How to Sing Without Fear

Updated on April 1, 2019
vocalcoach profile image

Respected vocal coach and professional singer, Audrey Hunt lays it on the line when it comes to the responsibility of singing or speaking.

American Idol's Kristen McNamara, former vocal student of Author, Audrey Hunt
American Idol's Kristen McNamara, former vocal student of Author, Audrey Hunt | Source

Hello Fear!

You love to sing and are about to share the sound of your singing voice by performing in front of other people. As you take your rightful place on stage, your mouth begins to feel dry, your heart beats faster, and you can't control the shaking in your knees. Suddenly, your mind has become completely blank.

As you face your audience you begin your solo, and your voice takes on a shaky sound, instead of a controlled one.You want to run and hide somewhere. What is going on, what is happening? Hello, fear. You're not welcome here.

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What We Fear—The Unknown

Learning to overcome fear of the unknown is an ongoing journey, and one that's worth working toward if we want to live life to the fullest. Singers constantly face the unknown when performing for new audiences in different venues for different reasons.

Fear cripples and stifles us preventing us from becoming the best version of ourselves.

The thing is, fear of the unknown is based on our own self-limiting beliefs. This is one reason it's important to build our self-confidence. Since knowledge feeds our level of confidence, it helps to study all we can about our craft. One of the best ways to do this is to continue taking vocal lessons.

Private vocal lessons with a qualified, sensitive, vocal teacher is mandatory for stretching our ability to face the unknown, as we slowly but surely, lift our confidence to new heights.

Singing lessons aren't just for beginning voices but for all levels of singing. This includes professional vocalists too.

To help in overcoming fear we must be willing to step out of our comfort zone, and grab any opportunity available to test our wings.

We tend to fear the following:

  • Being evaluated negatively.
  • A repeat of a bad past experience.
  • Messing up (forgetting lyrics or missing a high note).
  • Rejection.
  • Failure.
  • Uncertainty.

Combat Anxiety With Knowledge

We fear the possibility of failure. The more we study and learn about the voice, the less anxiety can hold us a prisoner.
We fear the possibility of failure. The more we study and learn about the voice, the less anxiety can hold us a prisoner. | Source

Paralyzed With Fear?

We've all experienced the feeling of being paralyzed with fear. It's no fun. We tell ourselves we'll avoid any action that may set us up for this scary feeling. "I'll never do that again", is a familiar phrase for most of us. But what might we be missing with an attitude such as this? The plight of this vague form of paralysis relates to our own mind's interpretations of events and traumas.

Fear can prevent us from becoming all that we can be. Start now to face your fears. The best way to do this is with knowledge. Emerson believed, "The antidote to fear is knowledge." It's fear of the unknown that causes us to fear in the first place.

Fear stunts our growth and stands in our way to some marvelous experiences. It doesn't care who it affects and we all grab hold at one time or another.

Symptoms of Fear

A few symptoms of anxiety and fear:

  • Panic
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Feeling extreme pressure
  • Body shaking (hands and knees)
  • Butterflies in the stomach

Everybody feels fear-it's one of the most primitive emotions. The brain is an incredible and complex organ. Fear is a chain reaction that begins with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that cause physical symptoms including a racing heart, shortness of breath, and chest tightness among others.

Prepare Your Music to Eradicate Fear

Helping Mike learn a song for his show. Being prepared is the #1 key to overcoming fear.
Helping Mike learn a song for his show. Being prepared is the #1 key to overcoming fear. | Source

Say Goodbye to Fear

Fear prevents us from moving forward. Preparation helps to keep fear at bay. For vocalists, this is the number one factor for singing without fear. What, exactly, does this involve?

  • Memorize your material. Know every detail of your song: lyrics, melody, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, style and interpretation.
  • Begin working on your selection months before the performance date. Don't wait until the last minute.
  • Practice regularly with and without distractions. You never know what might happen right in the middle of your solo. An unhappy baby, late-comers walking in, unexpected noises, can all be a distraction to the singer. Be prepared to sing through any type of disruption regardless of what it is.
  • If you're new to singing for an audience, find opportunities to perform for others, long before your scheduled solo.
  • Schedule regular practice sessions with whoever is accompanying you. Whether it's a band, guitarist, pianist, or background recording. This will assure you a smooth and successful performance.

The better prepared you are the more control you have over the situation which will help to reduce or alleviate fear.

8 Important Tips to Reduce or Eliminate Fear

Emerson said "Knowledge is the antidote to fear." But it isn't enough to merely understand the laws of psychology regarding the reduction or elimination of fear. They must be practiced persistently to become effective.

By following the rules, you can expect some good results:

  1. Adopt an optimistic "I can" attitude. Those who think they can't are generally right.
  2. Realize that fear exists only in the imagination. What we don't understand, we fear. This is why knowledge is important.
  3. Concentrate on the interpretation and meaning of the song. There will be no room left for self-consciousness. But don't become so overemotional that you destroy vocal technique. Sing publicly as often as you can to help reduce fear.
  4. Preparation has been proven to reduce fear. Know your music well and rehearse regularly to be sure of your routine. Know what you want the song to say musically. Practice with your accompaniment or band. Even experienced singers cannot expect to be fully at ease in the singing of a song until they have had plenty of practice with an accompanist.
  5. Build more than an adequate technique for the demands of public singing. Always have a reserve of technique in order to establish confidence. Never attempt to sing songs publicly that involve notes in the very extreme of your practice range.
  6. Psychologists tell us that if you force yourself to go through the motions of bravery you will be brave. So, walk on stage calmly and naturally. Look at your audience and give them a chance to look you over too before you begin singing.
  7. If you are tense or frightened, breathe deeply several times and relax your body before attempting to sing. Nervous disorders are due to oxygen starvation. So take time to breathe deeply by using the diaphragmatic muscle (belly breath).
  8. Help conquer fear through experience in related fields such as drama, speech, debate, choir or any activity which provides an opportunity for self-expression and appearance before the public.

Source

Previous Failures

When we experience failure, we can use these setbacks as experiences to draw lessons from. We can learn from our mistakes and upsets. These are opportunities to grow and develop our craft in a whole new way.

Ego Versus Confidence

The successful singer must have an assured personality, a realistic ego based upon self-control and justified self-confidence. Do not mistake this confidence for egotism. The egotist is only thinking about himself and brags about his superiority over others.

But the confident singer has justified self-assurance because of previous experience, adequate preparation, and good hard work.

Fear is a Cruel Thief Who Robs Us of Success

Overcome fear.  Don't let it rob you of a successful experience.
Overcome fear. Don't let it rob you of a successful experience. | Source

Using Visualization to Overcome Fear

Visualization is a powerful source for helping to overcome fear. It allows us to see our goal as already complete in our mind’s eye. Take time to practice the following each day:

  • See yourself, on stage, speaking or singing to a friendly audience. All fear and anxiety are replaced with inner confidence.
  • Visualize yourself "owning" the performance area. The audience is your invited guests, sitting in your living room.
  • Whatever your fear is, imagine that you, alone, are in complete control of the situation.
  • Actually, visualize yourself making mistakes and don't be afraid to make them. Even Thomas Edison made many mistakes on the road to his inventions and ultimately, success.
  • See yourself singing your song, freely, without worry or concern. Fill your entire being with a feeling of accomplishment and joy.
  • Celebrate your achievements. Reflect on a completed task or objective which can be empowering. Even small rewards count. Be fully present and enjoy the success.

You can break free of fear by challenging the negative voices in your head. Be fearless and learn to live life to the fullest.

Face Your Fear

When we face our fears we learn that there is nothing to fear.
When we face our fears we learn that there is nothing to fear. | Source

Is All Fear Bad?

Everyone has fears, what matters is how you handle them. To free yourself from panic, you have to abandon your sense of reason and just let the anxiety come without trying to fight it.

  • Expose yourself to that which you fear gradually. When you do this enough, that which you fear becomes natural which helps to conquer that particular fear. Relax and accept that the temporary feelings will pass in due course.
  • And stop believing this fear as it's nothing more than a feeling . Just ignore it and learn to de-dramatize the situation.
  • Avoid judging your fear. This is a feeling and feelings are neither 'good' or 'bad'.

Fear heightens your senses so that you have the ability to perform efficiently and powerfully. Choose to view fear as an ally, let its power course through your veins, and take on the challenge of tolerating fear and not running away from it.

Once you face your fear of public performing and end with an outstanding result, you will experience less fear next time. So make it a habit to face your fear of singing in front of others by doing it again and again and again.

Schedule Regular Rehearsals Before Performing

To sing without fear, rehearse with your pianist or band before performing.
To sing without fear, rehearse with your pianist or band before performing. | Source

Summary

To free yourself from panic, you must abandon your sense of reason and let the anxiety come without trying to fight it. Relax and accept that the temporary feelings will pass in due course. Stop believing this fear;it's nothing more than a feeling, a chemical reaction in your head.

Just ignore it and learn to de-dramatize the situation. The experience is never as bad as what you build up in your mind.

Singing is a natural artistic expression. In fact, infants make recognizable intervals or tunes before they are able to speak. They do this freely, without fear or judgement.

To get the greatest pleasure from singing, eliminate inhibitions, singing freely and expressively. Everyone carries the instrument within the body to do this. No matter how we sound we must let ourselves sing freely and naturally.

Singing is not a God-given talent bestowed upon a limited favored few. Everyone that can speak can sing. After all, singing is an extension of the speaking voice. Even the smallest and most hopeless sounding voice sometimes becomes a very capable instrument.

The degree of improvement depends on the desire, determination and discipline of the person. Nearly everyone can become a competent singer, a considerable number can become fine artists, and a few can become supremely great.

So, silence your inner critic, and turn your negative, fearful thoughts into positive ones. What do you have an appetite for? Don't allow fear to stop you.

You will learn how to overcome fear through communicating with your audience as you focus on the lyrics of the song. You can't concentrate on two things at the same time. When you direct all of your attention to the words and interpretation you will not be able to worry about your voice and what your audience thinks about your singing.

You have a song deep within you. What is your message? Sing your song with passion and conviction. Say goodbye to fear and hello to freedom.

Resource

Expressive Singing by Van A. Christy. Wm. C Brown Company Publishers

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

On a Scale From 1 to 5 How Would You Rate Your Fear For Public Performance?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Audrey Hunt

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      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        4 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Dennis

        I enjoyed your comments and thank you for sharing. I appreciate the way you encourage folks to face their fears. I've often wondered if procrastination is due to fear. What are your thoughts about this?

        Thanks, Dennis

        Genna

        I remember hearing Streisand talking about her own fear of facing an audience. It wasn't until she was told to "imagine everyone sitting on the toilet" that she was able to reduce her level of fear. :)

        We often fail to consider that most entertainers deal with fear. They work hard to "make it look easy".

        The sweet sounds of melodic intervals coming from your precious grandson are the sweetest sounds of all!

        Thank you, dear Genna.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        4 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Hi Ruby

        Very nice to see you. I'm glad to know you are still singing in the choir! Your voice is adding a lovely fullness to the choir. I like the quote on fear you've added. It's true and one of my favorites. Keep on singing my friend.

        Rajan

        Thank you for finding my tips on overcoming fear helpful. Fear can be crippling to us and like other challenges we face we must work hard to rise above it.

        Liz

        I appreciate your comments and kind words. And, yes, this article is helpful for many kinds of public performances. Thanks, so much.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        8 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Hello, dear Mike.

        You sure know how to make a girl feel special! I'm working on my first book (singing) and sure hope I can pull it off. Bill is helping me on this long journey and he has his work cut out for him :) Thanks, my friend. Hope you're doing well.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        9 days ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Hi Louise

        Singing for your own pleasure is the most important reason to sing. It provides us with wonderful therapy. Thanks, Louise.

      • Vellur profile image

        Nithya Venkat 

        13 days ago from Dubai

        Great tips on overcoming the fear of singing to an audience. Fear is not all bad but it can be an obstacle to what one wants to achieve. Thank you for sharing.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        I'm not afraid to speak before an audience, but singing by myself before an audience is not in my dreams. Still, I learn so much from you, which I can practice in the house and can apply to other endeavors beside singing. I can tell that you're an excellent tutor.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        2 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Tim

        Love your story and glad you've shared it here. Journey is one of my all time favorites. Would have loved to hear you sing. I want you to know how very much I appreciate your support. Your comments are always paved with wisdom. I have such high regard for you and your expertise.

        May you enjoy all the blessings of goodness.

        Audrey

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

        What a fascinating article -- and how true. Even the great Barbra Streisand had to overcome crippling stage fright after panicking during a '67 performance in Central Park. I especially liked: "... infants make recognizable intervals or tunes before they are able to speak. They do this freely, without fear or judgment." My grandson did this -- and still does. I admire his spirit. Thanks for sharing this with us, Audrey.

      • wheelinallover profile image

        Dennis Thorgesen 

        2 weeks ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

        Overcoming fear works for much more than singing. One thing I am not and will never be is a singer. Ear damage as a child makes it to where I don't hear well enough. So when I replicate what I hear it makes sense to no one.

        In many things a person does in life they can face fear. I have met people who have a fear of success in business. One of the biggest is the fear of change.

        For years I had a fear of bodies of water. This was caused by almost drowning as a preteen. By the time I was 19 I was swimming with, and keeping up with, someone who would win a gold metal at the Olympics.

        I highly recommend finding your fears and facing them.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Bill

        Yes, Kristin studied with me for 2 years. I've coached other AI contestants but she is the most known (that I know of). It's important that I do whatever I can to help eradicate fear in singers, professional or otherwise. So many of us miss the joy of singing (even in the shower) just because of fear.

        Thank you, my dear friend.

        love,

        audrey

        Hey, Linda

        It's wonderful to hear that you'll be singing these two solos. You'll be just fine. Don't worry about anything...just totally focus on the lyrics and deliver your message with conviction and confidence.

        Let me know how it turns out. I'm very proud of you!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        3 weeks ago from UK

        This is a very useful and encouraging article for anyone battling fear when singing in public. I think the points you make could also be applied well to other public performances for actors and speech-makers.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Pamela

        Yes, this information applies to speakers as well. It's too bad we all weren't trained to perform in public as children. This is how I learned to sing without fear. Thanks so much

        Hi Bobbi

        Your kind comments really touched my heart. It's a wonderful thing to be appreciated like this. I love people and I'm passionate about teaching. Just this morning I gave a Skype lesson to a woman that turned out to be very successful. She was afraid to try some lessons but after this one lesson with me, she made more appointments for more lessons. This made my day!

        Thank you, my friend.

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        3 weeks ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Fear of performing in front of people is real and tough to get over for most of us. Your helpful tips in this article will help anyone, a singer or not, overcome the fear of facing an audience. Thank you for sharing.

      • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        John

        Thanks so much for your kind comments. Reducing fear in our lives can be a tough challenge but it's entirely possible. You've added some good thoughts!

        Lori

        Love your story! Sharing your personal experience is valuable for others. I'm thinking of adding your experience to this article and possibly my book. I would need your permission to do this. Let me know.

        Thanks

        Chitrangada

        Thank you for supporting my thoughts on overcoming fear. Many performers fail simply because they aren't prepared enough. With video accessible on our cell phones, recording our presentation is a great way to prepare.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        3 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

        I love to sing, I wasn't blessed with a beautiful singing voice, but I still sing. I went to church this morning and sang with the congregation and enjoyed it. I watch ' The Voice ' and 'American Idol ' Your advice is sound and important. When I see the word fear, I think of FDR'S quote, ' The only thing to fear is fear itself ' Cheers my friend.

      • mckbirdbks profile image

        mckbirdbks 

        3 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Audrey - I can't 'silence your inner critic,' he is the one doing all the talking; but enough about me. Once again you promote the art of singing, offering encouragement, advice and wisdom. What a great career always building people up.

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        3 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        I would love to be able to sing, but I can't. Not that it stops me singing along to songs when I'm at home though, but I would never sing in public.

      • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

        Tim Truzy 

        3 weeks ago from U.S.A.

        Hi, Audrey,

        Fabulous article with wonderful tips for singers. I want to share a story with you I know you can appreciate from my youth and a suggestion I would never give and you wouldn't either, but this story is just for laughs. We were performing some Journey songs, and I was doing my best Steve Perry imitation, and suddenly, I forgot the words. Luckily, I had listened to weird al yankovic before we performed a few days earlier. So, I made up lyrics, telling the crowd, "Oh, Yeah, I meant to do that!" They thought it was funny, but I never did that again.

        I particularly like your emphasis on building confidence because that is the difference between the successful performer and ones who do not make it.

        To a gifted and talented artist and teacher,

        May your day be peaceful and blessed.

        Tim

      • Carb Diva profile image

        Linda Lum 

        3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

        Just reading your article has given me more confidence. That solo on Maundy Thursday has me a little sweaty in the palms, but I know I can do it (and I'll be up in the balcony so there won't be 100's of eyes on me). Thank you, and I hope you have a wonderful week.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        Are you serious? You coached Kristen? How cool is that?

        The only fear I have while singing is that I'll offend someone. LOL

        Seriously, your voice of experience should be heard by anyone serious about becoming a singer.

        love,

        bill

      • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

        PurvisBobbi44 

        3 weeks ago from Florida

        If all music teachers understood fear as well as you and used in a positive way as a tool--more people would take lessons.

        When I read an article as great as this one from the heart--I know there are music students in our world that were truly blessed with learning how to use the wonderful talent of music.

        You are indeed a wonder and I am sure very loved by so many people in our world today.

        Until Later,

        Bobbi Purvis

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

        I didn't receive the gift of singing, but I understand the fear you described as even when you stand up to make a speech.

        I know being well prepared before standing in front of an audience or even a smaller group can be intimadating. This is an excellent article with so many suggestions to overcome fear. Thank you for all this valuable information.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        3 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

        Excellent article with helpful tips, to overcome fear, while performing on the stage.

        Stage fear is a very normal phenomenon. I agree with you that the singer must be well prepared before the program. Regular appearances on the stage, reduces the anxiety and fear, while performing.

        Thanks for sharing this wonderful article!

      • lambservant profile image

        Lori Colbo 

        3 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

        This was a really good article. I can't sing, but I do stand up comedy when I get an opportunity. There are times when I am petrified and times when I am confident. I find that if I am on a stage or at least standing a great distance from the front row and there are lights shining on me I am more confident because I cannot see the audience. My very first time I was a nervous wreck. Just before I went on my mouth becamse so dry I could barely talk. At the very last second, someone gave me a bottle of water. I actually did very well that first time because I was on a stage with lights blaring in my face and I couldn't see anyone but I heard them laughing. One time I had to be like five feet from the front row. It was in a local business conference room and there were only twenty people but I found it very uncomfortable because I can see their eyes staring at me waiting for me to make them laugh.

        Sometimes a joke bombs. I don't let it rattle me too much because I turn it into a learning moment. But a few times I've been petrified and that feels so horrible. I will keep all these things in mind. Thanks, Audrey.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        3 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        This is a great article about how to control your fears, Audrey, not just with singing in front of an audience. Public speaking or any form of performing would benefit. Great job.

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