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There's a similar topic for guitar players here that has a lot of good general suggestions for everyone. However, being a keyboard player, I'm pretty limited on movement vs. guitar players or singers since my instrument is stationary. What is the way for a keyboard player to be able to build up a stage presence to a show?

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Keyboard player's stage presence is much like the drummer's situation. Better than that, keyboard player can be standing and vision of audience is not covered by metal sticks and discs spread all around, worse than that usually audience cannot see what or how a keyboard player plays the instrument. So body language should compensate for that.

For better communication, I prefer single keyboard setup rather than crowded setups to have some more freedom and space. I also have myself facing towards the crowd but with a slight angle to the stage to be able to face some of the stage and other players. I think 90 degree setups breaks the communication with the audience but may suit some music styles better.

Some tips:

(not for doing all the time but to spice up your stage presence when music allows):

  • Let your shoulders and elbows express what you play right now.
  • When the music allows, play the keyboard like a percussion.
  • When playing one hand passages use your free hand for showing expressions.
  • Change where you look at, you can face the audience, bend over the keys or face the sky.
  • For confident parts, open your legs symmetrically far wider than your shoulders. Sometimes tap the tempo with your knee, sometimes never ever move your legs.
  • Putting your feet on the middle intersection of the X-stand looks incredibly good especially in one-hand passages.
  • When not playing anything and waiting for your part, walk a few steps away from the keyboard, turn your back and when you need to get close to start playing, do not haste so that you will look like so relaxed and keeping everything under your control.
  • Never miss a chance to communicate using eye contact or body language with other players, especially guitar players and lead singer.
  • Pointing out guitar players when they play their solos creates a complete scene, but do not over use or it will become funny.
  • Sing important parts of the songs, even if you are not backing vocals and you don't have a mic in front of you, so that the audience feels you are inside the atmosphere, not apart from the stage.
  • Consider yourself as an orchestra conductor but conducting the crowd this time, directing them what to feel now. Communicating emotions is the key.
  • Sometimes doing nothing is also a performance. Use your creativity and develop your own style.
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    Excellent points, must make sure I remember all of them next gig! Would add the 'Stevie Wonder' moves, shoulders and head from side to side. – Tim Jan 19 '16 at 7:58
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    Best warn your bandmates that you're going to do some of this stuff. I remember one gig where the keyboard player waved his arms to direct the last resounding chord of a piece - and the band just ignored him and he ended up looking a bit foolish because his signals and what they actually played didn't sync at all. – Brian THOMAS Jan 19 '16 at 13:02
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    Just remembered the keyboard player from Sparks who, despite behaving the complete opposite of all the suggestions above, had massive stage presence. Stage presence isn't a tick list - there's more to it than that. – Brian THOMAS Jan 20 '16 at 12:54
  • Sure you are right! Doing nothing is also a performance. I'll add it to the answer. Stage performance can also differ greatly even in different parts of the same song. This is not a check list but some performances that I've used and benefited. I thought these can help players feeling frustration with their stage presence and performance and encourage them to try different things. Always remembering that you are on stage and doing a stage performance not with music only but your look and body as well is the key. Everyone should reach their own style in the end. – Guney Ozsan Jan 20 '16 at 18:10
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If you are playing some challenging pieces you could angle your keyboard towards the audience so they can see what you are doing. This opens a new way of "flashines" for keyboard vs guitar duels. http://i.ytimg.com/vi/AvTtZFNY5dQ/hqdefault.jpg

As someone commented being calm and mysterious is also a way to build a presence. Be it Sparks keyboardist or Infected Mushroom, both just play and let the music to speak for themselves.

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I tried some of the above when I started gigging, but soon found out that it was best simply to be myself. My biggest issue was looking tense when concentrating, so I made myself smile all the time (except when playing really serious songs!) and I connect with the audience quite a bit, particularly women , as I am a female keyboard player.

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