By Nellie Vinograd
Stage fright is when you get nervous and anxious usually before or during a musical performance like singing. It's entirely normal when singing around people to feel a little shy; in fact, it’s hard to think of any singer who hasn’t experienced stage fright, shyness or other performance issues. Adele, powerhouse that she is, has admitted to throwing up out of nervousness before concerts even when she was topping the Billboard charts. Here are some tips to help with overcoming stage fright when singing.
Practice in total privacy
Starting out, you may not feel comfortable singing in front of anyone, even an instructor. That’s okay for now. Staring out, the most important thing is to feel comfortable finding your voice and knowing what you sound like at your best in order to build confidence. Find a secure spot in your basement, sing out in the shower, or rent out a music practice room if you’re in school. You can begin by singing along to a song, making up your own song, singing random vocalizations to test out your range -- anything that helps you get used to the sound of your own voice.
Start small and work your way up
Goals look different for everyone. Some people feel fine singing for huge, anonymous crowds but tense up in more intimate settings, for example. Set realistic, achievable goals for yourself to ease in to performing with confidence. Make plans for a karaoke night or make a pact with a friend that you’re both going to sing for each other after you’ve each memorized a song. As you overcome these challenges, new goals will seem more attainable. What’s a crowd of 20 people when you sang for a group of 10 last week?
Join a choir or singing group
Singing with a group is a great way to practice and learn music without all the pressure that comes with singing alone. Although some choirs will require you to audition, there are some that are audition-free or where the director just wants to hear your voice to place you in a section. In these situations, remember that choir directors and instructors want to teach you and they understand that everyone starts out at different levels. Never worry about being judged by them: they’ve stood in your shoes and just want to support you.
Perform for your most supportive audience first
While it’s helpful to receive constructive feedback and challenge yourself with new opportunities, you don’t have to jump right into the deep end. Sing for people who are excited to hear you and want to give you positive feedback. Feeling their loving, supportive energy while you perform will make you feel so much more at ease while you sing. Plus, hearing their adoring compliments will boost your confidence. Remember how it feels to receive this support and know what your biggest fans think of you. You can remind yourself of this feeling every time you’re about to perform for a new group.
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A common fear (and a common nightmare) is forgetting the words in the middle of a performance. Make sure you know what you’ll be performing backwards and forwards. Not only will this make you feel more comfortable, it also means you don’t have to be fussing around with sheet music and a music stand while you prepare. If you struggle with lyrics, work on just memorizing the words of the song without the music, and recite the words out loud with someone reading along as you do. Another helpful memorization trick is to listen to a recording of the song over and over again, especially right before you go to sleep.
Meditate before your performance
A great way to calm down and get your mind off of any fears and anxieties is to practice meditation. There are a plethora of free meditation resources online, including guided meditation podcasts that you can download to have on hand at all times. Meditation also helps you focus on your breathing, which will help you work on mindful breathing while you sing.
Find a ritual that works for you
Some performers always treat themselves to the same meal before a big show. Some people will go for a run that day or take long, hot showers to relax their muscles. Save time for yourself before your call-time to do whatever makes you happy and calms you down. This can look different for everyone, so try things out to see what’s the right fit.
Smile and have good posture
Sometimes, “fake it till you make it” is valuable advice: if you look like you’re comfortable on stage, people will believe it. Carrying yourself with good posture and smiling while you perform will improve your sense of confidence. Plus, these are good qualities to have when performing, anyway.
Accept and expect imperfection
At the end of the day, there’s only so much you can control to make sure a performance goes smoothly. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you stumble over a word or a note doesn’t sound exactly like it should have. The majority of the time, an audience won’t even notice. If you know and accept going in that things won’t be perfect, you can relax and simply try your best. Planning ahead is important, but overthinking things rarely makes people better performers.