Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

Twitter Facebook Instagram
Subscribe Pinterest Flickr
My other social media.
Search the Filk FAQ
Login
I'm Bored Bonus Page
Downloads
I'm Sad
« What is a Toastmaster? | Main | How do I get a turn in the filk circle? »
Tuesday
Apr102007

Any stage etiquette tips for performers?

Survey: Any tips for performers re: stage etiquette? Please post your answer at the bottom of this page, and I'll integrate it into this FAQ page.



From Tim Ryan:

Know when and were your concert is. If the program book looks like nothing is happening afterward, do not take advantage of it--go into the room with full knowledge of what will take you and the audience to get out of the room on time. It may be committed to something else not in the programming book, be it additional programming or room set-up.

Keep track of time yourself. Be it from a watch, cell-phone, or whatever. Buy a $15 watch or timer if you need one you can see on stage, keep it in your case if you have no other use for it. Or arrange for one person to flash you how many minutes left before the end.

Take personal responsibility for getting things back on time. This is more important for general conventions than say filk cons, or a con where a room is dedicated for filking. Even then, check with your Filk Host (or programming person) if they need you to shorten your concert.

Include time for your take-down. You generally know how long this is. This includes getting your adoring audience out and heading to their next event.

From Dave Weingart:

"Be prepared for your set. Know what songs you’re going to play, in what order, and about how long they take.

Practice. Practice lots. A friend of mine has a sign up at his place: 'An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he can’t get it wrong.' The very best thing you can do is be prepared. Practice your onstage banter, practice the songs, practice your timing, practice your body language."

From Mark Berstein:

"Everything Dave said, plus:

Have a written set list, or a binder containing the words and/or music in order of performance. That way, you never lose track of what’s next.

To expand on 'practice your banter', know in advance what you’re going to say in introducing a piece. It doesn’t have to be memorized, just a mental outline.

Speaking of memorization, memorizing your songs, poems, stories, etc., is a Very Good Thing. It allows you to focus on the audience. (You may still want to have words in front of you, just in case, but refer to them as little as possible.)

Sing for yourself and the audience, not the tape. If the recording sounds good, that’s a bonus, but not the primary concern.

Never, ever, apologize in advance. Don’t talk about how you have a cold, or your guitar is being temperamental, or anything that carries a whiff of 'This isn’t going to be any good, and here’s why.' Just relax and have fun, and the audience will, too.

If you make a mistake, keep going. Do not stop and restart the song unless everything is so screwed up that you have no choice. Guaranteed, 95% of the audience won’t notice, remember, or care about that bad note or dropped line."

From Christine Hintermeyer:

"I’m terribly sorry to say that, but: don’t apologise!!! ;o)

The audience is there to enjoy a show. They will tolarate many things short of a good show. But the more professional you’re about it the more you’ll really entertain your audience. Every minute you’re not singing/playing or tell them something funny is a minute they’re more likely to be bored and it’s wasted stage time for both parties involved.

So:

- don’t apologise; smile and sing!

- don’t explain the background of a song in more than one main sentence - if I haven’t read the book I don’t want a summary of it now; have trust in your song and that the perfomance will carry the entertainment; have you ever heard Queen explain what’s the meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody? No one understands that song. No one’s complaining either. This is REALLY important advice for people who write role playing songs. Trust me: we don’t want to know ANYthing else but what you’ll give us IN the song!

:o)"

From John O'Halloran:

"If the con has provided sound reenforcement, ie: mics and a pa system…

If at all possible let the sound crew know in advance what your technical needs are or explain what you’ll be doing on stage.

'Just me and my acustic' are enough if it’s just you.

'Vocal and guitar plug-in. On my 3rd song, I drum' helps with change ups.

'3 backup singers, a back up guitar player and a electric piano' are definitly things to say in advance.

Be polite, but firm if their fussing is bothering you. 'Please stop adjusting the mic, I’m not settled yet.' The mics should be set to how you perform, not you change to use the mics.

However, once you start, don’t suddenly step 2 paces back and 1 to the side either. (Yes, that has happened.)

If you don’t know how to sing into a mic, let the crew know. They can set the mics and the levels to be unobtrusive, yet still give you good sound.

Ignore the equipment and sing to your audience."

From Mich:

"Like these! A few quick thoughts:

* During the set, don’t lose your temper with, or be rude to, the other performers on stage with you, the tech crew, or anyone else helping you make your set happen. Doing a set is a privilege and a joy, not a right, as is any help you’re getting. If you do it at no other times, from the moment you step on stage for your pre-set sound-check, be professional and courteous. To do otherwise reflects badly on you.

* During the set, don’t get angry with yourself. Even if you’re seething inside about missing the instrumental you’d been working on for months because your fingers unexpectedly turned to bananas, force yourself to be unconcerned while on the stage. The audience picks up on anger and, in the UK, makes them embarrassed and want to be somewhere else!

* Give the tech crew what they need ahead of time. e.g. set list. If they want you for sound-check, even if it means you miss something cool, turn up. They’re doing this to help you. Be gracious. Help them.

* Don’t diva. Unless you’ve been told by the concom ahead of time, never assume that you are allowed to over-run. If the concom express any concern about letting you over-run e.g. if you say “do I have time for one more?” and they say “um, not really” or frown, then stop, smile and thank everyone, and get off the stage. The audience will cope. The concom gave you the set. Don’t kick ‘em in the face.

* Without doing a awards speech, give credit where it’s due. (I’m guilty sometimes of being so caught up in the moment that I forget to say who wrote the songs we’re playing, so I need to factor this into my banter…) And thank the audience at the end - they took time out to hear you. “Thanks very much for listening; hope you enjoyed the set - we really did - see you later!”

Stage performing - we LOVES it!

Mich x"

From Gary McGath:

"Keep an eye on your time as you come to the end of your set. Don’t come to the end of your time with a weak piece and then say, “Oh, there’s this piece which I REALLY wanted to end with; can I have just five more minutes?” Plan in advance which pieces in your set list you can drop if you don’t have enough time, and always make your next-to-last song droppable."

From Rick Hewett:

"If your set is really complicated and involves lots of tech adjustment then arrange an ahead-of-time sound-check with the tech crew. Make sure you have a song-by-song who-sings/plays-what list for them to follow, including a clear title for each song and an indication of which one(s) you might drop if time runs short. That way, the techies stand a chance, and re-arrangement during the set will go more smoothly. Of course, it will help if you plan your set with tech adjustments in mind too… ;)"

From Bill Sutton:

"What they said.

Christine Lavin has excellent tips for performing songwriters at http://www.christinelavin.com/tips.html - many of these apply well to general stage etiquette.

One thing I would emphasize is to reduce the amount of talk between songs to a minimum that fits with your personality. If your performing persona depends on telling stories and bantering with the audience, include your talk time in calculating the length of your set list."

From Steve Savitzky:

"Never explain! Never apologize!

Well, hardly ever. But if a song can’t stand on its own without a lengthy explanation, consider setting the explanation to music, unless storytelling is part of your act. In that case, rehearse your intro as intensively as you do your songs.

At a venue like a filk convention, with short concert slots and a tight schedule, there’s often no opportunity for a proper sound-check. Consider setting up microphones and a monitor speaker in your rehearsal space, and figuring out the tech before-hand.

Make sure one or two of your songs are easily dropped, and know exactly how long you need for your finale. (Gary says “next-to-last song”, but sometimes you’ll have two or three that go together.) Have an extra song in reserve just in case you have time for it. Don’t laugh — it can happen!

Sometimes you can arrange things with the preceding or following act to make for a smoother transition — this is especially true if there’s some overlap in the performers. Be sure to warn the Toastmaster, and use their introduction to get yourselves sorted out.

Don’t just practice the songs — practice the stuff between the songs, too."


Other suggestions?

Reader Comments (12)

Be prepared for your set. Know what songs you're going to play, in what order, and about how long they take.

Practice. Practice lots. A friend of mine has a sign up at his place: "An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he can't get it wrong." The very best thing you can do is be prepared. Practice your onstage banter, practice the songs, practice your timing, practice your body language.

April 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDave Weingart

Everything Dave said, plus:

Have a written set list, or a binder containing the words and/or music in order of performance. That way, you never lose track of what's next.

To expand on "practice your banter", know in advance what you're going to say in introducing a piece. It doesn't have to be memorized, just a mental outline.

Speaking of memorization, memorizing your songs, poems, stories, etc., is a Very Good Thing. It allows you to focus on the audience. (You may still want to have words in front of you, just in case, but refer to them as little as possible.)

Sing for yourself and the audience, not the tape. If the recording sounds good, that's a bonus, but not the primary concern.

Never, ever, apologize in advance. Don't talk about how you have a cold, or your guitar is being temperamental, or anything that carries a whiff of "This isn't going to be any good, and here's why." Just relax and have fun, and the audience will, too.

If you make a mistake, keep going. Do not stop and restart the song unless everything is so screwed up that you have no choice. Guaranteed, 95% of the audience won't notice, remember, or care about that bad note or dropped line.

April 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark Bernstein

I'm terribly sorry to say that, but: don't apologise!!! ;o)

The audience is there to enjoy a show. They will tolarate many things short of a good show. But the more professional you're about it the more you'll really entertain your audience. Every minute you're not singing/playing or tell them something funny is a minute they're more likely to be bored and it's wasted stage time for both parties involved.

So:

- don't apologise; smile and sing!

- don't explain the background of a song in more than one main sentence - if I haven't read the book I don't want a summary of it now; have trust in your song and that the perfomance will carry the entertainment; have you ever heard Queen explain what's the meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody? No one understands that song. No one's complaining either. This is REALLY important advice for people who write role playing songs. Trust me: we don't want to know ANYthing else but what you'll give us IN the song!

:o)

April 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Hintermeyer

If the con has provided sound reenforcement, ie: mics and a pa system...

If at all possible let the sound crew know in advance what your technical needs are or explain what you'll be doing on stage.

"Just me and my acustic" are enough if it's just you.

"Vocal and guitar plug-in. On my 3rd song, I drum" helps with change ups.

"3 backup singers, a back up guitar player and a electric piano" are definitly things to say in advance.

Be polite, but firm if their fussing is bothering you. "Please stop adjusting the mic, I'm not settled yet." The mics should be set to how you perform, not you change to use the mics.

However, once you start, don't suddenly step 2 paces back and 1 to the side either. (Yes, that has happened.)

If you don't know how to sing into a mic, let the crew know. They can set the mics and the levels to be unobtrusive, yet still give you good sound.

Ignore the equipment and sing to your audience.

April 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn O'Halloran

Like these! A few quick thoughts:

* During the set, don't lose your temper with, or be rude to, the other performers on stage with you, the tech crew, or anyone else helping you make your set happen. Doing a set is a privilege and a joy, not a right, as is any help you're getting. If you do it at no other times, from the moment you step on stage for your pre-set sound-check, be professional and courteous. To do otherwise reflects badly on you.

* During the set, don't get angry with yourself. Even if you're seething inside about missing the instrumental you'd been working on for months because your fingers unexpectedly turned to bananas, force yourself to be unconcerned while on the stage. The audience picks up on anger and, in the UK, makes them embarrassed and want to be somewhere else!

* Give the tech crew what they need ahead of time. e.g. set list. If they want you for sound-check, even if it means you miss something cool, turn up. They're doing this to help you. Be gracious. Help them.

* Don't diva. Unless you've been told by the concom ahead of time, never assume that you are allowed to over-run. If the concom express any concern about letting you over-run e.g. if you say "do I have time for one more?" and they say "um, not really" or frown, then stop, smile and thank everyone, and get off the stage. The audience will cope. The concom gave you the set. Don't kick 'em in the face.

* Without doing a awards speech, give credit where it's due. (I'm guilty sometimes of being so caught up in the moment that I forget to say who wrote the songs we're playing, so I need to factor this into my banter...) And thank the audience at the end - they took time out to hear you. "Thanks very much for listening; hope you enjoyed the set - we really did - see you later!"

Stage performing - we LOVES it!

Mich x

April 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMich

Keep an eye on your time as you come to the end of your set. Don't come to the end of your time with a weak piece and then say, "Oh, there's this piece which I REALLY wanted to end with; can I have just five more minutes?" Plan in advance which pieces in your set list you can drop if you don't have enough time, and always make your next-to-last song droppable.

April 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGary McGath

If your set is really complicated and involves lots of tech adjustment then arrange an ahead-of-time sound-check with the tech crew. Make sure you have a song-by-song who-sings/plays-what list for them to follow, including a clear title for each song and an indication of which one(s) you might drop if time runs short. That way, the techies stand a chance, and re-arrangement during the set will go more smoothly. Of course, it will help if you plan your set with tech adjustments in mind too... ;)

April 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRick Hewett

What they said.

Christine Lavin has excellent tips for performing songwriters at http://www.christinelavin.com/tips.html - many of these apply well to general stage etiquette.

One thing I would emphasize is to reduce the amount of talk between songs to a minimum that fits with your personality. If your performing persona depends on telling stories and bantering with the audience, include your talk time in calculating the length of your set list.

April 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBill Sutton

Never explain! Never apologize!

Well, hardly ever. But if a song can't stand on its own without a lengthy explanation, consider setting the explanation to music, unless storytelling is part of your act. In that case, rehearse your intro as intensively as you do your songs.

At a venue like a filk convention, with short concert slots and a tight schedule, there's often no opportunity for a proper sound-check. Consider setting up microphones and a monitor speaker in your rehearsal space, and figuring out the tech before-hand.

Make sure one or two of your songs are easily dropped, and know exactly how long you need for your finale. (Gary says "next-to-last song", but sometimes you'll have two or three that go together.) Have an extra song in reserve just in case you have time for it. Don't laugh -- it can happen!

Sometimes you can arrange things with the preceding or following act to make for a smoother transition -- this is especially true if there's some overlap in the performers. Be sure to warn the Toastmaster, and use their introduction to get yourselves sorted out.

Don't just practice the songs -- practice the stuff between the songs, too.

April 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Savitzky

1) Make sure the individuals who are playing with you for single songs (i.e. not the whole set) *know* when you'll be asking them up. For example, is it during the first 15 minutes, or after a specific song, etc.

2) Practice performing with a microphone, or something like it, if you're going to be amplified, etc. Getting used to the mic, while holding an instrument is not something you want to learn in front of an audience.

3) If you want your audience to sing along/harmonize, ask them to :-) And depending on the song consider practicing how to "say" the words before you sing them, during the song, to encourage them.

4) Performers often end up below the freezing air conditioning vent in hotels. Depending on you, dress appropriately because shivering and cold aren't good for your voice (and you'll look a bit weird, shaking on stage), while sweating/warmth is **good** for vocal chords.

April 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Dale

re: Time

Keep track of it, know how much you have and how your material fills it.

Remember if your slot is from 1pm to 1:30pm, you do not have 30 minutes of performance time, you have AT MOST 25 minutes.

The 5 minutes for you to set up and break down and the next act to set up. Every minute it takes you to set up and break down past 5 minutes comes out of your performance time.

Using the above time as an example and speaking as a Stage Manager and Time Keeper:

12:55 Previous act done.
12:56: Next act coming up on stage.
12:58: Previous act is off the stage.
12:59: Next act ready.
1:00: TM introduces the next act.
1:25: The now Previous act done.

Took you till 1:05 to get setup, you're still done at 1:25 and your set should be down to 20 minutes of material & banter.

PS: On Encores...

If you expect the audience to demand one, plan it into your time. Every minute you run over bites into future acts time or breaks the schedule.

Eventually turning a 6pm dinner break into a7pm dinner break and a empty room for the 5:30 act which ends up going on at 6:15pm.

April 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn O'Halloran

I seen one British Filker, as a guest in the US in his Guest Of Honor concert, was expecting the British Filk Con tradition of having an encore. However, when he said he was doing his last song, everyone believed him! Particularly since the concert started late. So, stage lights off, sound off, house lights up and audience leaving after rousing round of appaulse. He did not know that US Filk concerts usually end without an encore and instead have the strong 'closer' tune.
So performers, be mindfull of your location's formats, ask your host if you are not certain. Hosts, you may want to mention your location's traditional format when you co-ordinate the guest concert, particulary for overseas visitors.

May 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTim Ryan

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>