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Author Topic: Body Language  (Read 1117 times)
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Location: erie PA
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« on: Feb 17, 2017, 08:17AM »

Ive always felt that body language and outward appearances can make or break a performance. I always consider things such as how I stand, where I look, my horn angle, how I move, etc.. during solo performances, and I feel that those aspects contribute to how others enjoy and interpret my playing greatly. Ive also been the kind of person to avoid negative colors such as red in interviews or big meetings and always try to wear more pleasing colors such as blue to ensure good impressions.

Just something I thought I might try to start a dialogue about...

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« Reply #1 on: Feb 17, 2017, 10:18PM »

In our studio this is a large part of the teaching.

We are required to memorize our solos, and most players will look somewhere (usually up) as they recall difficult passages. It's much more convincing if you are looking at a vanishing point behind the audience.

I practice deliberate, slower movements for most solos (particulary bringing my horn up and down), so people aren't distracted in that way.

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« Reply #2 on: Feb 17, 2017, 10:30PM »

Christian Lindberg is one to study for stage presence. He cannot be ignored when he's playing. You can tell that every movement on stage was memorized along with the solo part.

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« Reply #3 on: Feb 17, 2017, 11:45PM »

This is such a great discussion!

I think there are several layers of "stage presence" that become relevant depending on where you are in your career and what kind of performance situation you're entering. Most young players are dealing with basic presence, and as you grow you really start to see stage presence as something that is as much a part of the show as the music itself. I'm fortunate with Presidio Brass to be able to get a lot of feedback from audiences. One thing Presidio is known for is the interaction with the audience, and the energy that makes it's way from the stage to the audience. Presidio video records and reviews every show we play (Well, some venues forbid recording even for personal review).  One thing we implement as an ensemble when we're reviewing a show is to focus our attention on members of the ensemble other than ourselves. This focus-shift allows us to pick up on things that we may miss if we're focused on ourselves.

Just some basic things I think about, and some things we think about in Presidio to make the experience more enjoyable for the audience:

I conceal the emptying of my spit valve whenever possible. For me, that generally means rotating around and emptying the spit valve behind my leg. Audiences are weird about the condensation that comes from our instruments as they're not really aware that it's just water. Even our best attempts at concealment are sometimes met with an audience member after the show making a comment about gross it is  Clever

In Presidio, we make it a point to actually look at specific people in the audience and meet eyes if we are able. Additionally, we purposely shift our focus to various zones in the hall. Audiences LOVE to feel as though they personally connected with you, and it's pretty obvious to an audience member if you're looking AT them versus looking through them. If you're uncomfortable initially with eye contact, you can look at someones forehead,

There's so much to discuss! Always face the audience squarely. Trombonists have a tendency to want to play off to the right of a hall. This warps the sound for much of the audience, but also loses connection.

What to do when you're resting always comes up. In Presidio we analyze what each of us is doing when we may have a few measures rest. We usually find some way to stay engaged with what is happening on stage, even if that just means focusing on someone with a prominent line, smiling, nodding at them, etc.

Horn carriage at rest is big for the audience. What feels natural to us often looks unnatural on stage. Personally, I try to avoid holding the horn in front of me when resting. Having the instrument between your audience and your body can act as a barrier to connection. I try to hold my horn to the side.

As a general starting point, it's so valuable to video record yourself. One really powerful method is to record yourself and watch with the sound turned off. If you're visually engaging with no sound, you're on the right track.

Love this discussion! Audiences come to concerts to be entertained. How that happens can vary depending on the performance situation (academic recital, professional recital, chamber ensemble in academic vs. entertainment settings, etc)

Josh Bledsoe
Presidio Brass
Missouri Symphony Orchestra
Principal Trombone


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« Reply #4 on: Feb 18, 2017, 06:27AM »

My take on "stage presence" is as follows:

If you are playing the music as deeply as possible, you will automatically have a riveting stage presence.

If you're not?

Then you're just acting.

Following is an image I often use for publicity:

Do you think I was posing?


Hell no!!!

I was playing!!!

Did I have some sort of "stage presence?"

Bet on it.

Every time I see someone "acting" on stage...and that goes for the clothes they wear, their haircut, etc...when I close my eyes I can hear that they are too busy looking like they are playing to actually be playing.

Just do your work...the stage presence will take care of itself.

My two cents, anyway...


« Last Edit: Feb 18, 2017, 04:13PM by sabutin » Logged

Visit <http://samburtis.com/>. Lots of information on that site in the form of articles plus a link to my method book "Time, Balance & Connections-A Universal Theory Of Brass Relativity" which includes several chapters of the book.

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« Reply #5 on: Feb 18, 2017, 06:36AM »

There was a short time when I was taking trumpet lessons from Rod Franks (LSO).

Once he told me: It is not enough to play beatifully, you have to look good while playing on stage. I guess that this kind of attitude is seen on stage. Your self esteem (or lack of), self-confidence and conviction in what you do, as well as your personality is transparent on stage - you cannot hide it, neither you cannot fake it. If there is a problem with presence on stage what you need to change is yourself, faking it is rarely a good thing.
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« Reply #6 on: Feb 18, 2017, 03:52PM »


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« Reply #7 on: Feb 18, 2017, 05:11PM »

Actually, it makes me uncomfortable if one of the performers starts staring at me.

As I go to recitals the thing I see most often missing in young performers is being able to cheerfully acknowledge the audience's applause.

I realize it's a bit of a ritual but it can look genuinely appreciative or it can look like bad robot motion, like some sort of unpleasant obligation being fulfilled.

I think there is a place for coaching there that goes beyond just saying "be yourself" or "just be natural".  The natural isn't working for some of them.

btw, I'm pretty sure that pic up there isn't sabutin.  That's Walter White testing a new pipette for the lab...


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« Reply #8 on: Feb 18, 2017, 05:30PM »

I remember seeing Ian Bousfield as a main artist at ITF in Austin, TX.
he had great stage presence.

speaking of holding the horn, I hold my horn hang in my left hand horizontally when not playing if I'm not playing a percussion instrument.
I saw a trombone player at Buddy Guy's place in Chicago holding it like that and I thought it was cool

and play your best, all the time
and listen your best, to stay engaged with the music


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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2017, 03:33AM »

I started playing trombone when I was a teenager because I thought it would make me look cool.  And wouldn't you know it,  I DID look cool.  No wait, maybe that was smoking.....

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? If a man makes a statement and no woman is there to hear it, is he still wrong?"

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« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2017, 02:00PM »

I like reading YouTube comments on David Taylor videos where middle school kids tell him he'd sound better if he wouldn't move so much while playing.

Aaron Thornberry
Bass & Tenor Trombonist
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