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Onstage Challenges for Singer/Songwriters

Singer/songwriters have their own set of challenges when it comes to their live show.

They are usually stuck behind a microphone and an instrument, and if they’re not in a duo, they have no one to interact with onstage.

If you’re a singer/songwriter, you know what I’m talking about.

Despite these challenges, there are performance techniques and skills that you, as a singer/songwriter, need to implement in order to connect with your audience.

Connecting with your audience is vitally important to whether you are successful as a performer.  

Most of you singer/songwriters have an advantage over other performers, in that you really OWN your music.  If you’re good at your songwriting craft, the songs flow from who you are and you’re completely connected to that music.

You really “feel” the music, but communicating that “feeling” to your audience, in a way they understand, is where many of you singer/songwriters fall short.

I often tell people, as a live music producer, I’m a lot like a marriage counselor for performers. I may love my wife and have all these “feelings” for her, but if I don’t communicate that in a language she understands, our marriage is in trouble.

Audiences are the same way. It’s important to understand that when audiences come to hear you, they pay attention to different things.  Some people focus on words, some focus more on the music, some focus on the voice and some on the artist’s personality. 

A captivating show will deliver on all of these elements.

Six mistakes singer/songwriters make onstage:

1. Setting up a song using cliche phrases such as, “This song talks about…” or “I hope you like it.” 

2. Not rearranging your songs to allow your personality to come out in your show. – People come to see people, not just hear songs.

3. Making your show all about “The Song” only and not paying attention to musical dynamics – Your musical ability and dynamics are critical in delivering a song, particularly when you’re playing a complete show. (You are the band.)

4. Every one of your songs “looks” the same. – (Subtle movement can make a big difference.) For example: If you step away from the mic stand while delivering a musical part, you will change the pressure on the audience which will help them stay engaged. 

5. Not using the tools available to you to make your music and performance stronger. (Mic and mic stand technique, stool, etc.) When you sit down on a stool, the audience doesn’t expect you to “do” anything, so they pay more attention to your words. This should be used in strategic places in your show and not the entire time.

6. Singing songs, instead of creating memorable moments.  Many artists have their whole show set up as: song, talk, song, talk, song talk….. Since, each song is unique emotionally, lyrically and musically, the arrangement dynamics, vocals, and delivery of each song can be used to create memorable moments and bring out the uniqueness of each song. 

I challenge you to explore these aspects of your songs and your performances.

We would love to have you join us for our Singer/Songwriter Performance Workshop on April 21st, 2018 in Nashville.

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. Amber Ratcliff says:

    Great words! I will never forget the words of encouragement you gave me backstage at CMS 2016. Being an amateur as a singer songwriter I was a nervous wreck! You saw it. Your words were used as a light and courage seconds before stepping out on that stage to play my song. Forever grateful! Wish I lived closer to Nashville to attend your conference 🙂

  2. Yep, I feel a set should be similar to that of an album. highs and lows, soft and fast, etc. it has to flow, but smoothly and the fact that you can prolong a moment in a song or a riff to allow other things to happen really frees you to deliver a high quality performance and a memorable one at that.

  3. Awesome workshop Tom! Thanks again! Loved it when I took your class a few years ago. Hope we can work together again someday. Have a great class in April. Mike

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