• Ryan Jenkins: The Online Vocal Coach

Where's The Trapdoor?

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

Someone pull the lever, this stage can swallow me whole now!

Brian Wilson, Donny Osmond, Cher, Adele, Andrea Bocelli and even Barbara Streisand… What do they all have in common? That’s right, they all suffer terribly from performance anxiety (stage fright).

Imagine this – you have the most wonderful gift that you’ve been developing for years but you’re too anxious to share it with the rest of the world. Will this be something you can overcome?

Well, given that many of the aforementioned singers take to the stage and perform to thousands of people most nights, the answer is most certainly, YES!

Unfortunately, for many people, singing in front of an audience will never be straightforward. But, believe me when I say, that with practice, support, self-belief and resilience it will get easier. Let’s be honest with each other, the first few times will likely be the most difficult, but you will succeed in suppressing that performance anxiety.

This is a journey - a journey of determination and self-belief. To help you along that journey, I have laid out several tips to help you reach your performance destination.

Make it a collaborative affair

If this is your first time performing, you can’t go far wrong than singing with others. Join a choir, where the focus is on the whole group and not solely on you. Having been a member of and now a musical director of a choir, I can assure you that it is the perfect training ground for those singers who suffer with anxiety issues. Better still, if you join a community choir - the likelihood is you will not have to audition.

By joining a choir, you will develop your voice and build up your confidence, without the feeling of everyone watching you. Joining a choir has the added benefit of surrounding you with other performers, most of whom are probably more seasoned than you are... Many are just as nervous as you. Not only can they help out with advice, but just being around veteran and like-minded performers and observing them will undoubtedly help you to grow in confidence and vocal ability.

Stand up and fake it

Fake it till you make it! You’ll be surprised at how important that is to singing and performing.

The correct alignment and posture not only improves sound but also makes you look more confident and feel more confident, and the results are instantaneous! The proof is in the proverbial pudding, as they say. Stand up straight, relax those shoulders and raise a smile. There, don't you feel more confident already?

When you enter the stage, take your time to adopt a good posture and let your body know you’re ready to perform. Feel the floor beneath you, elongate your neck and spine, take a deep breath and sing. There you go, you’re on stage, you’re poised and ready - the toughest battle has been conquered. Did the audience see your anxiety? Almost certainly not.

Aaaaaand breathe

Now this advice may seem a little unnecessary but you’ll be surprised at how many times I have to remind my singers to breathe.

Nerves, anxiety, the dreaded stage-freeze or mind blank has a huge impact on the depth and control of your breathing which ultimately affects your vocalisation. So, take some time to gather your thoughts and breathe effectively.

Whenever you feel anxious, take a moment to focus on your breath, feel the rising and falling of your abdomen. Focusing on your breathing and experiencing its movement has a profoundly calming effect on a person, allowing you the time and space to gather your thoughts. Take your time! The audience will wait - because they know the wait will be worth it.

Now is NOT the time

A live performance is not the time to start trying something new and untested. You’ve put so much effort into refining your performance - don’t potentially ruin it with a moment of madness. Show your audience what you do best, what you do well - that is what they want to see.

Of course, that’s not to say you should never venture out of your comfort zone. What I’m suggesting is that you develop and practice your new material before presenting it to your audience. Is it really good enough to share? If you have any doubt, hold off just a little longer until you’re certain. Those songs you know well and love to sing will show the best of your voice. Trying something new and unproven may unhinge you, ultimately creating a sense of anxiety. As an artist, you want to grow - but from my experience, it is always best to pick your moments and be confident in knowing you’re ready to take the leap!

Bring a friend… Find a friend

If you’ve brought a friend or family member with you to the performance, find that person in the audience. Ask them, if possible, to sit near the back and seek them out! Allow yourself to focus on that person, sing directly to them, this will make you feel more comfortable. Consequently, because your carefully selected focal point is sat at the back, the audience will assume that you are performing to the entire room as you gaze towards the back of the auditorium.

However, it may be that you don’t have a friend or family member in the audience. If that’s the case, find a friendly face. I can promise you, there will be someone in the audience rooting for you! Imagine they’re your dearest friend of many years, who is there in the audience solely to support you. Just altering your mindset, even if it’s somewhat pretend, will have a positive impact on your anxiety and vocal output.

Get a vocal coach

The best singers in the world have vocal coaches - you need one too! Regardless of how well you sing, that machine needs oiling, it needs maintaining, your vocal and performance development needs structure and direction. If you want to know why you need a vocal coach, read my previous blog which answers that very question,

Practice makes perfect

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have tried to ‘wing’ it and ultimately failed! It breaks a singer to know they've flopped and could've done so much better had they better prepared. Don’t do that to yourself! Be prepared, be ready, show the audience what you have to offer - give them the best of you, they’ll appreciate it and you will shine!

Feed you brain... Visualise your success

This is where the wildly vivid imagination of a creative person, such as yourself, becomes your greatest strength.

Feed your brain with positivity by visualising your performance beforehand. Take that opportunity to play out the perfect scenario. Let the hours of practice be worth it. Take time to picture the best version of you filling the room, capturing the hearts and minds of the audience who watch and listen in amazement.

If you let it, your irrational brain will undoubtedly attempt to unsettle you. Mentally prepare yourself by imagining the energy created in that moment on stage and feed your self-belief. You've trained for this, you've shed the tears, you've been broken to the point of giving up but came back stronger. You owe to it yourself to believe in your own ability. Your audience want to see a winner and you have the ability to deliver. So, if it helps to visualise your success - do it!

I'll leave you with this

Your performance anxiety is built on a lack of belief in your ability to do or achieve something. So, the more you practice, learn, prepare and develop, the more confident you will become in your own ability.

Seek guidance from trained professionals, soak up their expertise and practice it thoroughly, both physically and mentally. Let singing to an audience become second nature, let it be that thing you thrive off of and let it be something you’re proud to share with others.

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