We’ve all felt the fear at some point.
It can cripple a vocal performance. You can practice hard, warm-up correctly and be in perfect health in an optimal environment, and…You can still suck. How?! It’s because your nerves got the better of you. What a shame.
How to stop Stage Fright from destroying your singing
We all suffer from some level of nerves before singing. Check out these quotes from none other than one of the greatest Tenors of all time – Luciano Pavarotti.
“Yes, because before [you go onstage], you don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “The moment you are putting your feet on the stage, you realize what is the situation of your voice, of your body. More than everything, there is a click that happens when you are there to make you become another person. The 15 minutes before, you really would like to be somebody else.”
“Am I afraid of high notes? Of course I am afraid. What sane man is not?”
—- Luciano Pavarotti
And if you don’t believe me, check out this link on stage fright.
Before we answer this, let’s go deeper into exactly what type of singing nerves you may have.So if we all get nerves, then why do some singers seem to give off a wave of confidence and joy in their singing and some of us just, literally, crash and burn.
What type of singing nerves are there?
There are 2 main types of singing nerves:
- Rational Nerves
- Irrational Nerves
Rational Nerves occur because of a logical, rational reason why you may be nervous. You didn’t learn the piece. You are unwell. Perhaps you had very little sleep last night. Or, it’s insanely hot in the concert hall and you can’t breathe! Fill in the blanks with your chosen reason. These are good reasons why you might be nervous. But, and this is a big but, just because you have a good reason to be nervous, it doesn’t mean you should let that reason make you fail!
So I’ll give you an example of what I mean. It’s 9am. You are booked to do a gig tonight and you feel yourself coming down with something in your throat. You start to panic. “How am I going to sing tonight?!” you ask.
Scenario 1. You panic, get anxious and start to putter around visualizing your failure again and again. After all, you have good reason for thinking you be a vocal flop tonight. The concert gets nearer and true to form, you let your anxiety and nerves get the better of you and you suck. Technically, your voice was 90% healthy, but you let that 10% get in the way and you visualized failure and that’s exactly what happened.
Scenario 2. Well, you panic initially. Then you pull yourself together and remind yourself that many singers before you have sung well even when slightly under the weather. You go to bed and get 4 hours sleep. You drink tea with lemon and honey, take anti-inflammatory pills etc. In short, you do whatever is in your power to rest yourself and heal your voice. Now, you approach the gig with an attitude of “I’ve done what I can, and I’ll give it my best shot” After all there is no reason why you can’t give a solid performance in terms of your health. You only started coming down with something today. You get out there and you rock.
You are well rested, know your music like the back of your hand and feel good about your ability to perform. In short, you have no good reason to be nervous!
Suddenly, like a hammer blow, 2 hours before the gig you start losing it. You feel your body shaking, teeth chattering, and find it hard to stop pacing around. You’re irrationally nervous. Yet – you have no good reason to be nervous.
Again, you have a choice about how to respond; a rational response that leads to success. Or an irrational one that leads to failure. Your choice.
How to deal with nerves?
So how can you be a singer who thrives in the limelight and performs amazingly?
The answer to this question lies in re-framing the question. You can’t block or ignore nerves. You can’t deal with them like you would deal with a bag of garbage. They exist, like any feeling and must be respected. Instead, let’s learn to use the nerves to our advantage.
What do I mean?
Nerves are a form of energy. Energy that is being expressed in the wrong way. It can make you pace around or breathe quicker or make your heart beat faster. We want to harness this vibrancy and use it for performance.
There are 3 steps to doing this.
- Breath Control
- Loosening up the body
- Singing the highlights of a song
Breathe in and out slowly for 1-2 minutes.
Focus on the breath in and the breath out. Just think about the breath and nothing else.
If you are able to, just as you after you complete your ‘in’ breath, hold the diaphragm for a second. Experience the stillness of the present moment. Then exhale slowly. Don’t try and do super long exhales. The idea is to relax and focus, not break some sort of endurance record!
Loosening up the body
Rotate your arms 360 degrees vertically. Do some jumping jacks. Roll your head 360 degrees. Whatever it takes to get your blood pumping and body moving. Don’t overdo it because you don’t want to wear yourself out! But moving around can help release some tension and prepare your body for free and flexible muscular engagement – after all, this is what happens when you sing.
Singing the highlights of a song
Pick one of your favorite songs you are about to perform. Pick the best part – the part you enjoy the most and feel you are a master over it. Sing it! It can be just one line, but the point is to remind yourself that you are capable and skilled. You can do it. Athletes do this before a big race. They envision in their mind’s eye how they will run/jump/play etc. They go through a success scenario. The advantage you have as a singer is you can actually do the success scenario. You can sing one line and you will not wear out your voice or tire your muscles like an athlete would.
Bringing it all together
Stage Fright and nerves don’t have to ruin a performance. In fact, we can use them to help our singing. Whether there’s a rational reason to be nervous, or we’re just plain nervous, nerves should never get the better of us. Remember, everyone suffers from stage fright. That doesn’t mean it should define you and your performance.
What about your experiences with Stage Fright? Ever had a time where you conquered it and delivered a great performance? How did you do it? Leave a comment below!
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