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Turn Stage Fright Into Stage Presence

Turn Stage Fright Into Stage Presence

It is truly possible to defeat debilitating fear –says Judy Rodman

Stage fright, performance anxiety, jitters, numbness or nervousness … whatever you call ‘it’… hits everyone who steps on stage at one time or another.

Veteran performers are sometimes plagued with it. There are levels of this phenomenon, from mild anxiety (butterflies – actually can be a great thing) to incapacitating conditions that cause show cancellations and stop careers in their tracks.

It’s not just newbies who get this.

Veteran performers are sometimes plagued with it.

Though I’m not prone to it, there were three times I experienced stage fright: The first time I sang on the Grand Old Opry, the Tonight Show, and Farm Aid.

But when I played these places again, I didn’t experience nearly as much anxiety.
It is truly possible to defeat this condition if we understand how it hits us. There are levels of stage fright that need medical attention. But most often the key is to …

Conquer Stinking Thinking

I believe the biggest contribution to nervousness in performance is the false beliefs we have assumed such as:

  1. I better be better than everyone else, or I’m a loser who should never sing (or speak) again.
  2. My voice has to be PERFECT.
  3. It’s all about the high notes. It’s all about the long notes. It’s all about the vocal licks.
  4. It’s all about the strong notes. It’s all about ME!

Whew… these are powerfully negative, voice-freezing thoughts to have. What do any of the above things have to do giving someone a message [communicating]?

Not a thing.

And if you buy into any of the above, you will have stage fright to one degree or other. Why?

A New Kind of Training

Ask yourself to whom the lyric is speaking. THAT’S who you should be directing your voice to. The voice runs on instinct. We must train ourselves to instinctively use correct vocal technique, that’s true, but in practical application, we perform instinctively, based on habitual thinking and on actions of the automatic nervous system.

Change your thinking and you can change the automatic nervous system response.

Ask yourself to whom the lyric is speaking. THAT’S who you should be directing your voice to.

What do you want that someone to feel? THAT’S what should dictate the tone of voice and body language you use.

Do this and you can find yourself focused on the voice’s real and only job… that of communicating!

Stage fright can very naturally turn into authentic, heart-moving stage presence.

And your voice will work better technically, too!

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Lani the Procrastinator
Lani the Procrastinator – “Crude Encore”

The uniqueness of your performance here made me look up tracks on Facebook- great stuff! Your vocal control is a definite asset; your body and facial language and use of hands help you. I’d love to hear your more lead voice volume, especially over the swell of the backing vocals. If anything, you might experiment with more variations in your vocal tone. Experiment with a bit more chest and mask resonance here and there.. then go back to bell-tones to keep the listener surprised. Best wishes on your project launch!

Derick – “Excuse Me Lady”

Derick… awesome to hear traditional blues done by such a young artist! I hear your love for it here. Tweaks: Your tone is more songwriter than performer. It sounds like you’re thinking the conversation instead of actually having it. Try out a less breathy, more ‘talky’ sound. Simply ‘say’ your lyrics on pitch. Use a rasp or scratch here and there. Trace blues legends like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy to practice. When you do cross over into head voice, try pulling up and back, without lifting your chin. Keep those great blues coming!

Judy RodmanJudy Rodman is an award-winning vocal coach, session singer, recording artist, songwriter, producer. Creator of “Power, Path and Performance” vocal training, named “Best Vocal Coach” by NashvilleMusicPros.com, she trains singers and speakers nationally and internationally. Judy authored PPP vocal training courses, “Singing In The Studio”, “Vocal Production Workshop”.

Contact: www.judyrodman.com


  • Tom

    Ms. Judy Rodman, you hit it right on the head when you said, “Ask yourself to whom the lyric is speaking. THAT’S who you should be directing your voice to. What do you want that someone to feel? THAT’S what should dictate the tone of voice and body language you use.”

    Thank you for bringing this forward.

  • Rahere

    It masks the reality, though: not accepting that you can do it. That’s subtly different from not believing you can do it, you can believe that you can and yet not accept that belief, paradoxically. Mind games imposed by other people, your rivals, simply don’t exist. I simply perform because I love to deliver something outside of my head. I’m translating the potential I can hear in my mind running through the score into something that’s communicating to others, and the starting point of that is that it has to communicate something to me. Whereas when I have something to say I just say it, possibly filtered for appropriateness, by contrast here, someone else (the composer) has something to say through me, with the result that the mentation, the way we think about it, is slightly different. I’m a high-quality amateur, so I have a choice about what I sing, it’s harder for a pro, who sometimes has to sing something they don’t believe at all: I wonder how many singers are in secular ensembles because of this? WS Gilbert’s punishment for his contemporary equivalent to the output of shows like “The Voice” springs to mind, to whit “a series of masses and fugues and ‘ops’, by Bach, interwoven With Spohr and Beethoven”. I suspect everyone who’s ever sung seriously has run into this one, in my case I found the answer in understanding that this is severe case of “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”, so that music, particularly in pre-Enlightenment times, very often wasn’t there just for itself, but rather as part of a continuum of the musical facet of a debate pursued not in the modern paradigm of scientific logic, so much as in its predecessor, the quadrivium, where faith is expressed in art, specifically a theological tenet illustrated in the facets of a geometric-cosmological idiom and an arithmetical-musical idiom (cf Craig Wright, The Maze And The Warrior). The heritage hasn’t died yet, because the rejection of the older forms which happened a hundred years ago has worked itself out in dodecacophony, a reversion to chaos (sometimes literally so in pieces composed aleatorially), and so we see some reversion to older forms (for example Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, the latest take on the greatest series of hits of all time, working from a cantus firmus base nearly 600 years old – cantus firmus being the theme of Professor Wright’s opus). This was part of the Stevie Wisheart’s thinking in her completion of the Hildegarde cycle, in a very modern idiom with Craig’s philosophy underlying it – I know because I lost my first copy of the text to her! It’s not so much a contrast as a huge conceptual bridge almost from the start to a path forwards from where we are now.