Stage presence

drummingman

Gold Member
When I’m on stage I usually look pretty bored. But I’ve really been trying to improve my stage presence. But I do find it a bit difficult to not mess up my playing while trying to look more entertaining. Sadly, all of this makes me kind of get up in my head thinking about the fact that I don’t look tremendously entertaining when I play which can make enjoyment of the gig less. So I’m trying to strike a balance where I’m more engaging to watch but I’m not messing up my playing in the process and also to where I’m not overthinking all of it. This is definitely a work in progress for me because my entire playing life I’ve focused more on just playing and not so much how I looked.

Any thoughts or tips?
 
I am too, pretty focussed and not very "crowd conscious" when I play.
I guess that presence can easily be improved in between songs or during drum breaks. This is what I do, I often stand up behind the kit instead of being sat, I click the sticks up in the air, I play the bass drum stood up. Things like that.
 
I think the answer relies first on confidence in your playing and sound. If you’re competent then you tend to be in the having-fun side of things and more likely to project that automatically. How technical the music is is another element. Jazz fusion is an area where no one will care as long as the music sounds good. Your stage presence for death metal might be a formidable stick twirling double kick demon. But a dance band in a bar? That’s where it starts to apply more I think.

And your stage presence should factor in the state of engagement of the audience, and you can’t do that unless you look up and out from your playing occasionally. Of course, you also need to look like you belong there to begin with. It’s going to be harder to engage with a young crowd if you’re the 60 yo drummer playing with 30-somethings.
 
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When I’m on stage I usually look pretty bored. But I’ve really been trying to improve my stage presence. But I do find it a bit difficult to not mess up my playing while trying to look more entertaining. Sadly, all of this makes me kind of get up in my head thinking about the fact that I don’t look tremendously entertaining when I play which can make enjoyment of the gig less. So I’m trying to strike a balance where I’m more engaging to watch but I’m not messing up my playing in the process and also to where I’m not overthinking all of it. This is definitely a work in progress for me because my entire playing life I’ve focused more on just playing and not so much how I looked.

Any thoughts or tips?
I am just like you! From early VHS footage my dad took of me playing on stage, I remember how stoic and motionless my upper torso was while playing, regardless of how fast my hands were moving.

On the one hand, it makes me look a little boring to watch because I don't appear to be 'getting into the music' if you can't see my hands...but at the same time, it is a product of my strong technique and fundamentals. All of my energy and efficiency is going straight to my wrists and fingers, and my body is just a stable platform.

I think about it all the time, and have tried to work on it. Sometimes when the band is getting groovy I will bob my head back and forth, because it just comes naturally. But I need to work on using that funky body language more often.
 
I went from court sonographer to wailing helicopter twirling OTT.:oops: I found my natural self somewhere in between. I think you should just relax and be yourself. Be confident in yourself, enjoy the music and you’ll find that that has a presence all of its own. Practice in a mirror and try different things that you enjoy doing and feel natural to you. Don’t force it, don’t overthink it, but keep smashing it!:D(y)
 
Honesty aimed at directed to the job at hand is the best policy if you're sincere it'll show
 
I am too, pretty focussed and not very "crowd conscious" when I play.
I guess that presence can easily be improved in between songs or during drum breaks. This is what I do, I often stand up behind the kit instead of being sat, I click the sticks up in the air, I play the bass drum stood up. Things like that.
I was watching a performance of myself tonight, and when I try to do the theatrical stage presence kind of stuff when I’m playing it really does screw up my feel and time. So I think standing up between songs or pointing at the crowd or things like that when I’m not playing is probably the way to go for me to make sure my playing stays on point, but I’m still interacting with the crowd at least at some points during my set.

My motions when I play are also very efficient and not really big. When I play this way, it feels really good and my time is really solid, but it doesn’t look exciting. Still, I think it’s better to sound good than look good to be honest. So to try and force myself to do big motions just to look better I honestly think is not worth it even though it may be more exciting to watch. Really I think I just need to embrace my Charlie Watts vibe as far as how I look when I play and stop sweating it all so much. For some reason that’s been easier said than done for me though.
 
I am just like you! From early VHS footage my dad took of me playing on stage, I remember how stoic and motionless my upper torso was while playing, regardless of how fast my hands were moving.

On the one hand, it makes me look a little boring to watch because I don't appear to be 'getting into the music' if you can't see my hands...but at the same time, it is a product of my strong technique and fundamentals. All of my energy and efficiency is going straight to my wrists and fingers, and my body is just a stable platform.

I think about it all the time, and have tried to work on it. Sometimes when the band is getting groovy I will bob my head back and forth, because it just comes naturally. But I need to work on using that funky body language more often.
Exactly! All of my early teachers really impressed upon me efficiency of motion and no wasted energy. That’s why I’m able to play a full set with my metal band and not look like I’m dying at any point during the set. I’m always going for total relaxation. It makes for a boring performance as far as visually speaking. But my playing is always on point feel wise and time wise when I’m not overly focusing on looking like I’m into the performance. In reality, I probably just need to embrace looking like I’m bored when I’m playing and just try to interact with the crowd in between songs. Because at the end of the day sounding better when I’m playing definitely is more important than looking better at the expense of the sound.
 
I went from court sonographer to wailing helicopter twirling OTT.:oops: I found my natural self somewhere in between. I think you should just relax and be yourself. Be confident in yourself, enjoy the music and you’ll find that that has a presence all of its own. Practice in a mirror and try different things that you enjoy doing and feel natural to you. Don’t force it, don’t overthink it, but keep smashing it!:D(y)
I find that when I’m able to not overthink it that I still have a bit of natural movement physically when I’m playing and I still interact with the crowd in between songs. All the while I retain my groove and feel and time. The problem is I tend to overthink it all the time and then I end up focusing too much on trying to look like I’m having fun so that I’m entertaining to the crowd and then that screws up my playing.
 
I think the answer relies first on confidence in your playing and sound. If you’re competent then you tend to be in the having-fun side of things and more likely to project that automatically. How technical the music is is another element. Jazz fusion is an area where no one will care as long as the music sounds good. Your stage presence for death metal might be a formidable stick twirling double kick demon. But a dance band in a bar? That’s where it starts to apply more I think.

And your stage presence should factor in the state of engagement of the audience, and you can’t do that unless you look up and out from your playing occasionally. Of course, you also need to look like you belong there to begin with. It’s going to be harder to engage with a young crowd if you’re the 60 yo drummer playing with 30-somethings.
Honestly, I’m very confident in my playing when I’m not over thinking all the stage performance type stuff when it comes to looking entertaining to a crowd. It’s when I overthink the performance aspect so that I look like I’m having fun or so that I’m trying to engage with the crowd too much that I start messing up with my playing. I’m very confident in my abilities when it comes to my playing. But I know that when I play well, I’m very focused with very efficient movements that are not exciting to watch, but do sound really good in my opinion. It’s when I start trying to look physically entertaining to a crowd that my playing suffers. So it’s probably best that I just interact with the crowd in between songs and not sweat it while I’m actually playing.
 
I used to get so wrapped up in the task at hand, I almost forgot that when gigging, I'm also a performer. I also found it hard to practice my stage presence at home. For me, I found that engaging the crowd with an occasional glance (I don't need to look at my drum set when playing - mostly) and genuinely smiling, I felt I was making a connection. Don't just glance at the crowd - find somebody looking at the band or you, even better - and smile. It might be all you need.
 
Depends on the gig, how much I'm getting paid etc. I find OTT is heading into corny territory and I feel my spine curling lol.

Just be relaxed and nail the playing bit first off which is my rule of thumb, judge the crowd and the band and the crowd will feed off each other if it's a good crowd. It's genuine on both sides

There's a lot of times when all four limbs are doing something and I'm singing. There's only so much you can do then.

You can always obscure yourself behind the singer or with cymbals in worst case scenarios.
 
I try to smile when I'm playing as much as possible and make eye contact with people in the audience and other band members. Why? Because Facebook and Instagram are ALWAYS watching.

I always try my best to play like it's the last time I'll ever do it, and to enjoy it as much as I can. We don't get to do this forever.
 
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I never have time to engage the crowd while I'm playing. Too busy keeping the music going.
And herding the other cats on stage at the same time. To me, stage presence is for singers
or instrumental soloists. I rather prefer being essentially unnoticed back there.
 
That's what I try and do. Smile, and make eye contact. In our blues band I also synch up a lot performance-wise with bass player; he's very animated and moves a lot. I also try and look at who's doing a solo (tradition from jazz). These blues guys are a lotta fun to play with. We don't rehearse any moves or how we perform on stage; it just come naturally.

Here is a video of us playing at a recent blues festival, to give you an idea:
Five Long Years, Hwy 31 at Garvin Gate
 
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personally, I am pretty calm on stage b/c my hero - Neil Peart -was the same way. I grew up wanting to be like him. Even though my other faves were Nicko McBrain, Scott Rockenfield, Dave Lombardo and Charlie Benante, I just felt like that kind of over the top playing was not for me. I played in a prog metal band, and a super fast hardcore band, but still had that air of calm control.

What I found was that as I got more comfortable with executing patterns, I loosened up, and without trying, all the sudden I had stage presence, and it never looked corny/forced. Now, I was not doing stick flips and craziness like that, but I was definitely banging my head, joking with people in the audience, making faces, making fun of my mistakes etc. I loved bands who had fun interaction with the audience between songs, so I woulsd definitely ham it up with the banter inbetween.

another thing that helped me learn to perform more was the competitive marching activity, especially indoor drumline. Through the 90's, we shed our "stern face/no smiles/stare at the drum major" thing a bit, and got a little bit more involved with how what we were playing actually made us feel.

I think that if you force something, it always comes out bad. If you let it naturally evolve, it will be perceived as being better.
 
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