Many artists are naturally shy, some to the point of it being so painful that the thought of a live performance causes anxiety that is literally debilitating. Yet the ability to be open and vulnerable is desirable for effective communication and will enhance a dynamic, powerful performance.
But it’s also not a natural state to bear your soul, to be transparent in front of a handful of people. So imagine what it must be like for someone to open up in front of hundred or even thousands for a live performance, if shyness is an issue for them. Does that mean that they should shy away from sharing their gift? Of course not!
For many performers the stage persona can be like an alter ego that has permission to cut loose on stage and feel free when singing and engaging an audience. Then, they retreat into the natural shy, almost reclusive state in their life out of the limelight and lens of public scrutiny.
Comfort + Confidence
Regardless of your degree of shyness you struggle with, it’s important to be able to open up and achieve a level of comfort and confidence in your live performance. For many, finding that comfort zone comes with time and experience. For others it is an ongoing struggle that is often made worse by masking the issue through substance abuse and self-medicating. That creates even more anxiety, as well as neurological, social, and psychological issues to further complicate matters.
Get On Stage Not Online
Many that struggle with shyness and anxiety issues are able to vent through communication resources online such as social networking sites, email, and through other forms of instant communication that are great technological advances but can often make the situation an even greater challenge for the performer that needs to be able to break open, cut loose, and fly free on stage while performers and on the fly through media interviews and audience banter in between songs.
Nervous Energy Can Enhance Performance
You must be in confident, comfortable, and have full control over your nervous energy so that it can be channeled to enhance your performance on stage. You need to project an energetic and appealing presence when performing. The audience will feed off of that positive energy.
Find Outlets To Channel Nervous Energy
There are many ways to engage the audience at live gig. You can get the crowd going by having them sing along at certain points or keep the beat going for you. As an outlet for nervous energy, you can choreograph stage movements that you can adapt as the situation warrants depending on the venue and logistics of the stage space.
Study Clips + For Tips
Set aside time once a week to study DVD’s and online clips of live performances of your favorite singers, bands, speakers, comedians, and other entertainers. Make notes on what they use that gets an audience involved or hooked on their performance. Listen for crowd response and analyze what worked and think about how that might be used in your shows.
Even if the clips and footage you watch are for larger concert venues, the basic concepts of audience engagement can trigger ideas for you to use to help you comfortably and confidently stir up the crowd in your live shows.
Stage fright makes sense because it’s not normal to be completely vulnerable in front of people, but it’s necessary in order to deliver an authentic, moving performance. Again, it’s common for many musicians and performers to struggle with nerves because you need to be vulnerable in order to effectively bear your artistic soul.
Origins Of Anxiety
That nervousness before a show is a good thing. The sweaty palms, butterflies, indigestion, and pangs of panic are natural, and they are ultimately manageable. It can get so vexing that you think you might throw up or faint. Many times, these feelings come from worry that the show won’t go as planned. You think you might forget a lyric or have to deal with a heckler. You might feel like you might be rejected or just not good enough. You might even feel you’re not fully prepared.
Practice Keeps Fear In Check
The key to fighting fear is preparation and practice. When you reach a level of comfort and confidence in rehearsal and grueling, grilling, grinding practices sessions, you can go in knowing that you are prepared to perform to your utmost ability. In fact, the nervousness and the energy you get from the audience can enhance your level of performance. But if the fear is too great, it can tear you down.
Many things can go wrong on stage, from technical glitches to behavior issues in the house. So you need to be well rehearsed before each gig. The more comfortable you are with your material, the freer you will feel to cut loose and fly through any glitches or distractions.
Rehearse Response To The Unexpected
You can even include preparation for glitches and hecklers as part of your rehearsal process. Check with performers, club owners, and others you know that have some years of live performance experience under their belts. Ask them to share examples of what can go wrong. Get advice on how to handle those situations and come up with some of your own. That way, you’re better prepared to tackle and handle potential distractions that might otherwise shut you down.
Avoid coffee, caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants or depressants before a live gig. If you feel you’re tightening up and getting shaky before a show, stretch out and take deep, rhythmic breaths. Hum your way through a few of your favorite songs, focusing on the opening number. Use this as part of a relaxing warm up.
The Comfort Zone
Once on stage you’ll get control of any energy leaks after those first few numbers and will hit your comfort zone. Many singers, actors, and other performers talk about feeling like they’re on automatic pilot once things get going on stage. For a singer, the music sort of takes over and a euphoric high transcends the performance. You don’t aim for this, it naturally happens because you’re open, feeding off the music and the audience. You can do this because you’re well-rehearsed, full-prepared, and completely engaged in moving the audience.
Remember that every live gig will be a little different and not every show will be perfect. You might hit a flat note, get distracted, mess up a lyric, or even slip, stumble, or trip. An accompanist or band member might make a mistake from time to time. The sound tech might take a break and miss a cue.
Roll With The Glitches
Roll with it. Make fun of it. Shake it off and move on. It’s important to maintain composure on stage. Beating yourself up or shooting nasty looks to others on stage is not cool in the long run. The notion that “cruel is cool, edgy, and being real” – its nonsense. and poor excuse for giving grace in the face of a live performance. There’s no glory in being a jerk. Take the higher road.
Save Drama For After The Encore
If you have a real, serious problem with someone on stage, take care of it after the show. Just roll with the moment, laugh or shrug if off, and move on. If a serious glitch occurs, make your reaction part of the show and keep going. Your audience may not even realize that something went wrong.
A Little More Class
For those that have serious challenges with handling their nerves to the point where you avoid performing live at all costs, there is help. Look into taking classes in acting, dance, movement, and public speaking so that you learn techniques for getting nerves under control. For many people, the more you force yourself to get out and get up in front of people the more comfortable and confident you become.
Brett Manning + Tom Jackson
The confidence you gain in your singing through Brett Manning’s programs can spill over into other aspects of performance and help you fight the anxiety you may still fight because of feeling vulnerable. Live performance guru Tom Jackson’s programs will help you discover and engage on stage skills that will help you become a more dynamic performer. His approach will help you grow more confident and naturally get in the zone as a fully-engaged, vulnerable performer and dynamic communicator.
For more information on how to develop and master your live performance skills as you overcome anxiety and stage fright, visit www.tomjacksonproductions.com. To learn more about handling nerves and shyness, check out www.social-anxiety.com.
To be confident, comfortable, vulnerable, and open as a performer is vital to experiencing the full potential of your singing success.