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How You Look On Stage

- August 8, 2018

If there’s one element of performing live that is commonly neglecting, it’s paying attention to how you look on stage. We as musicians are guilty of practicing our instruments for countless hours but then getting on stage with no idea of how we’re presenting ourselves.

Of course, we all know that how you look on stage can mean just as much, if not more, than how well you play your music. This is because people first and foremost SEE your performance, and only secondarily LISTEN to your performance.

This is reflected in a very insightful perspective shared by J B Hildebrand, a photographer who specializes in shooting live band photos. Here’s what he said:

I shot a band a year or so ago that got up on stage and played their latest album, start to finish, flawlessly. They stood in front of their microphones for an hour and change and pumped out sonic gold… I’d tell you who they were… but I can’t remember.

Is this what you want for your own performance – to be musically impeccable but visually unmemorable and forgettable? We sure hope not!

To that end we’re going to give you a few carefully curated tips in helping you to improve the appearance and presence of your live performance. Read on to learn how you can start looking your best on stage!

Develop a band appearance

Let’s start with something obvious: when you perform, you should dress to impress! Of course, we don’t mean you shouldn’t be true to your own sense of style. However, if you’re not putting any effort into picking out the clothes you wear on stage, you’re probably doing something wrong.

The next step is to consider how your band, as a group, looks collectively. If you’re all dressed nice but your styles clash horribly, how are you going to look like a cohesive group? For this reason, it is important to develop a unified look that ensures everyone looks like they belong together.

A cohesive look can be as simple as all-black outfits or as elaborate as full-out costumes developed for each band member. The important point is that you’re taking time to develop your band’s appearance and image. (More on that later in an upcoming post…)

Build connections with each other

Anyone in a band knows that the musical interplay and dynamics between the players can be a huge part of what defines that band. If that is the case, why limit this interplay only to the music? Make it visually evident by incorporating into your performance on-stage!

Tom Jackson, a producer who works with artists on developing their live show, makes the following observation:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched bands, duos, groups, any number of people onstage, completely ignore (visually) what someone else in their band is doing.

It only takes little steps to start changing this, but these changes can make worlds of difference! Let’s think: what can you do to visually acknowledge and respond to your bandmates on-stage?

Maybe you can get excited and walk over to the lead guitarist when he/she takes their solo? Or, if you’re a sideman, you can scream out the chorus along with the lead singer, even though you’re not even behind a mic?

The point is that, whatever you do, don’t get on-stage and just ignore each other!

Build connections with the audience

In a similar way to the last topic, work to engage the audience with your performance. After all, they are the reason you’re on-stage in the first place!

This can be broken down into simple steps as well. If you break into a huge, singalong chorus, get the audience to join in with you. If you rip into an intense solo guitar, get yourself to the front of the stage and shred their faces off!

A fact that is widely recognized is that audiences reflect the attitude of the artists performing. Consequently, to quote J B Hildebrand again, “Do I look as into the song as I want my audience to be?”

Show your audience how your music should make them feel and they will respond in kind.


In the end, we see that it doesn’t take much to start improving your stage presence little-by-little. We encourage you to keep reading and learning more about this subject and stay tuned for more posts coming here every Wednesday.

Now get out there and rock some stages!