Dynamic Performance without
Alan David Gould
“What is steel
compared to the hand that wields it?” Conan the Barbarian
Sometimes it is necessary to take away the machinery, the electronic appendages, the artificial
intelligence, to realize the true power within us. We should always remember that we are the wielders of our musical instruments and they merely the tools that help
to ultimately express and define us. There
is a wonderful opportunity for self discovery with the realization that we all possess a strong inner core, which has all
the necessary essentials to communicate with the world outside. But take away the PA…and we sometimes panic. We have fear of PPR; Projection, Protection
and Rejection…A focused performer, however, can be extremely dynamic in the room without sound reinforcement. Take
the arena of senior healthcare; nursing homes, assisted and independent living facilities, Alzheimer and dementia units, rehab
hospitals, and strolling venues all provide great opportunities for dynamic acoustic performance, and the basic principles
to follow apply to many other types of performance venues encompassing a wide variety of audiences.
The Basic Principles:
Make eye contact: Make
it a point to connect visually with every member of your audience. Look at them directly. When it comes right down to it,
it’s just you and every other individual in that room. You have a golden opportunity to break whatever preexisting stasis
by commanding every person’s attention. You’ve got to win your audience over one person at a time. Command the
room visually by treating the audience as a 270 degree (and sometimes 360) organic structure that you have the power to manipulate.
Mix up the visuals just as you would mix up your set list; look right, left, center, forward, back. Let each audience
member know that you are with them. Don’t let them get away!
Get in their air space: Without electronic reinforcement, you’ve
got to get close enough to have an aural impact to the people you are playing for. Move around the room, or if that’s
not possible, move from one end of the “stage” to the other. It’s your responsibility
to be physically active enough to command their visual attention and auditory attention as well. Remember
that even one trip across the room can have many meaningful moments with various audience members.
it up: You’ve got to make up for the lack of amplification by being diverse enough to command
consistent attention. Vary your tempos and your keys. Dance while you play some of your tunes. If it’s
going to be guitar, then try using it occasionally as a percussion instrument. Try to visualize your performance, however
intimate, reaching just a little beyond the furthest person away from you at any given time. If you’re going to flirt
with someone up close, make sure every person in the room knows it! Notice the reactions of the people in the back row. Work
Be a psychologist:
There are 3 things in a performance; you, the performer, the song you have chosen and your audience members. Consider the
person you are in front of.. and what it’s going to take to sell them that song. They are there because of you and you
alone. They’re ready to be on your side, and you, in turn, must project likeability, empathy and most importantly, a
positive stance. Every individual has a melting point, after which they too have bought your music. As
a performer, you must own that song, but make it about them. Since everyone is constantly in a different emotional space,
it’s necessary to adjust; you should vary your approach to the song according to who you are in front of. Give them
your song on their terms. If someone is having a bad day, be empathetic. Let them know that you are aware of how they feel,
and 9 times out of 10, their attitude will improve. If someone in the audience is highly interactive, (and someone always
is) use that energy for the general benefit of everyone else in the audience. If the person wants to dance, well, dance with
Use Props: There are always going to be objects in the room that can
easily enhance the entertainment value of a song, or bring home its message to the audience. Try to incorporate these things.
Sing a patriotic song while looking at an American flag, juggle a tennis ball for laughs, use thematic
amateur artwork on the wall as fodder for the songs you choose, present the ladies with the artificial flowers already centered
on the table when singing a love song, incorporate the food items people may be eating, if you’re doing a strolling
meal service; all of these things can work to magnify the positive effects of a song.
and endings: Be colorful. And be brief. Announce your selections loudly and
clearly. You’ve got to be an actor, but you’ve got to mean it! Make your
intros appealing and delicious like a wonderful appetizer. Make sure your endings are dynamic and well defined. Be physical at the end of tunes. Use a stylized flourish.
There should be no question that this is the end of the tune and applause should be forthcoming. Accept the applause graciously
with a smile.
audience know how you feel: Court them. They won’t know until you tell them how much the experience of playing
for them has meant to you. Express your gratitude and verbally recognize the person or persons responsible for making your
appearance possible. Your audience wants to know that you thoroughly enjoyed yourself and that you considered it a privilege
to be in front of them.
No bad gigs: Make
up your mind to have zero dead air space, to turn mistakes into something positive, to put forth the best that you can give,
regardless of the number of services per day; in short to create a favorable impression everywhere you play. Turn
whatever is happening in the room into part of your show. Make every performance a winner. You cannot control the forces around
you; only how you react to them. One successful performance leads to another and that series of successes promotes the confidence
from which to proceed. Visualize that outcome and it will be yours.
2010 Alan David Gould