Audrey Hunt, renowned vocal coach, teaches you why you dislike your voice and how to sing better.
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 and begin your solo, your voice takes on a shaky sound, instead of a controlled one and 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, which is why 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).
The more we know and learn about the voice, (or any craft), the less old Mr. Anxiety can hold us a prisoner.
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.
Prepare Your Music to Eradicate Fear
Symptoms of Fear
A few symptoms of anxiety and fear:
- Dry mouth
- Feeling dizzy
- 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.
Combat Anxiety With Knowledge
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.
Fear is a Cruel Thief Who Robs Us of Success
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:
- Adopt an optimistic "I can" attitude. Those who think they can't are generally right.
- Realize that fear exists only in the imagination. What we don't understand, we fear. This is why knowledge is important.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
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. One of the fastest ways to tap the great power of your mind is through your imagination. 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
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 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.
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
© 2019 Audrey Hunt
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 16, 2020:
My mother saw to it that I shared my singing voice before a crowd at the ripe old age of four. Hence, it became natural and comfortable for me to end up singing for a living. Thank you for sharing your sweet story. Your grandfather's advice is right on!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 15, 2020:
Your tips all seem excellent, but it would still take a special person to get up before a crowd and sing. Singing in a choir is one thing, but singing solo is another. Not everyone can do it.
I was very shy as a youth. My parents encouraged me to take Speech in high school as an elective. I did, and I still remember the sweaty hands, etc. My grandfather told me to look out and instead of seeing heads with eyes, imagine all the heads as cabbage or iceberg lettuce. He was a fun grandfather! In later years, I had to give some speeches. I was still nervous but pushed through it.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on January 23, 2020:
I want to thank you for sharing your story. I can't begin to tell you what your kind words do for me. Helping others to realize their potential and talents is what I live for. Fortunately, I had a mother who consistently instilled enough self-confidence in me during my young, informative years that led me to a lifetime of teaching.
I'm proud of you! You have actually applied the principles outlined in my article and raised the bar on your own business. How wonderful!
Thanks again, Dennis, and I wish you continual success in all you desire.
Dennis Thorgesen from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S. on January 23, 2020:
This is my third trip here to read and leave a comment. What I have found is the information in this article helps in life and business. I am not a singer, sadly never will be. Damage to my ears as a child makes it impossible to hear much less repeat the sounds others would consider music.
Everyone fears something. Personally I have always had a fear of large crowds. All the symptoms mentioned in the article I have faced just being part of a crowd, worse when I am near the front, or expected to speak to it.
To me a large crowd is 10 or more people. Recently (for the past three years) I have been using video conferencing. At first it was on conference calls started by others. Starting last summer, I became the presenter. At this point, thanks to this article, I am not feeling the fear I did, just 9 months ago.
All of the conference calls are part of my business. People want to, at this point, see the person behind the company. Business and earnings have increased since my fear is more or less under control.
Audrey, you have my personal thanks for writing this article. As you can see it has value even to people who are not singers.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on January 12, 2020:
How are you, my friend? Yes, These same techniques are necessary for actors as well as singers. In fact, many of these tips are applicable to everyday life.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 03, 2020:
I'm not a singer but have acted on stage and many of your techniques will help. Thanks.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on December 12, 2019:
Our audience actually wants us to succeed which helps me when I perform. And you are right...we perform for the audience. Thanks for sharing your story, it's inspiring.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on December 08, 2019:
Umesh Chandra Bhatt
Thank you for finding my article on "How to Sing Without Fear" helpful. This is why I write. If I can encourage and motivate even one person, I am happy!
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 07, 2019:
Helpful article. Encouraging and motivating.
Marlene Bertrand from USA on August 02, 2019:
I sang as a worship leader for several years and was fearful at the beginning of every session. I wish I could have had your tips to calm me down a little more. One thing that helped was to tell myself that no matter how things turn out, the audience I was singing to would not be overly harsh so long as I remained humble. I would tell myself they were more important than me, meaning this platform is not all about me. It's about them. I practiced until I knew every song by heart. All I could give them was the best I had to offer. I no longer sing in public, and probably never will again. Still, your tips are amazing and very helpful.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 15, 2019:
Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. I always look forward to your comments. The "inner critic" you speak of can be such a destructive force. I'm glad you mentioned this.
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 14, 2019:
Great tips! I like your spirit. This has application towards other public performance too (speaking, other skills). Practice/preparation and controlling that inner critic are paramount.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 01, 2019:
I'm so glad you stopped by. Thanks for reading my article. I appreciate your comments very much. Take care and be healthy!
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on May 01, 2019:
These are good tips in overcoming fear of singing. I respect all those singers and performers who are so brave to be on the stage and sing and entertain the audience. Thanks for sharing this great hub Audrey. God bless you.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 29, 2019:
Fear seems to be a learned quality that begins in childhood. Like you have said, fear isn't all bad. It can help to protect and warn us of danger. Thank you for your comments.
I can tell that you are a fearless public speaker. Good for you! This means you really know your stuff! Thanks, my friend.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 29, 2019:
Yes, I agree that most procrastination is brought on by fear. Singing in public is scary mainly because there's no guarantee of the outcome. As a professional singer, I grew up performing on stage from age 5. I will always be grateful to my mother for providing me with plenty of experience to sing for others throughout my childhood.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Dennis!
Dennis Thorgesen from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S. on April 28, 2019:
I believe people procrastinate because of fears. It could be they fear no matter what they do it won't be good enough. This fits right in with the fear of singing in front of an audience. Because people don't know and can't know what the outcome is going to be, they put it off, and never get to live their dream.
Even I still get butterflies when I am doing live broadcasts. They don't last long though. I believe a person has to get comfortable inside their own skin. When they achieve this, although the fear will be there it is no longer a reason to procrastinate or not go on at all.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 19, 2019:
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?
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.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 19, 2019:
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.
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.
I appreciate your comments and kind words. And, yes, this article is helpful for many kinds of public performances. Thanks, so much.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 14, 2019:
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.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 14, 2019:
Singing for your own pleasure is the most important reason to sing. It provides us with wonderful therapy. Thanks, Louise.
Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 10, 2019:
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.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 09, 2019:
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.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 09, 2019:
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.
Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on April 07, 2019:
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.
Dennis Thorgesen from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S. on April 06, 2019:
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.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 02, 2019:
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.
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!
Liz Westwood from UK on April 02, 2019:
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.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 01, 2019:
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
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 Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 01, 2019:
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.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on March 31, 2019:
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!
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.
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.
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 31, 2019:
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 from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 31, 2019:
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.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 31, 2019:
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 from U.S.A. on March 31, 2019:
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.
Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 31, 2019:
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.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 31, 2019:
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.
Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on March 31, 2019:
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.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 31, 2019:
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.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 31, 2019:
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!
Lori Colbo from United States on March 30, 2019:
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.
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 30, 2019:
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.