What makes a concert memorable besides fantastic music and the quality of performance? It's also in the design of the stage aesthetic and the choreography of stage moments. There are key elements to pay attention to and work creatively with when producing your show. A few of the main ones being, the sequencing of the set list, the atmosphere of the lighting, sensible stage props, effective video projections, your ending and encore. You want to be unique and never follow the crowd when it comes to putting on a show that fits to the style of your music. Here are 5 tips for honing in on the craft of your concert choreography.
Sequence Your Set ListYou want to sequence the songs in your set list so that they travel in a dramatic arch that presents a natural ebb and flow. A practical start is simply by interchanging fast, more intense songs with slower, more somber songs. All the while building a wave of narrative within this sequence that creates tension, keeps the audiences attention and feels as if you are taking the audience on a journey. The easiest way to lose an audience is by playing a set with no dynamics. You don't want to play a show where everything sounds or looks the same. Often times it is best to have some surprises built into your set list, such as playing different songs with varied instruments, coming down off the stage and playing a song unplugged, or bringing up a guest musicians with different songs, or bridging songs together that have juxtaposed themes into a medley. Order your set in a way that keeps your audience on their toes, wondering what's next?
Atmospheric LightingAtmospheric lighting is vital to the overall visual taste of your concert and you want this lighting to match the kind of music you are playing. It doesn't need to be complicated but avoid bad lighting such as fluorescent lights at all costs. Mood lighting can range from the candlelit character of a folk song in which you can set up candles and strings of christmas tree lights or all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum with a hypnotic fast driving psychedelic light show in which you would need to hire a light technician. You can always ask at any venue with stage lighting if they can change the color and intensity of the lights with each song on your set list and even during the chorus and verse parts of certain songs. Lighting is a very powerful way of transmitting more emotion to your performance so long as it is timed and colored in an appropriate way. There are also 3D light show artists in most metropolitan areas that you can hire for your concert whose work can be mesmerizing when matched with live music but that will of course cost you considerably more than a couple boxes of candles.
Use Props That Support the Artistic Sense of your MusicThe use of props on stage during a concert is an artistic endeavor that should match what your music and personality aspire to convey. For instance, Screaming Jay Hawkins was a pioneer in this aspect as he brought the idea of putting vaudeville voodoo props onto the rock-n-roll stage changing the idea of what a rock concert should look like and he built an incredibly successful career out of it. Many other artists have followed suit such as Tom Waits with his street lamps and gasoline pumps on stage or The Flaming Lips with their green alien men and santa claus ladies dancing in unison while the singer rolls across and on top of the audience while inside of a giant clear plastic bubble. Anything goes when it comes to using props but you want to be sure it doesn't turn out to seem like a cheap gimmick just for grabbing attention. It needs to match what you want to express.
Use Video ProjectionsBig rock concerts almost always have thematic and specifically designed video projections that are timed along with the lighting for each part of the concert. Why not do the same thing at smaller venues? All you need is a video projector and a laptop with your own images. I've done this at many concerts in small venues projecting my own animations on to the stage and it can look amazing. If you don't have enough material you can put the video on a loop. Once again, the key point is the images should be fitting to the overall vibe that you want to deliver.
Know Your Ending and Plan for Your EncoreMore important than any other part of your show, know when to stop playing. Nothing is worse than a musician who won't get off the stage even if the crowd loves them. It is more powerful and memorable to leave the audience hungry for more than to have overstuffed them with a musician's ego. So plan your encore in advance and keep the crowd on their toes all the way up to the very end of your show. Also keep in mind that many venues have a curfew and it is embarrassing to get the sound cut off while singing your 13th encore song. Know when it is time to get off the stage and don't ever forget to introduce the members of your band if you are performing with one and always thank your audience for being there because with out them, what's the point?
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