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Posts tagged ‘singing on stage’

Physical Performance for Singers – PART II – the “how”

 When the spoken word begins to fall short, a performer launches into song (or dance) that takes the level of expression to a whole new place.    The same way music is an important part of contemporary dance, movement is an important part of contemporary music. 

Here are some simple tips for improving your physical performance when singing.

Watch your feet and knees.  We all learned in jr. high choir not to lock our knees or we risk passing out, but planting your  feet can also make you look stiff on stage.  When you look stiff, it can make your audience nervous on your

Strong vs. Stiff

 behalf.  Often, a performer with feet glued to a single spot on the floor has also locked their knees.  

Don’t be fooled, guys, into thinking a stiff posture looks masculine… “disciplined” maybe, but not masculine when performing.  Not sure how many praise songs call for a posture of discipline, but hey, maybe you can use it some day.

With the lower body stagnant, when the tempo is up and the performer wants to move, the only place for that movement to go is in the upper body. 

Bobbing birds plant their feet and lock their knees.

The “knee locker” may bend and straighten repeatedly at the waist – which combined with no movement in the lower body makes the performer look like one of those bobbing bird toys that dips its beak in water over and over. 

The solution?  Simply try putting one foot slightly in front of the other.  Feet shoulder width apart.  Make a conscious effort to move your feet once in a while and keep your knees loose.  This may feel (and look) awkward at first,  but it’s a step in the right direction.  Get it?  Snort!

Resist the temptation to repeat a footwork pattern for the whole song.  Step touch, step touch, step touch… somebody SAVE ME from step touch, step touch!

Next,  watch your hands.  Stiff hands with fingers spread wide is called “jazz hands” and it’s hard to imagine a time when sustaining that gesture for more than a beat or two would be appropriate for praise music. 

Careful with the jazz hands


Similarly, watch the ballet hands. 

Careful with the ballet hands

This may be beautiful when dancing Swan Lake, but it looks artificial on a singer.

Solution?  Relax the hands completely.

Relax your hands.

Shake them out to relieve tension and hold them slightly cupped like a choir conductor or contemporary dancer.  Even when raised above the head, a relaxed, slightly cupped hand looks great.  You can use this hand position when keeping time by slapping your thigh to the beat (don’t flick your wrists), when “fake clapping” with a microphone in one hand, when raising your hands in praise, or just standing still wondering what to do with your hands.  When in doubt, relax into conductor hands.

The angle of your chin matters.  Hold your chin too high (head tilted too far back) and you look arrogant, not praise-filled. 


Not this.

When your chin is tilted down the temptation will be to cast our eyes down at the floor.  Do that and the audience looses all the expression on your face.

downcast eyes. distraction? shame? an otherwise neutral expression changes dramatically with downcast eyes.

If your chin is down and your eyes are elevated, you risk looking flirtatious at best and slightly insane or evil at worst. 

the cast of the head and the angle of the eyes are important

Subtle differences in th angle of your hands send very different non-verbal messages.

Without honest feedback, we might not really know how we are perceived.

click to enlarge

And wanna know the clincher?  There is no set formula for how a particular gesture will look on every person.  The same or very similar hand position may work perfectly for one performer and not at all for another.  So what do you do?  Find someone you trust to give you feedback and welcome their feedback like a gift!  (Proverbs 25:12)  That someone might also be your mirror or a video camera.  If your church records services on video, watch the playback of your performance with an eye toward improving your technique. 

Lastly, be patient with yourself and the others on your praise team.  It can take a while to learn how to get what you feel to match up with your stage presence.  Make small changes and try to make every performance a little better than the last.  Remember, God wants you to be FREE!  Relax and worship!  Loosen up!  Try “going big” at rehearsal one night… people will probably tell you they LOVE the way you worship God!  Believe that, trust that, and serve with your WHOLE SELF! 

hugs, v-


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