How to Sing Through Stage Fright

The end of my semesters always includes a performance opportunity for my students. And while most students are (cautiously) excited about the idea of performing, it also generates a lot of … well … let’s call it energy.

And, unfortunately, there is no way around pre-performance energy, you can only go through it. Here are some ideas to help you get through.

  1. Start thinking of nerves as energy. This energy is neither good or bad, so stop thinking of your nervousness as something that has to be banished or squelched. With practice (and the right mindset), you can channel this energy and use it to actually improve your performance. (Honest!) This energy is what makes performing different from (and, for me, more fun than) practicing. It’s also why we have to practice performing. We can attempt to simulate performance conditions in our practice sessions, but nothing is quite like having an audience responding to what we are doing.
  2. Warm up. Do your stretches. Warming up your voice and getting “in your body” helps ground you and can help ground, or even dissipate, some of the energy that can come from nerves.
  3. Center yourself on stage. Plant both feet on the ground with your weight evenly between them. Take several deep breaths before you do anything else. Let yourself adjust to the environment, look around the room, or – if that feels too anxiety producing – close your eyes for a moment. When you step on the stage, it belongs to you. You are in control. You don’t need to rush through your performance (or your preparation). Your audience will wait for you to be ready.
  4. Remember to breathe! This sounds silly, but a lot of folks hold their breath when they get nervous. Upon arriving on stage, take a couple of slow deep breaths. Imagine the air reaching your toes or inhaling through the bottom of your feet. Slowing your breathing will slow your heart rate and combat that “fight or flight” adrenaline.
  5. Visualize a great performance. Sometime before your performance, find someplace quiet and see yourself performing at your best. On stage, hear your song in your head BEFORE you give the tempo to your accompanist AND before you begin singing.
  6. Watch your pre-performance talk. If you spend the time before your performance telling yourself and others how nervous you and how you just know you’re going to forget the words, or it’s going to be a train wreck or …  etc., you are reinforcing what you DON’T want to happen. Try substituting phrases like “I’m prepared,” “I’m going to give my best performance,” or “I’m really excited to share my song with people.”
  7. Depending on your performance situation this may be difficult, but work to minimize your contact with other nervous people. *smile* When I sang in an a cappella ensemble, we had a rule about keeping nerves to ourselves.  Otherwise the whole group could start to feed and amplify each other’s nervous energy.
  8. Remember that you are communicating. You are NOT standing on stage taking a test in front of a room of people waiting to judge you. You are about to share something with a group of people who are waiting to hear what you have to say. “The audience isn’t there to analyze you; they are there to feel what you’re feeling. – Liz Lewis

Finally, if you experience pre-performance energy, allow it to be there. Stop trying to make it go away. Notice it, allow it and then sing your song anyway. You are figuring out how to function with and use all of this energy to improve your performance.


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