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Talking to the audience

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by Corbeau, Aug 26, 2012.


  1. Corbeau

    Corbeau

    Dec 14, 2011
    Australia
    I know that it's important to engage the audience while at a gig, but I'm finding pretty hard right now. I find it hard enough as it is to look up from the microphone or my instrument at the audience, let alone say a few words. Today, I had to push myself to say things like "hello", my band name, and "thanks". I'm supposed to be the front person because I'm the singer as well, so I feel like I'm the representative of the band and I have to say a few words here and there.

    I guess it's partly [at least] because I'm a fairly introverted person, so I find talking to people I don't know difficult. Especially if it's a room full of strangers :ninja:. However, I know that it's not good stagecraft, so any tips would be appreciated.
     
  2. f.c.geil

    f.c.geil

    May 12, 2011
    First try: If you're introverted and/or shy and/or have stage fright, it's often easier to view it from the carny standpoint, the people in the audience aren't "people," they're marks whose only purpose is to bleed money. If they aren't people, then they shouldn't affect your stage fright.

    Second try: imagine that they are all in their underwear. By removing their armor like that, they aren't such a threat to you, and it's easier to engage them.

    Third try: have three friends or family members come to your shows. Have them spread out, and engage only them with your eyes. This way, you are talking to your friends, and your performance will take on a very personable mien.

    Fourth try: have another band member be the MC. If you're singing and playing bass, then you're already giving a lot, let someone else do the talking.
     
  3. I am exactly the same with people. I find it very difficult to talk to individuals and, while large groups are more daunting, they're a bit less embarassing when you know what you're doing.

    I've only been doing bass for a month or two and have only performed once (this was pre-bass being forced by my music teacher) so it'll be different for music. But I have done a lot of stage acting through school so I can give you some tips that might carry over.

    - Firstly, you are a character on stage. When you are there, you are not Cory Beaumont (making up a name here) but Corbeau!, lead singer and bassist for a rock band. Get into that mentality and you'll find your individual problems lessened.

    - Secondly, yes you will look stupid if you say something silly. But you will look even stupider if you shy away from it. That saying something silly, you can easily take it in your stride and come back from. Act as if that was what you meant to do. The audience can't know. But if you don't even try then they're not going to get anything from you.

    - I read that one of the singers in 'The Bangles' used a technique to overcome stagefright where she'd make eye contact with random members of the audience and she'd feel calmer. May not work in your situation but worth a go.

    - From what I've read here, audiences don't like too much talking but a little relevant humour and banter in between songs marks the difference between a live show of music from an awesome band from background music that may have been from a CD if anyone cared

    - Another good tip that my play director for the past 5 years has said about energy that can be translated into stage confidence as well, I think. 'You need energy on stage. If you have no energy, fake it and the audience won't know.' Act as if you don't care what they think and you'll find that you won't and they'll like you a lot more.

    Hope all this helps and let me know how you're next gig goes. Don't tell your band, though. I want to see their reaction to you suddenly being Mr Cool and pally with the mic.
     
  4. I just realised you're a fellow Aussie! Whereabouts are you from?
     
  5. jordak

    jordak

    Apr 7, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Most of the places I've played before, I can't recognize anyone's faces beyond the people right in front of the stage. The entire room is too dark except for the stage area. I was just curious as to the situation here.
     
  6. All good suggestions here.

    In a past band our singer was quite introvert so our drummer (outgoing extrovert but lousy singer) did all the talking. It worked very well.

    What I have noticed about our current frontman (also quite introvert) is that he says almost the same things every night so if you have a few stock lines and deliver one every few songs that is usually enough unless you need to introduce each song. The songs we play are mostly standards so require little or no introduction.

    When I am going to sing my first song he always says something like "I'd like to pass you over to a friend of mine to sing the next song but he couldn't come so Fred will have to sing it instead.
     
  7. Bard2dbone

    Bard2dbone

    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    Auto-pilot statements are your friends. Come up with things you know you'll have to say each time and practice them (when you are SURE you are alone) until the whole phrase sort of falls out of your mouth in one piece. That way you can say them without thinking about it, so it won't matter if you are feeling nervous. Mildly cheesy is okay. REALLY cheesy is to be avoided if possible. And be aware that one that's mildly cheesy now could get lets more so after time.

    To introduce the band I'd always start with: "I'm going to introduce the guys onstage because it would take too long to introduce all of you." and to take a break I would use: "We're going to take a five minute break for fifteen minutes and be back in half an hour."

    Clearly both of these are much more difficult for lactose intolerant people now. But twenty years ago, they went over great.
     
  8. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Several good suggestions, IMO/IME, about having some stock lines that you're comfortable with.

    And once you've done a bit of the stage patter, it won't be so daunting. First time is the hard time, IOW.

    As for picturing the audience in underwear, well...for me it would be a bit distracting, in some cases.

    Like these cases. ;)
     
  9. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Depending on the type of band, I think talking on stage is highly overrated.
     
  10. Raymeous

    Raymeous

    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    I like that third suggestion of planting some friends in the audience to 'talk to".

    I realize that a lot of times it's hard to talk to the audience because you simply can't think of something to say. How about you start building up your comfort level by talking about the song. Instead of just introducing it by the title alone, maybe a quick comment or two on what the songs about? I wouldn't do a intro for every song, but then again if your band is running low on material it might be a good way to fill your set a little and let the folks get to know you a bit.

    This is another one of those things that you can practice that people seldom do. Next rehearsal when going through your set plug in when and where your "chat with the fans" part comes in. These are great for guitar/bass changes or when something goes out of whack and needs to be retuned.

    Here's an example from an Iron Maiden concert I went to a few weeks ago. This is not my vid but I remembered that this intro fits your topic. Oh it also proves that even pros can hit a bum note so don't worry about the small mistakes.



    I hope this helps and good luck. :bassist:



    "Up the Irons!"
     
  11. bassfran

    bassfran

    Mar 1, 2012
    Chicago
    Endorsing artist: Lakland basses
    I agree with this- it will engage the audience more when different band members speak during the show.

    Be confident and clear in your stage patter as well. It may seem cheesy but if you run your practices more like a dress rehearsal it will become second nature at your shows.
     
  12. JohnMCA72

    JohnMCA72

    Feb 4, 2009
    Another thing to consider is eliminating most of the "dead air" moments on stage between songs by working up transitions between them. If there aren't as many gaps to fill, you won't need as much gap-filler material.
     
  13. Mike11121

    Mike11121

    Sep 17, 2007
    Bali
    Funny - I do that with cute girls in the front row every night, but it's got nothing to do with vocals. Now I can tell my wife it's just my way of combating stage-fright. Thanks man!
     
  14. Corbeau

    Corbeau

    Dec 14, 2011
    Australia
    Thanks everyone! Lots of great tips here. My band has a gig on Friday, so I'll try some of the suggestions out.

    My drummer would sometimes cue me in on talking to the crowd. Like, for our first gig, he kept telling me to tell the crowd what the name of the next song was, but I found it really difficult to even do that. Hopefully I'll be able to say more to the crowd on Friday!

    ETA: Oh yeah, I'm in Perth :)
     
  15. Ah, shame about Perth. I would have liked to come and see how you got on. Let us know anyhow :)
     
  16. the Arsonaut

    the Arsonaut

    Aug 27, 2012
    As a constant (forced) member of an audience (i work at a club), here's some observations:

    Most importantly, like a singing voice, find a stage voice. And for sanity's sake, leave it onstage. This is what gives you the presence and clarity to make such stark declarations that leave a crowd breathless, like "We have t-shirts over there" or "Would the owner of a red ford please move your car, it's on fire"

    Find something worth saying. Script it, if you must. It's not a lot of fun to hear "we have CDs" 5 times in a 45 minute set. Introduce yourselves. Make mention of merch/website (once). Thank the crowd (at the end). If you have more than those 3 occasions to speak during a set...write something.

    Write your entire set. I've seen acts, where guitars are tuning (silently) while bass & drums are building on a groove, and the singer thanks the opener, introduces the band, and launches into their show.

    Tell an audience what you want to. It's not chatter, and it doesn't have to be schmoozing. It's important to be Engaging with an audience, in some form. But that engagement must reflect your band.
    It would be cool if you could let everyone take part, but what if you are the designated 'crowd engager' because the drummer is a foulmouthed beast, and you're the featured entertainer at disneyland? I'd say, Awesome.
     
  17. On audience engagement: a crowd is generally only as smart as it's dumbest/ drunkest person. Especially if they are digging your sound, you can even have fun: tell them to clap it up, dance a jig, waves their arms around, etc.

    Don't abuse the power :)

    Peace,
    Greg
     
  18. stagebanter

    stagebanter

    May 12, 2012
    I do most of the talking to the crowd during our sets and it works out great. I have years of improv comedy training/experience as well as other "stage time" apart from being a musician, so it comes naturally to me, and there are a lot of things that I've noticed that really help me.

    1. The first rule of improv is "no blocking" - that means you can't reject or shut down someone else's idea or "gift". This extends to your stage banter too. If you are talking about next week's show or something and someone starts talking over you - even if it's the drunkest guy in the audience - go with it. Don't engage him, just smooth it out.

    Example: last week I was talking about the updated schedule we posted on our website during our last set of the night and someone in the audience started yelling drunkenly about our Internet presence or some other stupid stuff. I instantly recalled a line I'd heard someone spit at a rap show the previous week - "OMG, you look better on your Facebook" - so I said it into the mic and everyone cracked up and the audience was under my control once again. The illusion was preserved and I was able to finish my little rap about our schedule, thank the audience, tell them to buy shirts, and launch back into the set - and they loved it.

    2. All blanket statements are false, including this one. Different audiences like different things, and what works in some places may really surprise you. In general, though, the audience needs to see you having fun in order to have fun. And remember, if you feel uncomfortable looking at the crowd - they might feel just as uncomfortable looking at you. Smile, maybe even wave, put them at ease.

    Related: Eye contact is very tricky to pull off. From a biological standpoint, eye contact within our species is seen as confrontational and sometimes sexual depending on the context. But you can say a lot with your eyes. A great example of this is the guitar player in the band Lotus. If you ever go to a Lotus show, watch him. At some point he will make eye contact with you and play a little lick and you'll feel like he's saying with his eyes, "this next note is just for you, my friend," and you'll feel an instant personal connection with the band. But, in general, if you can relate to your audience and become their friend, they will get into your show and you will reap the benefits.

    3. Relate to your audience! People will seriously pay more attention to you if they realize that you're just like them. Last month we had a gig at a pub that plays host to an older crowd (everyone in my band is in their 20s) and I heard a lot of grumbling as we were setting up - "great, I get a headache to go with dinner" etc. etc. Well, rather than launch into our hip-hoppy original set, we started the evening off with Miles Davis, Frank Seals, etc. - music that we knew would meet the tables in the room "where they live" - and I talked about the music in between tunes, too, to let the audience know that I was just as interested in it as they were. This really pricked up people's ears and they blessed us with tips as they were leaving...and then the younger crowd poured in and we got to start our bump-n-grind set. Everybody won that night.

    Related: You are not "better" than your audience. Don't hold them in contempt - they will KNOW, and they will shut you out. You can feel someone's energy even if they don't say a word. In fact, you basically work for your audience, since you are there to entertain them and they are paying your way that evening...so humble yourself. It's bad enough when real "rock stars" act like rock stars - does your bar band really need to behave that way too? Smile, be warm, and make sure your audience knows that you are there to entertain them, you're excited about it, and you want to be friends.

    4. People will drink and then someone might heckle you. Refer to number one, no blocking. You can ignore it, you can roll it up into your banter, whatever - but 90% of the time a confrontation, while it might be satisfying, will change the dynamics of your set and will alienate people other than just the heckler. You are not a stand-up comic, you are a band and people need to feel comfortable if they're going to dance and put bread in your jar.

    I'll think of more stuff later.
     
  19. icecycle66

    icecycle66

    Feb 4, 2009
    Arizona
    Buckethead can teach great lessons in crowd interaction. You can't see where he is looking and he doesn't say a word, but he is the most interactive artist I've ever seen.
     

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