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Sitting Down on the Job – (Becoming Stool Savvy)

If you’re doing 45+ minute sets, where people come to listen to your music, you need to consider using a stool for a song or two.  Maybe I SHOULD say instead, you should be doing a couple of songs in the 1-2 range.  These are “more emotional”, “you can hear a pin drop” songs.  (See the section on graphing a show in Tom’s book or DVD #2 “Turn it Up to 11”.) 

It makes sense most of the time to sit on a stool for part or all of these songs.  Sitting on a stool changes the pressure on the audience and makes a drastic visual change in your show.

When we see you sit down, we ‘sit down’ emotionally and mentally.  We realize that you’re not going to ‘do’ anything and that the song is going to be more lyric-focused.  It’s a nice change – and fits the feel of a ‘touching’ moment.


Find a stool that has four legs and 2 tiers of rungs to give you options for what’s more comfortable.  (I know Target has them available, and in 2 different heights.) 

The most flattering way to sit on it is to place one leg facing center stage and lean on the edge at an angle, with one foot on a rung and the other on the floor.  This gives you stability and also helps your breathing, since your posture is automatically going to be better than if you have both legs up. That position makes it easier to fall into a slouch.

You should be able to create different angles as you move your torso from side to side so you can engage all parts of the room. 

Sometimes a song will have a dramatic musical shift in it, and I’ll have the singer get up off of the stool at a place that feels just right.  It makes sense visually, saying to the audience ‘the feeling is so intense/joyful/angst-ridden, that I MUST stand up!’ 

The best way to do this is to get up and walk away from the stool in the direction you’re already facing.  It’s more natural looking.  Try video taping yourself standing up and turning the other way, and you’ll see what I mean!

You may want to also try using a mic stand in front of the stool, and if you need to turn the stool so you can get the stand closer that’s fine.  Using a stand allows you to use your hands to express yourself or maybe play a shaker or some other percussion.

Guitar players will need to play with the most comfortable way to sit on a stool since you are supporting a guitar.  Try some different ways to sit in front of a mirror and see what works.  You’ll also need a boom stand or headset mic if you’re sitting.

Additionally, if several band members are on stools, it’s nice to sit in a sort of semi-circle so you can see and interact with each other.

Hope this helps…I know sitting on a stool seems like it should be self-explanatory, but these details will help your performance.  Shoot me your questions or ideas you may have in the comments below!

Amy Wolter

As a trained Live Music Producer for Tom Jackson Productions, Amy Wolter brings her years onstage as a lead singer & keyboardist - along with her experience as a producer, arranger, and songwriter - to singers and bands who won’t settle for ‘good enough’. She’s worked with artists at all levels, and genres ranging from Rock to Celtic, empowering them to have confidence and authority onstage, and put on memorable live shows, a few of whom have been on two of the largest US tours in recent history. Some of her clients include Grammy award winners The Band Perry & Lacrae, CMA and ACM –winning country acts, Gloriana & Thompson Square, 2016 The Voice contestant Mary Sarah, CCMA (Canada) winners High Valley, Jess Moskaluke & Chad Brownlee, and Winter Jam Tour veterans Sidewalk Prophets & Love and The Outcome.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. I’m a singer-piano-player(I can stand and sit but this means lifting eletronic piano and changing base height: 2-3 ppl job) 45 minutes gets long in the chair. How cna I chnage pressure on audience and build in moments? #DIYCdbaby2017

    • Marthie, I would position the keyboard to where you could either sit/lean on a tall stool, or move the stool aside and stand. This will give you both options with little hassle! You may need to experiment with the exact right height to enable both positions, but this will give you some variety, both in your comfort AND changing it up for the audience. Great question!

  2. Hi Amy,
    I have some mobility issues, so can I do the opposite. Sit for most of the set, but chose moments to stand and add some excitement? Would that work?

    • Sure Connie…makes sense to me, given your mobility issues. You could even try having one or two other stools or road cases – at various places on the stage IF you can navigate getting around a little. Thanks for the question!

  3. Excellent Amy I like what you said about coming off stool in middle of song as well as the semi circle thing. Could you talk about the guitar player role and positions on stool at some point. Thanks

  4. Hi Amy! I love this post… I have a question, what’s your best tip for moving a stool on and off stage? I always feel so awkward pulling the stool on in the middle of a set but maybe that’s just my own feelings haha. I just feel like it’s awkward and bulky to move and I’d love a smoother way to move the stool on and off center stage.
    Most of the time my band mates can’t move it, or I’m playing a solo show so no one can move it!

    Thanks Amy!

    • Have the stool behind you – nearby, without being in your way. When the applause starts after the song prior, go grab the stool and bring it up to your mic. If you’re solo, grab the mic and talk as you finish getting situated. (If you have a band, someone else could talk or start the song while you get set.) Whichever way you do it, do it WITH CONFIDENCE. If you look unsure or clumsy, the audience will focus on that…if you look sure of yourself and unapologetic, we’re fine!

  5. I have a 30 minute set at the State Fair next week and created a quiet moment in the middle of the set. I see that this recommendation for using a stool is for a set that is 45+ But, could the same be true for a shorter 30-minute set? Is there a reason why you wouldn’t or didn’t suggest it for a shorter set?

    • You can definately do a sit-down moment in a 30-minute set, BUT take your audience and the environment into consideration to make sure this will work. When you say ‘State Fair’, do you mean outdoors, daytime with people walking around and rides in the background? If that were the case, I’d probably advise you to stick with a mostly up-tempo set, for fear they won’t tune into your ‘touching moment’ songs, given the noisy/distracting setting. If you’re indoors and people are sitting and listening, then you could incorporate that ‘sit-down’ moment. Make sense?

  6. Thank you very helpful

  7. Great article, as always; thanks for the tips!

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