Our singing students are gearing up to perform on 27 June – at our first studio concert since 2019! So, now is a good time to take a look at the elements of performance and how to make it as fun, engaging and rewarding as possible.
For these tips, I’ve drawn on one of my favourite resources, The Performer’s Voice: Realizing Your Vocal Potential (2006: W. W. Norton & Company) by US voice consultant, the late Meribeth Bunch Dayme.
Performing well in anything requires preparation. And for singing, together with regular singing lessons and rehearsal, observing others also helps you learn and prepare.
Watch your favourite performers and consider what you like most about their performance style. It could be their slow manner (Tony Bennett); the way they play with a song and use their energy (Ella Fitzgerald, Dianna Reeves, Bobby McFerrin, Kurt Elling, Audra MacDonald, Bruno Mars); the simplicity of sung words matching their body movements (Barbara Bonney, Sia, Emma Pask).
Overall, are you absorbed in the message of the song via the singer’s performance?
Practising your delivery of a song matters as much as perfecting your vocal technique itself. Visualisation and mindset are critical here to create space for positive thoughts, confidence and imagining yourself performing well. As Meribeth Bunch Dayme advised: “We all carry a suitcase of attitudes and preconceived ideas of how we need to function in a variety of situations, including performance. If we practice replacing negative thoughts with thoughts such as, ‘I want to be here’, we … encourage an atmosphere of openness, sharing, energy … both on a subconscious and conscious level.”
The following visual feedback and visualisation ideas can help in your practice. A quiet space is best for these:
Whether you’re singing to three listeners or 300, you need to convince them your performance is for a reason. Being genuinely interested in and engaged with the subject matter of your song is vital for this.
And leave room for mistakes, because each performance will be different to how you have practised it. Nerves can play a part, as does memory. You are more likely than your audience to be concerned by a mixed word, a repeated phrase or a slight jumble of vowels, so keep going, doing your best.
Simply standing on a stage and singing a song does not make for a compelling performance, no matter how good you sound. How you inhabit your space and the character of your song are what truly move an audience. This is presence, which can encompass the following attributes:
While individual eye contact is not necessary a 180-degree slow scan of the room is effective, in relation to the song content and shows you acknowledge your audience.
Choreographed hand gestures can be effective, but too many, or short, sharp hand movements are distracting. Often, it is better to let the words of the song do the work, without excessive hand gestures.
Fine-tuning these performance elements means you can relax and enjoy the actual experience. On the day, make sure you acknowledge your accompanist and other collaborators, too. The applause from the audience will be your reward, acknowledging the work you have all done leading up to this moment.
Want to perfect your performance skills? An Opus Package of 10 lessons with expert singing teacher Kathleen Connell helps you work towards specific performance goals. Get in touch.