Stage Fright, Fear of Performing, Pre Show Nerves

By Mellie Owen

Stage fright is a feeling that you must learn to take control over at some point in your musical career. Every performer/musician will at some point have felt nervous, scared or anxious about going on stage and it is very normal to feel worried about your performance or to feel worried if the audience will like your performance, your voice, your song etc. What you need to know is that most of the fear occurs before you step out onto the stage but once you’re up there, it goes away and then you think to yourself ‘that wasn’t even scary, it was an amazing experience’

I have to mention that I do believe that having some fear before you go out on stage can be a positive thing as from a little bit of fear you often create a magical performance. The key is to use your fear and nerves to your advantage and not allow the fear and nerves or anxiety control your performance.

I’m going to be giving you some tips on beating those nerves but before I do, I want to point out probably the two most important factors I have come to realise over my career as a musician and vocalist.

Number 1: Develop Proper Vocal Technique.

Without great vocal technique, it can be extremely difficult to work through the nerves and anxiety when you are on stage. If your nerves really get the best of you and start to affect your vocal, having the technique behind your voice can save you from being a victim of nerves and anxiety. You need to have proper breath support, know how to use your breath to your advantage (nasal and mouth breath) and know your voice and performance inside and out to be able to dig deep down into your gut when those nerves start to take over. I will agree that there are some musicians and vocalists in the world who never took lessons, maybe never did scales for most of their early career but for the majority of us in the music industry who are vocalists and serious about our musical goals, we need to warm up and warm down, we need to work on breath support and we need to have a proper foundation for the voice for it to work every day the way we expect it to. Do those scales with passion, work on your breath exercises, know your songs with technique and lyrics and know those lyrics from memory. Commit to developing great vocal technique. Great technique will back you up when those nerves creep in before you go on stage.

Number 2: The Musicians Most Important Job

Tell the story behind the song!

This is something I wish I had learnt when I was just starting out performing. For so many years my pre show habit was totally being a narcissistic singer on an egotistical train of thought asking myself questions such as, “what if they don’t like me, what if no one claps for me, what if they think I’m not good enough, what if”, ugh the list of ME, ME, ME questions that I would ask is long and it was all about ME for sure!

A few years ago, I totally changed my mindset about being a performer, taking the ME out of the performance and making it all about my audience and all about telling the story of the song and ever since then I feel I am able to really connect with an audience and give something back to them, making them feel inspired helps me to feel inspired on stage also and you know what? Doing this makes me less nervous and more pumped to engage my audience and connect with them! Many vocalists who are starting out sometimes unintentionally make the stage performance all about themselves. Asking themselves the same questions I used to ask before going on stage “will the audience like me?, will they like my voice, what if I stuff up the words” When really the only two questions you should be asking yourself as a musician and as a vocalist is “How can I tell the story of this song” and “how can I serve my audience” If you are able to tell the story behind the song to your audience, you will create magic! Your audience will connect with you and you will influence how they feel because you are telling the story not just singing and going through the motions or doing lots of tricks with the voice or simply just remembering your lyrics. Performing is way more than all of that.

So how do you tell the story of the song? You use your vocal technique, you use vocal dynamics, you know your song inside and out, use movement, use your surroundings on stage, have energy in the body and vocal, dig deep and draw from your life experiences while you sing and accept that your most important job as a musician is story telling. Through doing this one job you are able to entertain, you’re able to let your guard down and become vulnerable therefore enabling true emotion to be present in the performance and connect with the audience. See how it is all connected in a big way?

Get rid of the destructive ME, ME, ME mindset and think about engaging with your audience. Become immersed in telling the story of the song. Make sure that your audience walks away inspired wanting to create something awesome! Work on becoming a story teller. This is how you serve your audience. Nerves tend to subside a little once you make performing about giving.

Ok, with all of that said, I also wanted to include some simple tips to help ease your stage fright right now. Work on your nerves and use the strategies that work best for you and get performing today!

· Be very well prepared. Practice makes permanent so make sure you know your songs and the lyrics and how you are going to perform them on stage, inside and out.

· Invite a friend or family member back stage to have a giggle with and help take your mind off how nervous you feel.

· If possible, chat to audience members before your performance, getting to know them a little bit, and becoming part of their experiences.

· Have your scales on your phone or iPod and do them backstage to keep your vocal cords nice and limber and your voice flexible.

· Listen to your favourite music to help you get excited about your performance.

· Think about how much you have grown as a singer/performer since your first lesson.

· Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing the most amazing performance you’ve ever done! Imagine the audience cheering and clapping for you. See yourself smiling and looking happy. See your audience inspired by your performance.

· Remember happy moments from your past, Birthdays, Christmas, having fun with your pets or friends.

· Take a quick walk, jog or dance on the spot.

· Breathe deeply in and out; focus on how great you have been sounding when you’ve been practicing and tell yourself you can rely on your technique, you know those notes, so let it go!

· Keep your voice well hydrated. Nerves can make your voice and throat feel very dry and sticky, it is good to have a bottle of room temperature water with you back stage and take sips to cure that feeling. Breathe mostly through the nose as mouth breathing when you are nervous can dry out the throat and voice.

· Check how you look in a mirror. Make any final adjustments to your hair and makeup and tell yourself how awesome you look in your stage outfit. Tell yourself you are ready to inspire others.

· Try to get a chance to see your stage and have a look around it before your performance. The more comfy you feel with the stage the less afraid you will feel once you walk out there. Make the stage your own personal space and make your microphone your new best friend.

When on stage sometimes things will happen out in the audience or on the stage that might distract you, this can make the nerves come back if you’re not ready to take charge of your performance. Here are some handy tips that can aid you once on stage.

· If you are able to, try looking at the friendly faces in the audience. These are usually your family and friends that came to see you sing and they will always be your biggest fans!

· Close your eyes and pretend you are in your safe space at home practicing your songs. This may be your bedroom or the lounge room, wherever you do all your singing work in.

· Take moments to close your eyes more, don’t worry about what is happening around the room, ground yourself and then when you are ready, open your eyes again.

· Focus on the music and the way it makes you feel. Let your body sway to the rhythm and try not to stand in the one spot. It is all about the love of music!

· Kill your ego – Make the performance about inspiring your audience and making them feel good and less about yourself and if the audience will like you. Think about exciting the audience and in turn they will love you!

· Perform, perform, perform!! The more experience you get performing on stage the less that nerves and anxiety will control you. Try to take every opportunity you can to sing/play in front of an audience.

I hope these tips help you work through your fear, nerves, anxiety about performing live. Some people would simply tell you to get rid of your nerves and fears you just need to not care at all about the audience or not to care about your performance and that will help, but I don’t believe this to be at all true. You need to care, You need to care a lot. Care about the songs you are performing and care about your audience.

Thanks for reading and let me know how you go with working through your nerves and stage fright.

Written By