Stage fright

Band on stage with stage fright

"See the man with the stage fright,

just standin' up there to give it all his might."

So says an old song by the Canadian rock group The Band. These words speak of admiration for the courage to get up there and sing in front of an audience. To stand up on a stage and give it everything you've got: It's the primal situation, the ultimate test, the goal of any performer who wants to wow an audience. But when the time comes and they stand in the spotlight, many singers are confronted with a problem: Stage fright or stage fright. What is stage fright and how can you deal with it?

Fear of singing in front of others 

From my singing students, especially the beginners, I hear again and again the confession: "I am afraid of singing in front of people". Many still know this from their memories, the fear when they spoke or sang in front of an audience for the first time, with these typical physical symptoms: dry mouth, racing heart, trembling, cold sweat, shortness of breath, nausea, and for some there is also a sudden blackout - the text is gone, the mind as if swept away. The feeling is always one of not being able to control the situation, of not being in control. 

For singers, the occurrence and experience of stage fright is an everyday occurrence. Therefore, dealing with stage fright in a positive way plays a particularly important role for them. Stage fright can have very different causes: general anxiety (current state of health, previous experiences), situational circumstances (performance conditions, audience) or task-specific factors (difficulty of the task, preparation). Accordingly, the same person can experience stage fright differently from performance to performance. Stage fright can improve with increasing professional experience, but remains part of the performance experience. 

Many world-famous stars have had stage fright not only at the beginning of their careers, but always, right to the end. And they have struggled with the symptoms just described until the end, even if they become less extreme with time. The decisive difference to the fear of the unprepared singer lies in their recallable technique. A well-practised breathing technique and support, for example, which work from the first note, quickly make the shortness of breath evaporate. The preparation for the song and the stage performance can be so internalised that it runs like a sub-routine. This gives the singer confidence - and even the freedom to improvise and communicate with the audience. Despite the initial stage fright, she can have fun.

Stage fright, but well prepared 

Trembling, racing heart, sweat, slight nausea: that's what will remain before every performance. But we can also see stage fright from a perspective other than this quasi-medical one. Stage fright gives you energy. It is the energy that helps you to give your best on stage. As we have seen, stage fright is strongest in the moment before the first performance: when the singer steps in front of the microphone and the audience's expectations are at their highest. But thanks to her good preparation and singing technique, she can then put all this energy into her song. Like a racehorse whose tension is released when it finally gallops out of its box.

To deal with stage fright, I recommend preparing:

  • Study the lyrics of your song (your message to your audience) in depth.
  • Back up your own song interpretation with good vocal technique (breathing technique, support, singing with a full voice).
  • Rehearse a lot and take pictures of yourself or film yourself.
  • Create positive images in your mind, imagine yourself going on stage and it being a great concert. 
  • Inhale through the nose before performing and feel the movement of the inhale into your lower abdomen. Exhale through the mouth forming an "f" with your lips. Wait for your natural breath impulse before the next inhalation.

Everything will be fine

Let's look back at the lyrics from the song by The Band. What's next for the man with stage fright? 

"He got caught in the spotlight,

but when we get to the end

he wants to start all over again."

Have you ever done that - given your best despite or with stage fright? Of course you have! Then you'll want to do it again - even on a stage...

Apropos: If you want to watch the song "Stage Fright" in full length, here it is:

You can find suitable exercises to improve your breathing and singing technique in my online singing courses. Have a look: Singing courses

Sing a Song - Be Happy!

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