16 Tips And Tricks To Boost Your Stage Presence For Guitarists & Bassists

No matter the genre of music or instrument you play, it is vital to put on an excellent live performance to take your music career to the next level.

According to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Studies actually show that visual performance is subconsciously more critical to gaining new fans (non-musicians) than auditory.

Stage Presence

Congruence- in agreement, in harmony, happens naturally.

The all-time most crucial factor when it comes to a live performance is to be congruent with yourself and with the music. If any of your dance moves look pushed like your trying to hard, you will look dumb. The second you try to “fake perform” instead of performing naturally, you’ll look silly. The second you work too hard to move to the music instead of letting the music move you, you’ll look dumb.

Every dance move on this list from 9-16 is designed to give you some ideas. When you master the art of performing a high energy show with congruence, your subconscious mind will activate these moves with congruence once you’re on stage.

This may sound like a catch 22 when you want to be better at performing live but don’t want to look like your trying too hard to perform, but tips 1-8 put into a habit will give you the proper tools to prepare your body and mind (both conscious and subconscious) to maximize your most significant potential.

Many of these tips may seem non-universal. However, real-life results trump words every day. These tips have been field-tested for years.

A Few Things To Keep In Mind Before Getting Started

  • Tips 1-8 of this list are the preproduction building blocks that will significantly benefit your performance once you hit the stage.
  • Tips 9-16 are stage performance tricks and tips with video examples that may benefit guitarist and bassists.

1. Get A Wireless System

If you have never performed live with a wireless guitar system, then you’re a dog that has never experienced the freedom and true potential without his leash.

One of the most significant investments to improve your stage performance for guitarists or bassist is to get a quality wireless system. If I were to make a conservative guess from my personal experience, being tied down to a leash halts 50% at an absolute minimum of your performance potential.

My live performance doubled if not tripled gradually in the first year of going wireless. I even enjoyed the experience of performing much more; in turn, the crowd feeds off that energy when you’re having more fun.

A few benefits of using a wireless guitar system

  • Unlocked my true potential of performing (you’ll know it once you go wireless)
  • The consistent thought of “am I going to trip my on my cable and unplug it amp” was gone
  • Able to add spin moves ( more details later)
  • Increases overall visual of the stage, spaghetti all over the floor looks tacky
  • Able to do “behind the back solos” significantly easier with more congruence
  • Able to go out in the crowd and perform solos
  • All of the above created a cleaner conscious of once I stepped on the stage, a cleaner conscious is vital for a live performance. More congruence in a performance rather than the fear of tripping the cable. 
  • If you don’t have a wireless guitar system yet, only invest in a quality wireless system. Take a look at our top pick of 2019

It is important to invest in a wireless but even more important to get a quality reliable wireless guitar system that does not break, dropout, hurt your tone, or is a massive hassle to carry around. Check out our Top Wireless Guitar System Pick For 2019 if you don’t already have one or unsatisfied with your current wireless guitar system.

2. Vinyasa Yoga

Before you bash it, try it.

Remember that feeling when you were 9, as you thought you were invincible. When you sprinted down a massive hill in the forest with your friends, fell about four times on the way down, got to the bottom, and laughed it off to do it again. Starting around your 20’s if you fall sprinting down a hill, once you fall, you’re mad at the world, and you never want to sprint down a mound again.

What doing yoga three times a week did for me was that it made me feel like that invincible kid again about one month into it. I’m not talking about the relaxation type (excuse me yoga lovers) very boring yoga. The kind of yoga that increased my flexibility, dance moves, and makes me feel like that invincible kid again is called vinyasa yoga.

Considering nobody knows any of the poses at first, it’s slightly tricky to get started. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of learning yoga through instructional videos. But once you learn yoga after a few sessions, you gain the ability to do it on your own. Believe it or not, you may find enjoyment from it. There are a few options to get started, either find a youtube video on vinyasa yoga or find some yoga classes in your area. After you learn it, you can ditch the instructional videos. Make it a routine to do yoga at least 2 times a week and before every show.

The picture on the right. Me and my drummer used to go to the cool areas where we toured through to do yoga before the shows.

Yoga benefits that play hand and hand with a live performance

  • Improves flexibility
  • Muscle endurance
  • Good for joints
  • Reduces injury
  • Increases blood flow
  • Improves focus
  • Improves balance

3. Study The Stage And Venue, Check for Opportunity

Every stage and every venue is different. Before the gig check for good opportunities to enhance your performance. Take about 5 minutes to do this before every show. If you find an excellent opportunity to use a unique part of the stage during a particular piece of your song, map out your idea with the band. Some ideas are drum risers, massive PA speakers to climb in the center or side of the stage, or something along the lines like the video below.

This video shows my guitarist using a railing to his advantage. We made sure it was durable enough and found the easiest way to get on top of it before the show.  

4. Learn To Give 100% Even If Your Stage Mix Sucks

Although this may be much harder to pull off than it sounds, this tip is vital. Far too many shows can be ruined by lack of live performance because a musicians monitor or in-ear mix is not right.

Your band may have done a complete soundcheck getting your monitor or in-ear mix just right. You hit the stage hours later to find out that perfect mix is now far from perfect. This happens quite frequently. Most musicians give that mad and confused look on their face as something wrong is happening. They shut down from “Rockstar Mode.” They turn their live performance entirely off as they wait until the songs over to tell the sound man to change the mix.

A sad truth about this fact is the only thing the crowd notices is the lack of performance by the musician, the mad/confused face of the musician, and the musician asking the sound man in the microphone to change the mix. 

Most cases, when a band is trying to change the mix on stage, it rarely comes out to be perfect. If you can master the art letting go of the need for an ideal mix, the ability to get into “Rockstar” mode and to get lost in your music regardless of your mix, this can save 30% of your shows.

It’s also best to use hand signals to the sound guy of what you want more or less in your mix. Most non-musicians in the crowd wouldn’t notice what you’re doing, but they will if you ask the sound man in the mic.

5. No Charts On Stage Unless Its With A Corporate Band

You look professional bringing charts on stage for a corporate band.
You look lame bringing charts on stage for any other band.

There is only one exception to this tip. That is if your using an iPad with a device connected to the mic stand in a corporate band. Most corporate/wedding bands don’t necessarily need extreme stage presence anyways. A giant paper chart for a corporate band scenario is not only less efficient and convenient but also looks messy and less professional in today’s technology age.

I actually recommend coming to a corporate band setting with an iPad using an IK Multimedia iKlip to attach it to your mic stand. If you prefer to view charts with your phone, they also have an iKlip Mini that’s designed for smartphones. In many corporate band settings, using the App called iReal Pro or OnSong with your Ipad or phone will be significantly more professional than bringing a giant book of paper charts or not bringing charts at all.

Any other setting outside of a corporate band, no charts period. I don’t care about your dumb excuses, learn the material beforehand. (;

6. Cardio

When you play an hour set, the crowd will be watching you for that full hour, not just the first 20 minutes.

One of the most memorable parts of your show from the crowds perspective is the last few songs. If you run out of energy in the first 20 minutes and can’t maintain an excellent performance visually by the end, your hurting one of the most memorable parts of the show. On the flip-side, if you try and take it easy energetically/performance until the end of the show, you already lost the crowds attention before the end of your set even comes. This doesn’t necessarily apply if your strictly a cover band playing in a bar or already famous. There cutting corners for this tip but to suck it up and run 2-5 days a week.

There are far more benefits of cardio than just burning calories. Don’t think for one second that you’re in shape because you’re not overweight. Excuses are for the unsuccessful to rationalize their lack of success. Make exercise a habit if you want to maintain your high energy live performance from beginning to end.

7. Clean Up The Stage, Make it Yours

Easily forgotten or not thought of but vital part of your preshow to have the best performance possible

One of the most important factors of having an excellent performance is the ability to feel free on the stage. With cable spaghetti all over the floors, the monitors in your dance space, the mic not set up correctly, and drinks/setlists from the last band all cluttered in your dance space; it’s near impossible to have the freedom on the stage to put on your very best performance.

Take time before the show to do these things

  • Make sure to get all the cables out of your way.
  • Make sure the monitors and microphone are in a fashion that gives you the most room possible.
  • If there was a band before you, get there set-lists and leftover drinks in the trash unless they want them.
  • If there isn’t enough room on the drum riser to stand on and you want to do a massive jump mid-show, see if you can maneuver some mics around in such a way to make room.

8. Wim Hof Breathing Exercises

Nervous or anxious?

If you’re nervous before a show and you catch a bit of anxiety, not to make you even more nervous, but that’s a recipe to miss a lot of notes. At least that was the case in my earlier years.

Luckily there is a breathing exercise that not only instantly relieves your nerves, stress, and anxieties on multiple layers like magic, but also has many incredible benefits.

It’s called The Wim Hof Method. This breathing exercise is actually what I do every day before I play a show. It has many benefits backed by studies including the following.

Benefits of Wim Hof Breathing Method

  • Reducing stress
  • Faster body recovery
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Better Sleep
  • Improved athletic performance
  • More focus and mental clarity

Phase 2:
Tips/Tricks When You Hit The Stage

Now that… 

  • You’re freed from your leash with a quality wireless guitar system. 
  • Your feeling good with plenty of energy from yoga and cardio.
  • Your stage is cleaned up and ready to go. 
  • Your nervousness and anxiety are under control from breathing exercises.
  • You can play the material front to back in your sleep without a chart.
  • You’ve mastered the art to get into your music regardless of the stage mix.
  • You’ve studied the stage to capitalize on opportunities.

You’re officially ready to channel your inner rockstar and maximize your true stage performance potential.

Here is the list of 8 tips and tricks on stage.
Again, keep in mind that the most important part of incredible stage presence is congruence.

9. Don’t Move To The Music: Let The Music Move You

This is the most critical yet challenging art form to master. The vast majority of your stage presence and dances should happen naturally with no conscious effort. Tips (1-9) put into habit should give you the building blocks and energy to let these dance moves and boss stage presence come to you naturally.

I go into great detail with exercises for this tip and the rest of this articles tips plus 14 more in my ebook coming out soon “The Art of Stage Presence: Musicians.”

10. High Energy Parts Of The Song Call For A High Energy Visual Performance

Synaesthesia? A neurological trait or condition that results in a joining or merging of senses that aren’t commonly connected. The stimulation of one sense causes an involuntary reaction in one or more of the other senses. For example, someone with synaesthesia may hear color or see sound.

Music Is An Art Of Sound. Not all, but many experts agree that we all have a bit of synaesthesia to a degree. Both elements of audio and visual of a live performance are of high aesthetic value. For those who resonate with a high energy band whether it being blues/rock/reggae/alternative/metal etc., then they are resonating with the auditory element of the music. Yet if the bands’ performance lacks high energy visually, then there will be of a significant lack of aesthetic value and thus will undermine synaesthesia. This is the reason why high energy audio is strongly complemented by high energy visual.

11. Behind The Back Solo (2 forms)

Luckily the Behind-The-Back solo for guitarists and bassists is easy to practice and nail. While taking your solo, it’s best to use this trick only where the music calls for it. Never start the solo with it, try to use it at the right spot somewhere in the middle or end of your solo, unless you’re doing a solo battle like the video below.

Minimize the Behind-The-Back solo to using it at most twice per gig, even better, use 1 of each form.

Standard (back towards crowd)

Standard version of the behind the back solo. (back towards crowd)

The Cross (face the crowd)

12. Dynamics

I learned this tip the hard way by studying my performance captured on video. The dynamics of how much energy output you give off at specific parts of the song is fundamental. I used to have a problem of dancing a bit too much during the verses. This, however, highly depends on the style of music that you play. If you’re in a metal, hardcore, punk, or any genre in that region your most likely going to be balls to the wall the entire time.

For the most part, this is roughly self-explanatory but tends to be forgotten or mistaken after musicians understand the importance of stage presence.

Percentage of energy output per parts of the song (generally speaking, this highly depends on the song and genre)
  • Verse 10-20%
  • Chorus 30-50%
  • Solo/high energy instrumental 50-100%

13. The Saiyan Bass Punch

Warning!!!! Do not do this if you have active electronics within your instrument!!!

For passive instruments (primarily bass) the Saiyan Bass Punch is something that people will remember you by if done correctly and with complete congruence. To be 100% honest, this has only been field-tested with a bass without active electrics; I’m not sure how it will work with a guitar.

To nail this, find the big hits on your song with an open note (open E and open A for bass). Don’t hit the instrument too hard, but hit it with feeling. Make sure to practice this before at practice and make sure to know where to hit it. I’ve cut my hand open a few times while hitting the instrument in the wrong place.

This move is not for everyone (only for Saiyan musicians). There’s good news, considering I’ve never seen anyone do it besides the bassist from AFI, that’s why returning fans typically remember me by that very move. If your willing to put in the work to master “The Saiyan Bass Bunch” and you master it with timing and congruence, you will be of the few too!

Video example of “The Saiyan Bass Punch”

14. The Spin

Quite possibly one of the most underused loved moves by the crowd. Like all performance moves, it must be at the right time. The reason why the majority of musicians are unable to spin is because they’re attached to a cable that they’ll trip over. Make sure to get a high-quality wireless system!

Great times to bust out a spin move would be whole notes, beat pushes, certain hits, and whenever you feel is the right time.

15. Take Solos Into The Crowd

Again this is only applicable to musicians with a wireless system.
The truth is that the majority of us musicians think this is lame. We must realize that non-musicians/potential fans look at a live performance way different than us. They, for the most part, love it and don’t forget it.

Example Video

John Pagano Band taking the solo into the crowd

16. The Bunny Hop

Some songs that don’t necessarily call for full jumping up and down or the typical headband usually call for the bunny hop. 

A slight hop of your feet on the beat using your toes and calf muscles is what I like to call “the bunny hop.” This may as well have an abnormally lame name, but it works quite well on stage. Be sure to check out the video example from 0:16-0:23 to know what I mean.

Video example: Bassist on the right doing the “Bunny Hop” from 0:16-0:23

“bunny hop” from 0:16-0:23

Final Take

Whether you end up using 3 of these tips or all of these tips, eventually they will turn into a habit. In turn, your live performance will gradually get better and better after every show.

With my new eBook labeled “The Art Of Stage Presence: Musicians” coming out in the next few months, we go into much further detail with each and every tip on this article including 14 extra tips with exercises and video examples. We also dive significantly deeper from every angle into stage performance from studies, psychology, philosophy, how to execute, and on a more artistic level considering music is an art of sound.

But the very first step for guitarists and bassists is……

To free yourself from your leash. (aka cable)

Here is our top pick for Best Wireless Guitar System For 2019

May all of you Perform Wireless happily ever after

Tony Hossri