5 Tips to Create an Effective Musical Character

One of the keys to any good story is character development, and that goes for opera and musical theatre, as well as any other form of writing or entertainment. Characters drive the story. The more developed the character, the easier it is for the audience to connect.

So, how do you tap into those characteristics and nuances that bring a character to life? Dr. Brian Kuhnert, a veteran of the performance stage and Director of Vocal Studies in the music school at Wayland Baptist University, offers hisfive tips for developing an effective character.

  1. Get a Copy of the Script: This obviously goes without saying as performers will always need a copy of the script, but Kuhnert advises getting it as soon as possible. Then immediately start familiarizing yourself with the character. Knowing the storyline and particular plot points are keys to understanding your character.
  2. Don’t Watch Videos: It’s tempting to watch cinematic or video adaptations of the piece you are going to perform, but it’s also inhibiting in that it is difficult to disassociate from the actor’s portrayal of your character. Kuhnert encourages you to build the character on your own, making it more naturally ingrained to who you are. The result is a more believable performance.
  3. Know the Character: Build a solid understanding of who your character is and what drives him or her. Know the character’s age and how this may affect emotional intelligence and how the character reacts to others or situations. In what era does the piece take place? A young person in the United States in 2021 will behave very differently than a young person in medieval Spain. Know what the character believes and with whom he or she interacts.
  4. Think Through Emotions: What conflicts does your character face throughout the course of the story? How will your character react? Knowing those conflicts help you understand where your character is going and how to get there.
  5. Determine Postures and Gestures: When everything else is done, start developing the physical characteristics of your character. What is his or her posture and what types of gestures are used to communicate. Using appropriate physical characteristics make the character believable.

Once you have worked through your character development, now it's time to get in costume, get on stage and bring your character to life.

For more music lessons from Dr. Kuhnert and other faculty members in Wayland's School of Music, follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our YouTube channel and click in the Music in Minutes playlist. New Music in Minutes lessons, focusing on vocal performance, piano and worship-music, will come your way every two weeks.


Music in Minutes is a product of the Wayland Baptist University School of Music. Wayland is an All-Steinway School and an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music. You can contact the school at www.wbu.edu or 806-291-1076.