Tackling Stage Fright

So many singers carry what they feel to be a ‘dirty secret’ – and I know that these three steps will fix it – says Leontine Hass.

If I had a penny for every singer who comes to me revealing that they suffer from stage fright and a sudden loss of confidence, I would be drinking Rum in the Bahamas right now.

Singers can suffer from debilitating anxiety, fear, impostor syndrome and a sense of just not being good enough to be a professional singer.

This anxiety almost always hits when they have not been performing for a while, and when they have hit a fallow patch.

I’m not sighing at the gravity of their situation, but because I know all about itSingers reveal their ‘dirty secret’ to me so frequently that it tends to elicit a smile and a sigh.

I’m not sighing at the gravity of their situation, but because I know all about it; I know what it will take to fix it, why it happened – I just need to make sure they stay with me long enough to come out the other end.

So, here is my opinion, based on years of experience, on how to tackle this:

1. Seek professional help

Address this issue with professionals who do you good. The latter is vital. There are teachers, therapists and coaches who can 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 help might be physical-technique based or psychological in nature. 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.

Leontine with a singer in training

Leontine with a singer in training

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… these are all valid and yet not acceptable reasons to get in the way of your desire 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). These don’t need to be difficult, just a few simple songs which you enjoy and which you can sing when asked.

Any performance opportunity is worth it. Sing in old peoples’ homes. Sing to your little sister or your child. Sing at family parties.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.

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Majusic Majusic - All of Me (Cover)

Good work girls. You both have lovely voices and have done a great job with the harmonies. You also have a good feel for the lyrics, a nice gentle connection to the text and the emotions in the song.

I want you to consider the fact that you never really “go for it” vocally. You often flip into ‘falsetto’ or breathy singing. Even on the sections where you could get into some real belt or a stronger and more powerful vocal connection, you are under-singing.

The girl on the left – you have a strong voice. Use it! The girl on the right with plats – if you have a look at the video you are sticking your neck out and lifting your chin up a little. This makes it very difficult to tilt your thyroid cartilage and makes reaching high notes more difficult. It is more of a belt position but, rather than go into a stronger vocal connection, you resort to breathy singing.

To sum it up, you both need to use your voices more powerfully. You are capable of it so don’t shy away. I also feel the pace is dragging. Even slow songs need a sense of forward motion and rhythm. A very good effort though. Sing more, practice more and make another video!

Leontine Hass

Leontine Hass BA, Melb. Uni, BMus. Kings College London, Dip. RAM is a singer, actress, vocal coach and Director of The Associated Studios and WAM.Co (The Word and Music Company). As a vocal coach, Leontine has a busy private practice comprising professional singers and recording artistss