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How To Be A Better Performer

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

There’s nothing more uncomfortable then going to a show and feeling bad for the artist on stage. It’s the feeling you get when you are watching a 13-year-old’s piano recital, holding your breath as he clunks out the wrong notes on the brink of tears, while you hope he can just get through the song without any more mistakes and can somehow redeem himself in his own eyes.

This feeling happens far too often in “professional” performance environments. We’ve all been there: you go to a friend’s show to support him and he stops in the middle of a song because he can’t remember the lyrics or messes up a guitar part and then tries (unsuccessfully) to play it off jokingly. Maybe he’ll sing the melody “I forgot the lyrics.. la la.” Ha, Ha.

Nothing annoys me more. I’ve stopped feeling bad for these performers and now just get annoyed with them. Not because I’m an asshole, but because this is so preventable and people pay to come watch you. The old saying “how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice practice practice” should be the mantra every musician repeats 10 times in the mirror each morning.

Every time you step on stage you put yourself out there. You never know who’s watching and even if you know everyone who’s watching, you never know the power they may eventually have in music or another realm able to tremendously aid your future career.
+It Is About Who You Know

Don’t forget your lyrics. This is totally unacceptable and I don’t understand why singers think it’s ok and play it off so flippantly. Definitely don’t ever stop a song. Get through it. I am the worst at remembering lyrics – mine or covers. I literally have to print off my lyrics and study them for days before I can memorize a song and then I have to play that song over and over again until it feels natural and comfortable.

Don’t ever step on stage unprepared. Not at an open mic; not at a talent show, not at a songwriters showcase and especially not at show where your name is on the bill. The stage is not a time for you to “see how it goes” or to practice. Rehearse on your own time. To feel the most comfortable for a performance don’t just get the musical aspect of your show perfect. Rehearse how you’re going to perform. Stand in front of a mirror and play your guitar, bass, keys, sing, whatever. You have to look good while on stage. You have to be entertaining while performing. The style of music you play will determine the kind of visual performance you need to give; practice that. If you do it enough it will feel natural to you and look natural to the audience.
+Does This Mustache Make My Ass Look Fat

Practice what you’re going to say in between songs. I don’t rehearse this much anymore or have to worry about it too much because I’ve performed over 500 shows and have this down, but you better believe I rehearsed stories and jokes in the mirror and wrote notes on my set lists for what I was going to say in between songs. Even now I sometimes come up with “safety stories” in the shower or on the drive to the show just in case the crowd sucks and doesn’t give me much energy to play off of in between songs I and need to pull these stories out.

Rehearse in the outfit that you’re going to perform in. For my DVD filming I bought a kick ass sport coat. One of the coolest pieces of clothing I own. I didn’t rehearse in the coat and during the performance buttons on the cuff of the right arm slapped my acoustic guitar every time I strummed and created unwanted percussive noises that were so noticeable that I had to go into the studio and redo some guitar parts to cover this up. I also learned the hard way that I can’t operate my loop pedal in boots. That was a fun show.

I understand that in the beginning, performing won’t feel that natural and you’ll be nervous. But if you prepare, you’ll be less nervous and will have nothing to worry about – except possibly tripping while walking off stage.
+Technical difficulties ARE your fault

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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