Performing Live

John Legend

Lesson time 18:05 min

John shares tips for powering up your live performances, and he welcomes a gospel choir to perform “Free” together for the first time.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Bringing “Free” to Life


[MUSIC - JOHN LEGEND, "ORDINARY PEOPLE"] - (SINGING) Girl, I'm in love with you, but this ain't the honeymoon. I love performing live. In fact, I write songs really because I want to play them live. I love making the record. I love writing the song. It's a beautiful experience, completing a song and-- and seeing a record come together. But the culmination of all of that work is when you get to play it in front of people. And you get to see them experience it. You get to feel them experience it. And eventually, once the record's out there in the world for a while, you get to hear them sing with you. You get to hear them connect was the song in the way that they connect with it. And it's a beautiful experience for a songwriter to be able to go from this idea that you created, this new idea that you created in a room by yourself or with a couple other people, and then see it experienced by a few thousand people in a room. It's pretty amazing. [PLAYING PIANO] When I perform my songs live, one, I'm trying to communicate directly with them. So I want them to feel my presence, hear my voice, connect with me. I want to look in their eyes. I want it to be an experience where we're experiencing each other. We're communicating to each other, we're feeling each other's presence. I want the music to sound great. So I have a great band, I have a great musical director, great backing vocalists-- everybody is really great at what they do. So they're able to execute, not only what we put on the record, but elevate what we've put on the record and make it sound even better live than it sounds on the record. And then you want to feel that energy. You want to feel the beat. You want to feel the roar of the crowd. You want all of that to contribute to this euphoria, this inspiration, this joy that people feel when they get to experience live music done right. Some of that is through interacting with the crowd. We do call and response. I get them to sing some of the song. I get them to sing "take it slow" when we do "Ordinary People." I get them to sing the chorus back to me, because they feel something when they hear thousands of other people singing the same thing as them without me singing with them-- just all of them together, like a big choir. It's a beautiful feeling. Sometimes we strip things down so that the essence of the song can be really heard. So maybe we'll do a version of the song that's acoustic, even though it's recorded differently on the album. So there's different techniques that you'll use to make it feel more alive in the-- in the audience. Sometimes you'll give some color commentary before or after the song that contextualizes, you know, what you were thinking when you wrote the song. So there's all kinds of ways to make the live experience elevate from what the recorded experience was. For the live performance for "Free" I want a choir to sing with me, because I sang al...

About the Instructor

When 12-time Grammy winner John Legend released “Free” in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he called it a prayer for peace. Now the recipient of the first-ever Recording Academy Global Impact Award teaches you how he wrote and recorded the song—and his process for creating hits like “All of Me” and “Glory.” Layer melodies and lyrics, develop your musical point of view, and make music that makes the moment.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

John Legend

John Legend, the EGOT-winning music icon and coach on “The Voice,” teaches you his process for creating music with impact.

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