NOTE:  This was written for my autoharp students at the Mtn. View, AR, school in preparation for their playing at several important summer performances.  The students had just completed 6th grade and their second year of autoharp.  There is so much for them to learn about performing in public.

The following guidelines are some of the basics.  Though this was written with my school students in mind, these same guidelines carry across to the adult sector as well.

1.)  SMILE:

This is so very important and truly does come with time and practice.  At first when you start working on this, it feels fake and like you’re “pasting” on the smile.  But the more you smile, the more you will remember to do it.  Then it becomes real and a part of you when you perform.

Even if you’re feeling bad that day, for whatever reason, you owe it to your audience to look like you are having a good time and enjoying playing for them.  KEEP SMILING!

Practice at smiling while you practice your pieces/songs at home.  Try looking in a mirror every now and then as you play to see what your mouth is doing and your expression looks like.  If you are concentrating on your music, paste that smile on as you practice.  It does come with time and practice.


Learn your songs and words enough to be able to look out at the audience now and then. Really, you should start memorizing about this point so that you can play without having to cast your eyes down at the music all the time.  That eye contact between you and the audience is really important – it connects you with them and them with you.  They feel a part of your performance.  Have you ever had a conversation with a person who doesn’t look at you at all when talking?  It can be rather disconcerting, annoying.  So… look up at the audience now and then if you’re still working off of music.


Up the volume, vocally, when you speak during a performance and speak clearly, distinctly.  This is called voice projection.  Though you may not exactly feel confident in actuality when performing, voice projection gives the appearance of confidence and lets the audience hear what you are saying.

If there is a microphone available, lean forward (but not too close) and speak into it.


Mouth a “Thank You” or nod your head after the clapping.  Be sure to thank the audience at the very end of your set, too.  You are giving them credit for appreciating your playing.


When people talk to you, converse back with them.  You don’t have to be a great talker to visit with people.  Ask them about themselves and they’ll do the talking.  Take a real interest in them – do they have children (people always love talking about their children or grandchildren), ages of children/grandchildren, what do their children do, do they live nearby, what are the person’s interests/hobbies, do they play music of any kind?   Is there anything you’d like to know about them?  ASK THEM!  The list goes on.  You learn some pretty amazing and unique things about people this way.  Do this and you appear the great conversationalist when it is they who are doing the talking.    This applies anywhere, anytime. 

By Karen Daniels,  Copyright  2004,  All Rights Reserved