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Finding Your Magic Onstage

Before I was a Live Music Producer, I worked in a recording studio for six years.  Every kind of artist came into the studio.  Each of them was unique and intent on making a great, original record. 

But, I noticed that conceptually, (and paradoxically), all great records were the same.  They had great songs, great sounds, great tones, great feel, emotional playing and singing, etc.  They, in one sense, were not that different, but they were very unique.

The techniques of recording didn’t change much from artist to artist.  We used similar microphones for all the artists, we mic’d the vocals and instruments, often with the same mics we used for other artists.  Certain instruments usually went direct to the board.  The artists used similar instruments: Stratocasters, Les Pauls, Telecasters, Twins, Marshals, Korg, Yamaha, Martin, Taylor, etc.

They all had a producer, who hopefully would pull out of the artist that uniqueness, while keeping in mind the audience the recording was intended to speak to.  They all used chords like G, D, E, A, minors and 5ths.  They used the same scales, played in 4/4, some swung in 3/4.  But, the point is, there were similarities in all the recordings.

In fact, I have found that a lot of great (unique) artists were being mixed by the same guy.  Awhile back, I was in New York City, at the Hit Factory visiting with Chris Lord-Alge who was mixing Denise Williams, when James Taylor’s producer came in to drop off the master for James’ latest record.

Before mixing Denise’s record, Chris had just finished one of the 1500 artists he has mixed.  Was it Green Day, Michael Buble, Keith Urban, Owl City, Madonna, Springsteen, or My Chemical Romance?  How could that be?  Wouldn’t he make them all sound the same or at least similar?  He was using the same tools, same speakers, same room and the same effects.

No, no, no!  And this is where we, as artists, make a huge mistake when we think of our live show! 

We think if we use a Live Music Producer or stage techniques or the same tools that others do (for example a headset) we are like Madonna, Garth or Justin.  Or, if we learn technical skills of movement or placement, we’ll look like the Backstreet Boys or a Disney act. 

All artists should be using performance tools and techniques to develop a unique show.  (And, I don’t mean choreography, pyrotechnics, slick lighting and special effects.) 

All artists should be using one-on one communication, zone communication, applause cycles, and trade-offs.  They should be developing themes and characters from their recordings and leaving space so their personalities will come out. 

(People come to see people, not just to hear music.)

I could go on and on – but here’s the point: using these tools or learning the technical skills of onstage performance doesn’t cause you to be like someone else any more than using a vintage Telecaster makes you like Vince Gill.  Vince has his own style – and his knowledge, his technique on guitar, and his equipment help him express himself. 

So don’t avoid learning the psychology of a show, how to rearrange songs for live, the technical skills of stage or the tools.  Learn them.  Practice/woodshed them, take them into rehearsal with you, master them, so you won’t be held back by what you don’t know.

It’s how you use these things to express yourself that makes you unique… not that you don’t use them. 

This is where it all comes together: When you walk out onstage and your personality, your artistry, your unique style of playing, writing, and performing allow you to connect emotionally with your audience.   It’s magical!

And, for you singer/songwriters, this applies to you, too!  You can begin your journey into better stage performance by joining us on April 21st, 2018 for our Singer/Songwriter Performance Workshop.

Register and check out some of the things you’ll learn, here…

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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