Manipulate Your Audience in Three Easy Steps

If you’re on stage, you have to be in control of the situation. Here’s three ways to do it.

1. Smile

Your control of the audience begins when you walk on stage. You get to convey whatever it is you want to be. I suggest that you convey enjoyment.

Smile like your life depends on it when you walk in. It’s amazing what happens to an audience when a performer smiles. They’ll think you’re at home on the stage.

If you don’t feel like smiling, fake it.

2. Master the Silence

After (quietly) tuning, it’s time to start. Please don’t plow into the piece. Take a moment of poise before you begin.

This creates a tense moment, in which the audience knows that the real performance is about to begin. The moment of poise is a way to separate the walk in, seating and everything else from the music.

After you finish a piece, take another moment of poise. Play the silence at the end of the piece by freezing in place for a few heartbeats after muting the strings. Then relax, look up and smile (see above).

3. Stay Focused

As an audience member, it’s incredibly uncomfortably when you don’t know when to clap. Sure the program is there, but when a perform sends unclear signals it becomes difficult.

Practice the moment of poise (see above) after each movement, but stay focused on your instrument and the music. Do not address the audience by looking at them during this time. Take a few moments to relax (I like less time between movements, but that’s up to you!), then use another moment of poise and begin.

Of course if the movement was particularly fiery, you might get some applause anyway! That’s okay. I suggest acknowledging it with a smile and nod, but not a full bow. Save that for the end of the piece.

Posted on in Guitar Performance Tips


  • Chai Wallah
    Chai Wallah

    “Smile like your life depends on it when you walk in” LOL LOVE IT! I could have used this a year ago when I performed. Pretty sure I didn’t smile once….failed.

  • Brett

    Excellent insights. I like your thoughts on mastering the silence. Initially silence can feel awkward and like the longest time, which might cause you to think, “Oh my, they are all looking at me expecting me to do something,” and then you end up rushing into a piece you weren’t ready to start. I’ve found those initial moments before the piece starts to be crucial for gathering focus. So embrace the silence.

    I like, “If you don’t feel like smiling, fake it.” It’s always uncomfortable to try to enjoy a performance when the performer looks like they hate every minute of the performance.

  • Zach

    I have to master the art of silence. I guess that skill comes with a lot of stage performances, isn’t it ? For an in-experienced person, silence will bring in nothing but hot flushes 😀

    • Bill

      Every part of the performance is, well, part of the performance. if you are concious of the effect such intentional silence has on the performance, thats a start, and it is something that can be practiced.

  • Pete M

    This is a great post. Do you have any advice for recreating nervousness? Playing in front of people is probably best, but I was wondering if there were any other methods in case you had limited opportunities to play for people before a performance. I heard you could run around the house before playing to get your heart rate up, but that doesn’t seem very practical 🙂

    • Christopher Davis

      Ha, I’ve actually done the running around thing. Didn’t really work for me. Gets your heart rate up for sure, but it doesn’t recreate the shakiness. I also return to my resting heart rate fairly quickly, so I’d probably have to run around after each movement or section–not very practical.

      Try recording to recreate a bit of nervousness. It’s not the same as a stage, but it’s better than nothing. Try to use video: it’s too easy to edit audio-only recordings.