Lost Password?

Your Songs Don’t Sound the Same

Your songs don’t sound the same, so they shouldn’t look the same!

Communication from the stage is 15% the content you bring – your words and stories and lyrics.  30% is the tone or emotion you bring it with.  But more than half of it, 55%, is what the audience SEES.

The problem with what most of us do is that the audience ends up seeing the same thing in each song; yet the content is different, the stories are different, probably the tempos in the songs are different.  But the pressure never changes.

A major disclaimer here!  This 5 minute video clip was taken by my wife at a workshop this past weekend at the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs) on her ‘not so great’ cell phone.  Thank you Shae Dupuy and band for being our guinea pigs for the workshop!!  

And so, after a while and particularly if you’re “dating” your audience, your songs will all sound the same, even though they aren’t the same.  It all LOOKS the same to your audience.

From a physical standpoint, when you stand or move, the audience’s bodies move.  Do you know how it feels to sit in one position so long you start to get sore? Well, if you move onstage, you change the pressure on the audience, they move in their seats, and they’ll feel like the time goes by quickly.

So, for all artists, but particularly for soloists with tracks or singer/songwriters with a guitar, there are five tools that are necessary to create an interesting show.  (I talk about these five tools in my DVD, Don’t Fall Off the Stage.)  This is not acting, drama, or canned performing.  It’s actually trying to keep the integrity of the songs.  Your songs don’t sound the same, so they shouldn’t look the same!

A singer/songwriter once asked me if he should do his show sitting on a stool, or if he should be walking around onstage.  It’s a great question, really.  Again: it makes me think of what I always say:

Your songs don’t sound the same, so they shouldn’t look the same!

Do you play a song with a lot of energy?  Logic tells me that your energetic song should not look like a ballad!  Conceptually, you’re creating a “movie” for your audience to see.  So if you are a director and you have an action scene, that would not look the same as a touching, romantic scene, would it?  It would be bombs blowing up, or cars going fast, or people running, or whatever.

But a touching scene would probably be done in a quiet, moonlit, intimate place.  So if you bring a song that’s an “action moment” in an intimate place, it won’t make any sense to the audience.  What they see won’t match what they hear.  Your songs don’t sound the same, so they shouldn’t look the same!

Now the audience doesn’t know you’re supposed to do something different.  But, if you do, if you bring the appropriate movement to match the message of the song, the response to that song will be drastic.

So you’ve got your five tools onstage, your placement, and your angles – it all comes back to the fundamentals.  You are the quarterback of your show.  And if the only thing you do as the quarterback is to drop back three steps and then throw the ball every time, it’ll get old.  (Plus, it’s a lot less effective!)

Your songs don’t sound the same, so they shouldn’t look the same.  You need to learn the presentation part of your show: how to change pressure on the audience, how the fundamentals work, the placement onstage.

If you knew that another place onstage was stronger to deliver a message from, or that standing or walking or using a headset, holding the mic, whatever – if you knew that would communicate your song more clearly, my guess is that you would do it.  If you just knew WHAT to do.

Sitting on a stool for a 50 minute show is pretty much reserved for someone like Bob Dylan. He’s married to his audience.  Even James Taylor, a brilliant songwriter, stands up and sits down during his concerts.

Your songs don’t sound the same, so they shouldn’t look the same!


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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Greenroom Comments

  1. As always great tips! Reminds me, i need to re-read the book again.

    Tom, question: I follow your setlist chart nearly all the time. As a solo singer/guitarist I’d like to sit for the touching moment(s) but I don’t want stop and pop, twist, clunk, and squeak the mic stand for a couple songs then do it again before a closer. If I did not a have a headset what options are there? I can only think of a tall stool.

    • Hi Randall, A tall stool is great. And, to be honest with you, when we do a complete show, we work on the transitions (these small details) in rehearsal until the artist is comfortable with them. Thanks! Tom

  2. Thank you so much for your insights! I’ve been performing for years, and am just releasing my first project. The wisdom you provide is invaluable, and you highlight so many things I have never thought of!!!

Step Up To The Microphone & Leave a Comment