5 Ways Performance Anxiety Affects Your Singing - How to Spot It Now and Stop It
There are 3 aspects to a vocal performance that singers work on to make their performance engaging.
These are: Technical, Interpretation and Stagecraft.
If you have performance anxiety, I will explain how it affects those aspects of your vocal performance.
First, let us talk about how those different aspects work together to shape your performances.
What They Are: Lyric Melody, Rhythm
Learning the lyric of a song involves:
- Memorizing the words of the song
- Teaching your mouth how to move for the vowels and consonants
It is good to memorize the words of a song, because when you are constantly looking at the lyric sheet, your performance will be stifled. You are also free to embody and express the lyric message when you know the words by heart.
Vowels are written as “A E I O U”. Consonants are the rest of the letters of the alphabet. If English is your second language, or even if English is your native tongue, breaking down song lyrics into vowels and consonants, and practicing them intentionally, can make a huge difference to your singing. The words will just ‘roll off your tongue’.
Hum your favorite song. You just hummed the melody of the song. Really get to know the melody of the song you are singing, even if you have heard it many times. Chances are there are some parts of the melody that you are struggling to sing in tune.
Clap the vocal part of your favorite song (without singing or humming). You just clapped the rhythm of the song. As mentioned about melody, same goes for rhythm. Really getting to know the rhythm of your song gets rid of any surprises that may trip you up when singing the song.
How Performance Anxiety Affects Those Aspects
Forgetting the words of the song causes performance anxiety, but did you know that performance anxiety makes singers forget the words? When singers worry they would forget the words (anxious prediction), those thoughts take the focus away from the song. Eventually, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - making singers forget the words.
Anxiety causes throat tension that affects intonation. The fear of singing out of tune makes singers over-compensate or hold back. These will result in singing sharp or flat (higher or lower than the notes they are supposed to sing).
Anxious predictions cloud singers’ judgment and memory - making them sing out of time, forgetting when to start, missing a cue etc.
What It Is
The aim of performing a song in front of people is to convey the lyrical and emotional message of the song. This can be done through the use of dynamics and expressive techniques.
I usually get the student to understand the backstory (and the main character) of the song. This is applicable to any genres (and not just musical theatre). In any song you sing, there is a point of view and a reason why the songwriter had written that song. There is usually a story behind what they are trying to say.
When you are interpreting the song, you do not have to stick to the original intention of the songwriter. You can make the song your own by giving it your own meaning. Then, you use dynamics (volume changes) and expressive techniques (e.g. vibrato etc) to create your own interpretation of the song.
How Performance Anxiety Affects Interpretation
Being self conscious is usually what trips singers up in this area. They would feel awkward or silly trying to make the song more expressive. As a result, their vocal performance lack personal expression and fail to engage the audience.
What It Is
When we are singing in front of people, the visual element comes into play. People can not only hear us, but they can see us too. Apart from appearance and wardrobe, we also need to consider how we move our body.
You may like to sing in front of people one day (when you feel confident enough). Maybe it feels like a distant dream right now. Or something to tick off your bucket list. In any case, having good stagecraft takes your vocal performance to the next level.
Think about what facial expressions, gestures and body movements are appropriate for your song. Gestures and facial expressions do not have to be elaborate. Simple gestures and facial expressions done at the right time have a big impact on your performance. Personally, I find that if I move my body well when performing, I can embody the song more easily.
Microphone technique and stage movement (where on the stage to move to and when) are part of stagecraft. When done right, it will make you look like a professional.
How Performance Anxiety Affects Stagecraft
Performance anxiety makes singers freeze up - affecting their body movements, gestures and facial expressions. Singers find it awkward and they get self conscious. As a result, their vocal performances lack personal expression and fail to engage the audience.
I hope you are now more familiar with the song learning process and how performance anxiety affects it at different stages. It does not matter your experience level, every singer gets performance anxiety. It cannot be controlled but it can be managed to a stage where it is actually enhancing your performance. If you would like to sing in front of people one day (but lack the confidence to do so), download my free ebook to find out how.
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