Tackling Stage fright by Leontine Hass
If I had a penny for every singer who comes to me and reveals that they suffer from stage fright, a sudden loss of confidence and therefore suddenly loose control of their vocals, I would be drinking Rum in the Bahamas right now. Singers suffer from debilitating anxiety, fear, impostor syndrome and a sense of just not being good enough to stay in the profession reasonably regularly and almost always when they have not been performing for a while, and when they have hit a fallow patch. Singers reveal their ‘dirty secret’ to me so frequently that it tends to elicit a smile and a sigh. Unbeknownst to them it is not a sigh at the gravity of their situation, but a sigh because I know all about it, I know what it will take to fix it, why it happened, and that I just need to make sure they stay with me long enough to come out the other end. So in this article I will aim to give you my opinion, based on some years of experience, as to how to tackle this:
1. Seek professional help
Do address this issue with professionals who do you good. The latter is vital. There are teachers, therapists and coaches who tune into you and your needs, your vulnerabilities, the sum of your experiences and put their finger on something. They somehow manage to facilitate an improvement in you. This can be physical, technique based or psychological. The important thing is that they make you better in some way. When you commit to them and to regular sessions, a little magic happens. Regularity is vital for the progress of both parties. Nothing can be achieved with flaky behaviour here. Commitment and going through the process is crucial. The other crucial point is to find the people who are right for you. This might take time. You may need to try a handful. However, it is worth the persistence required.
2. Prepare, practice, persevere
Regular practice and preparation are absolutely vital to get you back on track. Spending time on your art needs to be a little oasis in your daily life where you spend time on you and your creativity. Nothing should get in the way of it. Fights with partners, emotional upheavals, money jobs, depression, procrastination, not being able to practice without annoying your flatmates…all valid and yet not acceptable if you want to be a professional singer. Sort it out! Find a local church to practice in, enjoy annoying your flatmates, stop fighting battles and take an hour or two out at the absolute minimum to devote this time to your craft. If you do not, you will not make it. That is the reality. Today is all we have.
3. Create small and regular opportunities to perform in a safe space
Performing needs practice. If you have not performed for a long time, no matter how good you are, you will be nervous. More likely terrified. Performing takes practice. Singers sing to people. There is no point in being a singer and having only yourself as an audience. Make sure you have 2-3 party pieces ready. Songs you can sing at a party. Nothing difficult. Just a few simple songs which you connect to and enjoy which you can sing when people ask. Don’t always say no. Sing! Sing at your local church. You might be the best one in your church choir but who cares. Any performance opportunity is worth it. Sing in old peoples’ homes. Sing to your little sister or your child. Sing at family parties. Sing at open mic. nights. They are listed. Research. Organise small charity gigs and concerts. The more you do it, the less your nerves will trouble you. Do workshops, go to singers groups. In my experience 6 weeks is what it takes to break the neck of the worst of it. You will be amazed. But this will not happen without attending to it reasonably tenaciously. I have taught literally hundreds of singers, many very well known, shaking with fear when asked to sing publicly after having a break. Do something about it and get back. Be prepared to give some second rate performances if need be. But start performing.