Disclaimer: There may be affiliate links on this post. This means that, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases you make after clicking one of my affiliate links at no additional cost to you.
1. “I’m scared to sing in front of other people”
2. “I can’t sing solos; I have stage fright”
I hear this from singers all the time. If you’re reading this article, then I am guessing you can relate.
But I don’t just hear this from newbies. Seasoned singers tell me this all the time. They’ll only sing in a choir and won’t even try to sing a short solo. Why?
Because the idea of singing by themselves in front of an audience is the equivalent of facing down a saber-toothed tiger.
At least, that’s the way their nervous system perceives it.
The Reasons You Have Stage Fright
1. The Power of Emotions
Really well-meaning people might say “just get out there, you have an amazing voice, you’ll be fine.” But they’re going about it all wrong. They are trying to build your confidence from the outside.
What they don’t understand is that, emotions are more powerful than logic. There is a little part of the brain called the amygdala that governs emotions. While some people can use their logical brain to overpower their animal brain and don’t experience stage fright, in others, it likes to overreact to situations. For people like us (yes, even me), standing on the stage is frightening.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how amazing your voice is. Confidence doesn’t just appear because you know you have skills. Building confidence doesn’t come from external praise. Confidence is like a muscle. You have to use to build it.
That leads me another unhelpful thing that people might say. “You just need to be believe in yourself.” This phrase makes me a little angry when I hear it. Chances are you’ve heard this before. Would hearing it again magically make the stage fright go away? No.
2. You Care About the Outcome
Being nervous is just a human response when you care about what you’re doing. Whenever you step up on stage, there is always a chance (even if it’s very tiny) something could go wrong.
You’ve spent hours practicing your song(s). You have worked out every nuance and worked every note into your voice. While you know that you sound awesome, sometimes there is just a little tiny part of you that worries you’ll forget something. I totally get that.
3. You Haven’t Practiced Enough
Perhaps you are somewhat unprepared for your solo. Of course, your anxiety about getting on stage will naturally be more than if you were fully prepared. But even so, that doesn’t mean you can’t get up there and do it if you’ve built your confidence muscle first.
My Battle With Stage Fright
I have a confession to make: to this day, I still struggle with stage fright. Even after over a decade of choir and solo singing. In fact, it happened to me this past Friday night.
My friends and I put on a benefit concert called Hear My Song at a local music store to raise money for the Rain Foundation. I practiced the crap out of my solos, but nevertheless, I was nervous to get on that stage.
I had a solo in the first song of the night, the first voice the audience heard sing. For whatever reason, the house lights were not all the way down and I could see every single face of the 50 or so people in there, including 2 former students of mine. Some of these people had heard me before, some didn’t know me from Adam.
Even though my solo was short, my heart was pounding pretty hard. And I sing in front of over a hundred people at church at least once a month (and I still can get nervous about that, too). Really, the small audience shouldn’t have made me so nervous. Yet, there I was, experiencing stage fright.
My solo song was a few songs later. In this case, I was singing the song “She Used to Be Mine,” from the musical Waitress. It’s a difficult song with a big range.
I’m not used to singing Broadway style music, so this was definitely outside of my comfort zone. Belting is a relatively new skill for me. I’ve been struggling to make the vocal register transitions smooth.
However, I had just made a huge breakthrough the day before. So I had extra reason for my anxiety to be up, but I LOVE this song (and I was doing it for a great cause!).
Anyway, by the time it was my turn, the lights were completely down, and you couldn’t see anyone’s face from the stage. While this did lessen the nerves, they were still there.
Here I was, a seasoned singer, who’s sung solos over a hundred times, still nervous. I knew that I’d practiced that song several dozen times. I knew that I knew every note, every rhythm, every word, and every expression. Yet, still doubt crept in that I would mess something up.
Every time you have a small win, that builds your confidence to take on slightly larger challenges. Even if you don’t succeed at that larger challenge, you build strength. Just like an actual muscle, the strength that you built from the smaller wins doesn’t disappear. Regardless of whether or not you beat it, your confidence muscle gets a work out each time you face a new challenge.
Below you will find the steps to help you go from “completely, never, ever, ever going to sing a solo in front of an audience” to “ok, let’s do this.”
Baby Steps to Building Your Confidence Muscle
Step 1- Get Comfortable with Your Face
- Sing in front of a mirror. If you are super shy, you might be tempted to look away, so practice making eye contact with yourself while you sing.
- It does not matter what you are singing right now, it could be “twinkle, twinkle little star.” You just need to be able to sing comfortably to your own face.
Step 2- Put That Solo on Autopilot
- Pick a song to sing that you might actually want to perform in front of an audience someday. It could be a small part of a song that you are going to audition for.
- Practice the crap out of that song or solo section. Learn it inside and out and backwards (well, not literally, but you get my drift). Practice it until you can sing it without thinking about it.
Step 3- Get Comfortable with Your Whole Reflection
- Sing your newly ingrained song in front of yourself in the mirror. If you’ve been using a handheld mirror or the bathroom mirror up until this point, sing in front of a full-length mirror. If you don’t have one, you can get a really cheap one at Target.
- Unless you are going to be in a box or pretending you’re a tree or something, your audience is going to see your whole body, not just your face. You need to comfortable singing while seeing your whole body.
Step 4- “Phone a Friend”
- Once you are comfortable singing your song in front of a full-length mirror, find a friend or family member to sing in front of. Just one right now. I know this step is hard. But you’ve built a foundation.
By now, you are comfortable hearing your voice and watching yourself sing, this step will be easier now than if you had skipped the first 3 steps.
This should be a person whom you really trust, someone you can confide your fears in who won’t just brush off your stage fright. Someone who can gently offer constructive criticism. Sing your song in front of this person enough times that your nerves are calming down.
- The environment here is crucial. It’s important that where you are when you are practicing overcoming your stage fright is a place you are comfortable being, especially with this person whom you are singing to.
It doesn’t have to be in-person, you can do it over a video chat like Skype, FaceTime, or Facebook Live (be sure to set the privacy settings to just that one person, or you’ll inadvertently share it to all of your Facebook friends).
1. Large spaces tend to have more echo which can be intimidating. 2. The lack of privacy means anyone might walk in unannounced.
Step 5- Phone Another Friend
- Now that you’ve overcome your fear of singing in front of another person, sing in front of another person.
Note that the fear may very well still be there, but overcoming does not mean it has to go away. It just means that you can get past it.
- Just as in step 4, you should sing the song enough times in front of this person that your nerves about singing in front of them have diminished.
Step 6- Increase the Size of Your Audience
- Now you have two people in front of whom you are able to sing without being upstaged by your stage fright. Sing in front of both of your trusted audience members at the same time.
- I’m sure you can see the pattern here. Each step adds to the number of times you have sung your song, as well as the number of times that you’ve sung in front of an audience.
Step 7- Get Uncomfortable Again
Now is the hard part. Now I ask you to step even farther outside your comfort zone. In order to move forward, you need to sing in front of people you don’t know very well, or maybe not even at all.
You can do this several ways.
- If you are already part of a choir, ask to use a couple minutes of rehearsal to sing in front of them.
- If you aren’t part of a choir, perhaps you can join one and do this.
- Another route you can go is using Facebook Live but including more people in the sharing settings.
- I don’t recommend making a video and then posting it somewhere. Why?
1. You need to have the knowledge that a group of people are actually hearing/seeing you.
2. Remember how having a choice in step 1 made the stress easier? Now, I challenge you to make it harder. Recording a video gives you the choice not to post it.
Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that you might not actually post the video when you’re done. Now, you’ve lessened the psychological burden, making it not as daunting as being live.
Step 8- Showtime
Now you are ready for the show. You’ve worked out your confidence muscle so many times. By now, you should have the strength to get up on that stage, despite your stage fright.
Overcoming stage fright is not about making it go away. It’s about building up the strength to push through that fear in order to make the decision to stand up and sing. That is what confidence is.