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Talladega Nights and the Problem With Hands

There’s a scene in Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby in which Will Ferrell is being interviewed and doesn’t know what to do with his hands. Consequently, his hands just float awkwardly up by his face. Funny stuff!

Watch the video below to see this scene. Most of the artists I work with can relate to Ricky Bobby’s dilemma, because they don’t know what to do with their hands in front of an audience either.

It’s a big deal for an artist, because you express yourself by using your hands, by looking at the audience, by using angles, and other visual gestures. It makes a big difference in how you connect with people.

Someone wrote in with a question on using angles – how and when to use them. Hopefully you’ve seen our videos and already know about angles.

If you don’t, “angles” are simply a way to face and address different areas of the room. There are 5 basic angles and each one gives the audience a different “view” of you, besides allowing you to look at people all over the auditorium.

To answer the commenter’s question on when to change angles, you first need to think in terms of conversation.

  • Think about the lyrics and what you are saying to the audience. As in conversation, you want to be sure to finish the thought or phrase looking at someone before moving on to someone else. Think about standing at a party talking to someone. If they were telling you something and in the middle of a sentence looked away and started talking to someone else, you’d think, “what the heck!? THAT was rude.” Same thing while you’re singing… finish the phrase before looking at someone else. Pivot and angle your body another direction, and sing to people on that side.

  • Change points in the song (like verse to chorus, chorus to bridge, etc.) are logical places to make a switch. This applies to times you are holding a mic, at a mic stand, or playing an instrument, too. It’s a bit more work when using a stand or a guitar, but you need to practice until you can comfortably change angles without looking or feeling awkward!

Now, back to the hands… if you are coming off a keyboard or guitar for the first time and are not used to singing without playing an instrument, it’s tough! You need to learn to “talk” with your hands.

Again, think about what the song is saying and show us visually with your hands and arms. Try lots of things until you find a way to express yourself that’s comfortable and eventually comes naturally.

I say eventually, because for most singers this is not something that comes naturally. It will feel forced at first. But don’t think that also means “I shouldn’t do it.” Not expressing yourself with your body, hands and arms looks odd and awkward. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine works with a girl who doesn’t move her arms when she walks? It just looks weird.

Let me know YOUR questions on this or on other technical skills, or share how you’ve pushed through the awkward phase of learning to express yourself! In the meantime, here’s that clip of Will Ferrell from the movie:

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. good point. something I will keep in mind for the next show!

  2. Hey Amy,

    This has actually been my #1 problem, other than moving around the actual stage. I’d love to work through it with you! I’m Italian, so have no issue talking with my hands in regular conversations. I just can’t seem to get it when I’m feeling nervous.


    • It IS a pretty common problem Phia, but put that Italian trait to work and let your hand ‘talk as well! I’d love to work one-on-one – just say the word.

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