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Vocal Failure and Triumph

Dear Leontine,

I really have always felt at home singing, yet, when I’m on stage my performance is seldom as confident as in the studio. I watch other vocalists and admire their confidence and ease. I know I have it in me…but… Help!


Dear Janice,

Singing publicly is terrifying to most people, and most singers, unless they have lots of practice at it.

I find that the vocalists who are most at ease come in two guises: either they perform so regularly that they just get used to it, or they do not really see their voice as being the only aspect that represents them as artists and also do not feel that their singing has to be “perfect” for their performance to be “perfect”.

Many singer-songwriters like to have a slightly dirty tone, and celebrate their “technical faults” as being a part of their individual and personal expression—there is something to be learned from this attitude.

There are certainly some things you can do to improve your confidence and increase the chances of sustaining a solid vocal performance.

Muscle memory has a lot to do with it; first, work out how you want to sing your songs.

Work out which voice qualities you want to use in which sections: you may want to “belt” one part, go into falsetto in another, sing some sections in your speech quality and some in your head-voice.

For less experienced singers, changing voice qualities within a song feels like changing gears—the larynx has to be terribly athletic as it shifts.

Once you work out where these shifts occur, and precisely what you want to do with your voice, stick to it and practice it in exactly the same way every day.

Muscle memory takes about 3 weeks to stick.

Once you have done this work, even if you are terribly nervous, the chances of holding onto it in performance are much greater.

Many singers make the mistake of memorizing lyrics silently. However, if you practice them loudly, you are building muscle memory as well as verbal memory recall.

I am sure there are songs you are so familiar with that you could sing them whilst thinking of other things. It is a similar phenomenon, and makes your performance much safer.

Last but not least, you must allow yourself to fail as often as possible in order to triumph.

The more failed performances you deliver the more likely that you will come out the other end as a strong and confident performer.

If one has not sung publicly in a while, I tend to find that it takes 2-3 performances to get one’s confidence back. This has been true in my own career as well as in the careers of the singers I coach.

This amount makes the difference between being a nervous wreck and relishing every minute of it.

So don’t be too hard on yourself and just sing and perform as much as you can!

Leontine Hass
Director, Advanced Performers Studio

Questions for Leontine Hass can be sent to the VoiceCouncil editor: editor@voicecouncil.com

  • Thanks for this Leontine. I am a Vocal coach based in Luton and I am currently working through this exact subject with fans on my Facebook page.
    Well put.

    Thanks Dionne

  • Justin

    A good bit of advice.

  • this is indeed a great piece of advice.. performers should have confidence and faith in their talents.. a great show is not about being perfect but its about having fun yourself as well as entertaining your audience..

  • Personally, I barely have the patience to listen a complete work of any vocalist. I know their voices are beautiful, but often I can not have myself stay in beaufitul things for too long.

  • thanks for this great share. there are really some good tips here.