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I Don’t Want to Look Hokey!

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius

“Thinking” when you are onstage can cause a lot of problems.  In fact, it’s one of the quickest ways to lose your audience!

Casey Hooper, currently the guitarist on tour for Katy Perry. (Photo courtesy of BlondeINK)

You need to forget about yourself when you’re on the stage.  So, if you’re thinking about things like: “Do I lift my arm?”, “Do I walk over here?”, “Is that person in the audience looking at me funny?”, then you’re doing the wrong thing.

One of the things that will happen when you’re “thinking” onstage is that whatever you do can look a little too canned.  Maybe even downright hokey.  If you are thinking about what you’re doing and where you’re moving, then it will be uncomfortable for you and it will look stilted to your audience.

One of a musician’s biggest fears is to have a canned show.  No one wants to look hokey, cheesy, and be part of a show where everything is so planned and canned it’s not believable.

So when I meet a musician for the first time, and they don’t understand my Live Music Method – that it’s creative and brings out the uniqueness of the artist – sometimes they run the other way!

It’s too bad, because they are missing out on concepts and fundamentals that would help them make their show exactly what they want: to carve their own niche, separate themselves from the pack, raise their show to the next level.

If you hone your onstage craft through wood-shedding, repetition, learning and developing these concepts, that’s exactly what will happen.

You can tell when you’ve gotten to the place where you are past the problem of thinking onstage.  Because all of a sudden you’ll realize that it’s much easier to be spontaneous!

After you’ve done some wood-shedding, learned the fundamentals, done some planning, and rehearsed a lot – that’s when you begin to feel comfortable with yourself onstage.  You’ve gotten the important stuff into your head, and then you’ve gone over and over it until it feels good.

And after you really start to “feel it” instead of “think it,” then you’ll begin to own what you’re doing.  Now you’re no longer thinking about it, trying to find it – you’re completely owning it.  And that’s where spontaneity is able to come in; that’s when you can go to the next place.

The perfect example of this is Bono. The one thing he doesn’t need help with is “who he is.”  He has so much authority onstage, he’s not thinking about himself.

If you go back to the history of that group and see what really made them unique — Bono was the key.  He would take chances.  And he couldn’t be self-conscious and still take those chances that got them to where they are.

So work on the fundamentals until you don’t feel self-conscious.  And stop thinking onstage!

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. Thanks Tom for another great article, honestly I like seeing your emails flood my inbox because I know each piece has some nugget in them.
    I like the opening quote from Confucius, especially the part that says “Success depends upon previous preparation,” earlier in my musical journey I felt less confident on stage, then I realized this happens anytime I felt and was less prepared.
    Also, I personally think temperaments play a role in this issue of “thinking on stage” some are more analytical while others are more expressive. The expressive temperament will turn to warm up quickly and be entertainment oriented whiles the analytic will like to break things down and analyze why he has to do them.
    So my point is depending on which temperament a person is heavily leaning on, by nature will have that habit even if they are musically inclined.
    Being aware and dealing with this during rehearsals (practice) will go a long way to even this out and add more emotional content to one’s performance.

  2. Another great topic yet again! perfect example of what Tom means about Bono is US festival 1983. He climbed the rigging high above the 100,000+ crowd. That’s making a statement!

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