Developing a Performance Persona
Developing an alternative version of yourself can enhance both your performance and the experience in many ways. When performing in front of an audience, whether it’s your production team,the studio, a crowd in the local pub, or a sea of fans at the O2 Arena, it’soften helpful to consider how much of your alter ego is going to be needed.
A number of performers find it much harder to perform in the studio because of the environment’s intimacy, typically bringing either their “normal” selves or their superstar alter ego instead of an appropriate balance of both. Similarly,how many times have you seen an overly dressed and choreographed performance at your local pub leaving you and the rest of the audience overwhelmed? Knowing what amount of alter ego to bring with you to the mic can make the difference between an excellent performance and a disastrous one. So how can you gauge the right amount?
First, it’s important to identify the everyday you. Sit down and think about what allows you to function as a normal person. For many performers this “everyday you” is quite a shy person who needs protecting. Without this everyday person, the performer alter ego cannot learn lyrics, get to gigs and do all those other day to day jobs the “star” doesn’t do. The star needs to know that the everyday person is with them at all times dealing with all the “small stuff”.
Next, take some time to think about what qualities the performer requires in the various performance environments. The studio is often best balanced with little bit of the everyday you and a little bit of the star. Consider carefully how this person would best perform. Do they need to be relaxed? If so, look at where your shoulders are when recording. Are they nice and loose? Check your breathing before you start recording (nice deep, long, slow breaths), and look to see if the muscles in your jaw are tight or soft (think of your jaw muscles melting and keep breathing consciously as you do this).
Other factors to consider: What will the producers notice about you? How are you walking? Is your head up or down? Are you dressed in normal clothes or do you need a little bit (or all) of your star wardrobe? Think about what others need to see in you to feel confident you are doing your job, it will help you work out what level of alter ego you require.
Try using the following method.
Imagine a volume button that goes from 1-10. This button controls the level of alter ego you can dial up.
0-3 = the everyday you
3-5 = studio you
5-7 = small gigs and press interview you
7-9 = bigger venue shows you.
Hold back before reaching for a 10. Perfection is too big a burden to carry and one that is affected by many factors out of your control. Expertise will eventually come effortlessly along with experience and practice check out how laid back and relaxed veteran performers appear. As you begin to think about your next performances plan roughly where your alter ego volume level needs to be set and what you are doing at each volume frame.
Things to consider when determining the perfect volume of alter ego:
1. Environment: where is the performance?
2. Behaviour : what exactly are you doing? E.g. studio recording/acoustic set/live radio performance?
3. Capabilities: how are you doing all of this? You’ve prepared with
rehearsals, but did you get to bed early the night before? Have you drunk enough water? Have you used some slow breathing exercises to become consciously relaxed? Always think about what you need to prepare in advance. Every environment is different.
4. Why are you doing this? Have you thought about your message and the experience you want your audience to have? Is your goal to get everyone dancing? Are you trying to get an important message across? If you want to sell a lot of records, it’s important you know why you want to perform. Desire for money and fame alone are not enough.
5. What level of alter ego is necessary? This is where your volume button comes in handy and can be tuned according to the environment you are working in, e.g. you could be John/ Jane at 0-3 when writing or rehearsing but by the time you are preparing for a much bigger gig you might need to be Super John/Jane at 7-9
6. Consider your purpose: Is there a greater good to what you are doing? How is your music and voice going to change the world? If you were to write a review of your performance, what would you like it to highlight?
Are some of these examples attributes of what you would like:
• A strong connection to the audience: this normally comes from wishing to give fans a great experience and being conscious of their participation and enjoyment.
• Being authentic: this is a result of being aware of the normal you and
appreciating this you who makes everything possible for the star performer.
• Singing well: this occurs through practical preparation, like singing
lessons, warming up and sufficient practice and rehearsals.
• Relaxed and in the moment -this takes a bit of conscious practice. We recommend that when you realise you are doing something well, take a moment to see how you are behaving, what you are doing, thinking etc at the time. This could be anything in everyday life e.g. cooking, yoga, playing football, etc. Figure out why you are doing it well and take notes. It’s very likely because you are in a state of subconscious competence. Take a picture in your mind of how your body is behaving. Even when involved in sport a person will notice that their body is actually quite relaxed. This is because they are allowing themselves to do something without thinking about it consciously. The body just knows what to do. Ensure you practice performing enough to let this happen when you sing.
Try to use anchors to remind you of how much of your alter ego is required. You do this by considering all of the above and, gently pinching your index and thumb together whilst imagining you are breathing in the volume level of the character.
Some like to spray a bit of scent in the air (which they take with them to the show or studio) the smell brings them back to that performance head space. Others use crystals or even the simple tug of a necklace.
Think about the star performer in you, and also imagine an animal with strengths you admire. How does it walk? How does it move? A favourite is a panther. Think about another animal that shows beauty, grace, a lot of confidence, and is able to relax easily. Peacocks, gazelles, and even the domestic cat often pop up for this. Now walk around with all of these qualities inside of you with your head up whilst breathing in these qualities, to anchor yourself. There are many ways to enhance your performance. Maybe some of these ideas will give you food for thought.
Really practice the art of relaxation. For many years We couldn’t understand why so many top performers would get stoned or drink heavily before a show and continue to do so. Over the years this has been linked to the identity of pop stars (“it’s rock and roll”) but actually this is about trying to enter a relaxed state. However, the damage these substances cause can manifest in very negative and even lethal ways.
Learn, practice (it really does make perfect), keep breathing, relax, trust yourself, and most of all enjoy the experience. When you’re done, pinch yourself again as a reminder to yourself for the next time.