The Members List Serve for CMN can be a wonderful resource for working musicians. A recent question caused a lot of thought and produced some insightful advice for making your live shows more interactive. I’ve compiled some suggestions here from members, as well as a few of my own.
1. Know your audience.
Carole Stephens tells us that “a typical preschooler needs to move every 6 minutes to keep the fluids in their brain bathing the frontal lobe, which is necessary for critical thinking.” Her “snowball freeze fight” is a great example of using that knowledge practically. Younger children are likely to need movement even more frequently, so ask the venue what ages they are expecting at your show and plan accordingly.
2. Put the guitar down!
As many members, including Leslie Zak, reminded us: “It’s OK to drop the guitar and lead a cappella. In fact, it’s good to do, as a performer, song leader … and as a body conditioner.” It also helps keep the kids engaged to change what you are doing for a short while.
3. Use sign language.
Pam Donkin suggested learning a few words from sign language and incorporating them into a few of your songs, “(For) my song, Planting Seeds of Love, I teach “plant,” “love” and “heart,” ( I am planting seeds of love in my heart) Easy peasy. Then I see if any child seems to get that. If so and especially if they are in the front rows, I ask them to come up to lead it with me. I usually bring no more than 4 up, two for each side of the audience. I just make it really easy. Then we sing it through together with me leading and the kids leading.” Of course, when using a different language, always do the research to treat it respectfully and correctly! Click here for a website recommended by Pam for learning sign language, and here for one recommended by Liz Buchanan.
4. Don’t Neglect the Common Cannon.
Susan Salidor reminded us that using commonly known songs like Twinkle, Twinkle and Old MacDonald might not be how you spend your whole set, but a few of them at intervals helps keep kids and their grown-ups engaged. Use a favorite to get their attention, and then add your own twist!
5. Write your own interactive songs!
Writing your own interactive songs is easier than you think. One way to start is with simple commands such as “Jump!” “Wiggle!” and “Sway.” Another is to use parts of the body to tap, tickle or shake, as in: “Tap your knees, wiggle your tummy, shake your shoulders.”