smiling woman holding microphone while displaying engaging on-stage body language“You take control of yourself, your material, and the situation, and then listeners place themselves willingly in your hands.”
The Musician’s Way,
p. 179

Performing arts reach their zenith in the magical interaction between artist and audience.

It’s crucial, therefore, that aspiring performers cultivate on-stage habits, especially body language habits, that heighten their artistic connections with listeners.

In fact, researchers have proven that a musician’s body language profoundly impacts an audience’s perceptions and judgments of the performer.*

Nonetheless, I’ve found that many rising musicians haven’t refined their on-stage gestures, facial expressions, and movements.

This post, therefore, presents six fundamentals to help musicians gain command of their body language. See Part II of The Musician’s Way for additional, comprehensive performance guidelines.

“Researchers have proven that a musician’s body language profoundly impacts an audience’s perceptions and judgments of the performer.”

6 Tips to Improve On-Stage Body LanguageThe Musician's Way Book Cover

1. Project Positivity

When you first step on stage, smile, move confidently, and show listeners that there’s no place else you’d rather be. Even if things go awry, uphold your positive attitude, demeanor, and facial expressions.

2. Open Wide

Broadened shoulders, open arms, and a lengthened spine convey warmth and ease.

3. Move with the Music

Embody the music in ways that fit your personality and genre, avoiding extremes of either immobility or gesticulation.

4. Take Your Time

Handle on-stage logistics efficiently but unhurriedly. When you move equipment, such as music or mic stands, maintain your at-ease demeanor.

5. Make Eye Contact

Whenever you speak, as well as before and after bowing, look at people in various sections of your audience so that listeners sense that you’re speaking to them.

Photo of Zoom Q4n Video Recorder

Zoom Q4n Video/Audio Recorder

6. Practice and Record

Arrange periodic practice performances, and be sure to video-record. Afterward, evaluate your body language in your videos, and take notes. Also request feedback from colleagues and mentors.

With regular practice, your on-stage body language will become an expression of your best self, fueling both your artistic and professional success.

*For examples of research showing the effects of on-stage body language during music performances, see the following articles:

  • “The Look of Music,” Harvard Gazette, Aug. 19, 2013
  • “Eye of the Beholder: Stage Entrance Behavior and Facial Expression Affect Continuous Quality Ratings in Music Performance,” Frontiers of Psychology, April 25, 2017

Related posts:
3 Elements of Showmanship
Assessing Your Performance Skills
The Essence of Stage Presence
Stage Power

© 2017 Gerald Klickstein
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