimes a carpeted center stage area can give too much under your heal and feel awkward to move around on. Make sure your comfortable with all your gear for the show too, foot pet and if you do find limitations at least you will know about them in advance and can work around them before you step onstage.
2. Wear Colors That Pop
When you’re onstage you want the focus on... YOU! No matter what style or genre you have it’s important that you look your best and fill the sage with your presence – can you just feel the opera training divas seeping out of my brain cells? Ha! Anyways, one of the ways to do this is with your wardrobe. The golden rule here is that you do not want to match the curtains.
Most curtains in venues are either black or red. Most of my wardrobe, as a New Yorkers and a reckless coffee spiller, is black. However, I really try not to wear black or dark blue or brown tops onstage when I play venues with black curtains.
In this digital era you can almost always look up the venue you’ll be performing at before you arrive and see what color their curtains are. Lighting will help you if you do make the mistake of wearing something that matches the curtains but if you can help it and be prepared it will help you stand out, literally.
3. Find Your Light & Stay There
I don’t care what you’re wearing on your body or your feet if you step out of your light. What does this mean? If you have ever been on stage and been blinded by the spotlight and then step forward or sideways and been able to see the audience without being blinded that’s ‘stepping out of your light’.
The irony of this is that when you can see the audience better they actually see you worse. It takes the focus away from you. I know it can be uncomfortable but try to get used to staying in that bright spot lit area. Sometimes I will take a moment as I setup at soundcheck if the time is available to see where the edges of the light are. This helps you understand the range of movement you can do and still be fully seen.
Another good point to share, in certain spaces the light wont be wide an reaching down to your legs or your feet. You might have lots of energy in your lower body as you play your songs but because people can’t see those movements being featured in the light it doesn’t feel as energetic. Sometimes the best way to learn this last point is to watch other performers and see what you think looks best.
Hope these three little tips help some performers out there. They are easy things to overlook and not realize no matter how long you’ve been performing.
Happy music making!