If you are learning to play a musical instrument, improving your singing voice, or you are already an accomplished musician, you probably want someday to perform your music before a live audience. Such live performances may take the form of a solo (one performer only), or with a band or ensemble, or with a large orchestra.
Keep in mind that the audience watching you perform live is impacted not only by the music you play, but also your visual appearance. Imagine this: suppose a heavy metal rock guitarist was performing live, playing music that energizes the audience to cheering, fist-pumping, and jumping up and down, but the performer doesn't seem to be enjoying the music at all. The guitarist stands like a sorrowful statue, seemingly oblivious to the emotion and activity in the crowd. If the performer maintained this solemn posture, song after song, after an hour or so, do you believe the audience would continue to enjoy the performance? Not likely. An audience watching a statue perform music is hardly different than watching a photograph of a musician while listening to his or her recorded music.
So, this lesson will help you with techniques that will improve your visual appearance to audiences while playing live.
Every type of successful music performer has their own specific visual appearance, which of course is influenced by the type of music they are performing. For example, classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma will exhibit quite a different demeanor on stage than will metal drummer Lars Ulrich. If the former were to let out a blood-curdling scream in the middle of a song, audiences would be shocked; if the latter did so, it would be completely within the boundaries of expected behavior.
So let's consider which type of music you play, and start to explore how you might improve your visual appearance to live audiences.
Rock music is typically expressed by a 4/4 beat, delivered by a rhythm section composed of percussion and bass guitar, along with guitar(s) and/or keyboards. Since the 1950's rock music has been intended to motivate the listener to dance, to feel animate, and to be inspired to a cause or a theme that the performer wishes to convey.
Heavy metal rock performers tend to model a certain appearance, which may include:
- Black clothing, leather clothing
- Metal (often silver or chrome) accents (buttons, spikes)
- Unkempt or radical hairstyles, often long, or unconventionally cut
- Painful-looking body piercings
- Ghoulish make-up or face paint
- Religious iconography or symbols
- Large boots
- Instruments (especially electric guitars) that are shaped or cut with sharp angles, sometimes looking like medieval weapons
- Very loud volume, everything electrically amplified (it is rare for a heavy metal band to perform "acoustic" sets)
Progressive or Glam rock genres are typically characterized by highly-proficient technical abilities of the musicians, coupled with "over the top" dramatic sets and costumes that help to convey the stories within the music, often in visually bombastic ways. For example, such performances will often include:
- Capes and robes worn my performers
- "Black light", kaleidoscopic, and laser lighting effects
- Fog effects (dry ice or oil vapor)
- Dramatic contrast between soft (piano) and loud (forte) portions in the music