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I play the keyboard in a band and am also the lead singer. How can I have energy and good stage presence while focusing on my playing and being confined to a several foot area of the stage?

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    Watch some Elton John live videos, especially from his younger days. – Tetsujin Feb 22 '18 at 7:39
  • Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Jerry Lee Lewis, and more. The one thing they all project is their attitude. It's very obvious who's the boss on their stage. There's no shyness there. – skinny peacock Feb 22 '18 at 15:25
  • Adding to skinny peacock's answer, the musicians listed above all tend to have the piano sideways at the front of the stage, so they are free to move and are accessible to interact with the audience, rather than being trapped behind a keyboard. – Jamie Feb 23 '18 at 0:09
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Firstly, get so you don't have to focus on your playing. Get so you know the set pieces. Either verbatim or to be able to carry on when you fall off the stool, and pick up from anywhere. You may need to be able to play exactly the same things each time, or happier being able to change harmonies, sounds around to suit the mood at that moment. Either way, the playing needs to be flawless in its execution.

Then you can start to think about the other aspects of leading.

Place yourself in a prominent position. The audience needs to see you, but so does the rest of the band, for cues. What, there aren't any, or need for them? Make a need. Bring the guitarist in to his solo, swing round to the drummer for his break. Even be histrionic!

Watch other piano players such as Billy Joel and the aforementioned Elton John. Even Stevie Wonder produces 'stage presence'!

Ring the changes by sometimes standing, sometimes sitting. Get clever and play the piano from the back of it. Yes, just for fun. You need to be fit to do all this, so keep yourself fit. Can't sing well out of breath...

Also, consider that some numbers can be performed without keys. Get away from the 'boards, grab a mic, and be the frontman!

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You don't need gimmicks. Look at the audience, sing TO the audience. You can do that standing or sitting, behind a keyboard or holding a guitar. You've already been given a list of role models!

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If you are the keyboardist, then unless you have a keytar, you'll always be confined to that area in which your keyboard stands.

Most audience members will notice how you look first before how you sound. And usually the keyboardist looks the most boring compared to everyone else. The ones with good stage presence would do some variation of the following:

  • Use upper body and move to the music (unless of course you are singing at that moment).
  • Don't look like you are bored (I've played with too many keyboardists who look bored as hell and it's distracting to the audience - they could care less how well they play).
  • Head bob when appropriate.
  • Use simple dance steps if you are playing some easy chord progression.
  • And smile once in awhile.

Some people might laugh at this. But you'd be surprised how many "professional" players don't do this. And the audience isn't stupid, and don't treat them like they are because they don't know you hip chord progressions. They are the ones paying your wage and giving you the opportunity to play. Don't condescend to them. If you aren't entertaining to them, then maybe you should consider doing something else, or be a you-tuber or session player.

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  • "And the audience isn't stupid, and don't treat them like they are because they don't know you hip chord progressions." -- Well, they don't even know the un-hip chord progressions. In any case, it is unclear at whom this final section of the answer is directed; certainly not at OP; the whole point of the question is to obtain practical advice about improving stage presence. – ex nihilo Feb 24 '18 at 2:53
  • @DavidBowling This answer was about improving stage presence, as the OP had asked. It may come off as laughable, but you'd be surprised what people respond to. "Well, they don't even know the un-hip chord progressions." -- Exactly, my point is that your stage presence is what people see, not hear. – user48366 Feb 24 '18 at 6:42

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