How can I sing with confidence?
How can I NOT be sooooo nervous?
How can I sing in front of a group of people and not feel like I’m going to pass out?
Ok – well maybe you don’t feel like you ever ask that last one. :-)
I’ve just spent some time thinking about questions that singers ask a lot like the ones above. It’s that time of year – getting ready for Christmas programs, musicals, special services, and many vocalists find themselves preparing to sing solos or duets. Here’s several suggestions and action steps you can take which can greatly reduce the impact of nerves and help you sing with confidence!
Do you look confident? Good posture is HUGE in conveying that you are not nervous (even if you are). So make sure you are standing up and giving your diaphragm as much room as possible in order to breathe effectively. Put one foot slightly in front of the other and try and keep feet about a shoulder’s width apart with a very slight knee bend. This helps you have more energy when you sing and as an added benefit – can help prevent fainting. :-)
Breathe low and use all your air! When most people get nervous, they tend to breathe very high and may raise their shoulders and sigh several times hoping to calm down. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect and they are actually breathing quite shallow. You have the command over your breathing no matter how many butterflies you are fighting. So about 10 minutes before you sing that special part (or whenever needed), when the jitters may really try to kick in, make yourself breathe low and slow. Here are a couple of methods:
1. Use all your air then breathe or as my friend has renamed this the “Use It or Lose It” breathing method- I described this on the Basic Breathing blog post so you can click on that link to read more details if you would like. As you are sitting in your chair preparing to walk up and sing that solo, or as you are singing in choir about ready to sing your part, kick in some “use it and lose it” technique. Make yourself breathe low and push out all remaining air before you breathe in again. You will have to force yourself to do this despite an increasing heart beat due to nerves.
2. Breathe in through your nose for two counts and then out using four pushes of air. Keep doing this slowly as you continue to wait for your cue to prepare for your solo AND do this as you walk up to take the microphone.
Practice! If you know your song and can sing it memorized well before tech and/or dress rehearsals then you will be ahead of the nerves game. Mark where you will breathe in your music and actually breathe in those spots each time you go through your song.
Use your music or cheat sheet. Remember I said above to memorize your music? Well do and then if it’s possible, and if it will not be a distraction, then go ahead and have your music near you. You can also take a 10 page song and type out only the lyrics with a few personal cues on a single page. Place this on a nice music stand or even on the floor. IF you should have a panic moment and forget your place you will recover quickly. Should your church or group have a way to project the lyrics on a back wall then this can be used instead of having music on the stage with you. Consider the importance of ministering the song and not creating an uncomfortable feeling for the audience/congregation by having forgotten your lyrics or place in the song. By the way this is especially true if you are asked to sing for a wedding or funeral. In general, if you are not accustomed to singing solos/duets often then I don’t feel there is anything wrong with having a little help on stage.
Be aware of God’s grace upon you to sing. There is a famous older movie called Chariots of Fire. Most of you will remember Eric Liddell, the main character and competitive runner in the movie. Eric says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Wow, gotta love that line! So when you are singing remember that it is the Lord who gave you the ability to sing in the first place. Why not use this gift to the full extent possible? How sad would it be for a loving father to have given his child a beautiful present but the child to never open or truly enjoy the gift? If you have a talent for singing, then use it! Consider that one purpose in giving you a voice may be to minister to others through song and another may be for you to actually feel His pleasure as you open His gift to you.
Happy singing (and singing in front of people too)!
– Kris –
As usual, if you would like me to address a certain question or area of vocal technique please email and let me know. :-)