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It’s a Groove Thing

Haley & Michaels at 12th & Porter, NashvilleGet yourself prepared emotionally before you walk out onstage!

If you want to communicate with your audience, the quicker you can get into a “groove,” the better your show will be.

Sports players often say they had a good game because they were “in a groove,” or they had a bad game because they never found their groove.

So how do you find that groove?

It’s different for each of you. Some of you need to be quiet before you walk out onstage. Some of you need to be chatty. Some of you need to be warming up before you walk out. Everyone needs to find what works for them.

For me, I talk. Because that’s what I do! So if I can already be in my groove before I hit the stage, I’m not trying to find that groove, I’m already in it.

True story – I was at a conference where I didn’t know anyone, so I grabbed my cell and called someone so I could be in my talking groove before I walked out onstage. The days I don’t do that, when I’m pressed for time, I have a hard time finding my groove.

Then there’s preparation that comes weeks before you’re onstage. It’s planning. Are you “winging it” onstage or are you planning? And this preparation includes some onstage fundamentals. Don’t make it up as you go!

Could you imagine being a guitar player and not knowing the chords, thinking you could just make them up when you were onstage? That would be insane! As a player, you learn the chords, you practice them; and the more chords you know, the more spontaneous you can be when you’re onstage. You have more chords to pull out of the hat.

But if you only know three chords, (translation: one or two onstage movements), you end up doing them over and over and over. And when something new happens, you have to mentally think “what am I going to do next?” If you’ve never lifted your arm, never walked over to the side of the stage, never done an angle with an audience, then you don’t feel the instinct and react naturally. (See my Don’t Fall Off the Stage DVD to begin learning these fundamentals.)

When I used to play football they had tires on the practice field, about 12 of them, tied together, and you’d run down through those tires. When I first saw them, I thought “what is this?” The coach said they were for agility. The better I ran the tires, the quicker I ran them, the more agile I became.

Then when I needed agility in the game to break a tackle or run the other way, I had it. If we hadn’t had those tires for practice, and we just drew up a game plan in the huddle, and I thought “oh, I better run quickly here” – we’d have lost a lot of games.

You work better on instinct that comes from practicing the fundamentals. Then you’re in your groove. The more you find your groove, and the more you’ve developed your talent, the better your show is going to be.

Be prepared beforehand (10-15 minutes or whatever it takes), and be prepared before beforehand (days or weeks in advance). Know what you’re going to say and where you’ll say it. Have a game plan. Work hard on the fundamentals – then work on…

…your “insides.” You see, when you walk out onstage you’ve hit your groove and you’re no longer self-conscious. But I guarantee that every time you walk out onstage and start in that groove you’ll be tempted to go back into yourself.

When someone looks at you weird, when in your mind’s eye you get the thumbs down from someone in the audience – whether it’s the guitar player in the third row, the promoter, or whatever – you’ll be tempted to go back into self.

And that’s the last thing we need to do. The last thing! Who you are onstage is more important than what you do. It’s true.

So get in your groove and stay in your groove, and your audiences will not only like you, — they’ll love you!

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. give a “PERFORMANCE”. don’t just stand there and bore the audience when they paid hard earned money to see YOU! You ain’t working if you ain’t workin up a sweat!

  2. Thank you! Love this article!
    I just had a show today, and on the drive there I was thinking about my mood, my groove etc and how important it is to get into the “stage persona” before even stepping into the venue. For me, it’s the methodical way I set up, to the music I listen to on the way to the gig, to writing out a set list, tailored to the audience I’m about to engage. The more I prepare, the more comfortable I feel, and the easier it is for me to relax and connect with the audience.


  3. For those of you reading this and haven’t tried what Tom is talking about, try it! The planning part is actually kind of fun, especially if you have other band members to bounce ideas off of. We had a really big show at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto recently and members of the band were pretty nervous leading up to the gig. I think the fact that we had a plan helped to unnerve everyone because we were all on the same page with transitions. Everyone knew when to come in, when to drop out, when to exit the stage (and come back on), what was going to be said and when we would be switching instruments. Having that seamless flow and ownership of your set also projects onto the crowd and they eat that up. They want to get closer because they can feel/sense that you have something awesome planned and they don’t want to miss it. It works! Just try it.

    Meghan Morrison

  4. Very good advice! What you speak about is common sense. Being prepared before your appearance and the work way before this. Where to stand, where to move, what to say, what to wear, honed over many hours of practice and rehersal. Extends to public speaking. For a polished practiced delivery, takes 1 hour of preperation for every 1 minute of speaking. For live music, the number has to be longer. After all, if one is playing an instrument, and writing the song, getting the vocals down and blocking the performance, the time is much more than that per minute.

    The real moments occur when you are prepared!

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