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Overcoming Fear - Stage Fright - Performance Anxiety.

NigelNigel Posts: 138Administrator
edited January 2014 in Psychology of Singing
Over the next few months, Ken Tamplin will start to address the entire concept of fear.

We're talking about stage fright, performance anxiety, fear of failing, fear of not looking good, fear of being public speaking, and all other aspect of fear. Fear that will stop you from moving on and really getting into your singing,

Many potential vocalists don't even enroll in singing lessons BECAUSE of this fear.  So, we're taking it head-on! 

If you have anything you want to share about this topic, please help us get the ball rolling by giving us your input.  We want to hear from KTVA vocalists about your fear, what kind of fear you have or had, how you overcome it (or don't), and anything else you want to get off your chest.

Your input will help us shape how to address this debilitating issue.

Thanks guys - looking forward to what you have to say!


  • 29 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 9,916Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    Yes, @Haakon. Consider yourself brave to have mentioned the possibility of self-esteem being a factor for stage fright in some individuals.

    The voice is so personal. It's looked at as "You" sometimes. Playing an instrument can feel personal, and we don't want to play bad notes in front of others. How much more so can that feeling be when the "instrument" is our own body, and the sound comes "out of" us?

    It's a part of personal growth to be more accepting of ourselves, with flaws and as an ongoing work in progress. We do have to be accepting of ourselves as we are, so that we can continue to progress, even in an imperfect state. We strive for improvement, and that has to be OK for the present, if we hope to be able to continue to improve.

    So, yeah. Good for you. Don't beat yourself up. We do need feedback, and we need to be able to accept it as just that. Advice, not put-downs. That's how we improve. We discover areas that are opportunities for improvement, and work towards turning our weaknesses into our strengths.

    Hang in there and keep working towards your goals. Don't let any negative self-talk tell you you're not worthy. That's a LIE from the Pit of Hell! Do your best and keep trying. Be the best singer that you can be.

    All the Best!

  • sspatricksspatrick Posts: 1,278Moderator, Enrolled
    If you can have a sense of humour about it, and give them back just a little.  In a positive way of course,  usually a heckler is a little insecure themselves.   Get the crowd on your side, no one likes a heckler. Have fun with them, take away their ammunition.  And as a last resort...."security to the 5th row please".....lol
  • Stage fright is a learned fear. It can also be unlearned. Some entertainers employ the services of a bonafide psychologist (not a talk therapist but someone who has a PhD and who specializes in anxieties and phobias.) Van Morrison is a good example of a great musical talent who had a true anxiety and phobia of singing on stage. Many years ago I saw a psychologist because I developed stage fright from playing in front of my piano teacher. Yes- I developed piano lessons anxieties. I could play in front of an audience, but not in front of my teacher. Phobias and anxieties can occur anywhere. Not just on the stage.

    Most of us develop stage fright from past experiences or visualizing stage catastrophies that haven't happened. Unless, you have developed a true anxiety and phobia of performing on stage, the best prescription for stage fright is preparation and more stage time.

    One thing you should understand: as an entertainer you can not control all events. I've been in situations where drunks come on stage to dance; sober or drunk men and women grab the microphone because they think they can sing, people yelling that you're not singing or playing the song "like the record", the sound board goes out in the middle of a song, the rythm guitar player is playing the song in the wrong key; a fist fight happens on the dance floor, a drunk knocks over the speakers, light poles or the lead guitarist; and there's always someone yelling "Free Bird!"

    Practice everyday. Remember: it's not about you- it's about the song. It's about the music. It's about everybody having a good time. No matter how good or bad the last gig was, book another one and get back on that stage. And if the problem is your playing and singing, or the band isn't prepared- then fix that.

  • It is about everyone having a good time---and if you're having one-- there is no fear. Sure, there can be some nervous tension--but that's half the fun--kind of like a date  :  ) When you're on stage, you are hosting the party---which means that your heart is for everyone in that room. You're singing for them...serving for them and loving on them. When you focus on them, knowing that you care enough to do your best...you can't fail. If you have the power to silence conversation...or break the silence with a beautiful sound...you are giving an incredible gift. Why fear? There's more fear when you choose to stay home instead of sharing a gift.

  • Ken TamplinKen Tamplin Posts: 428Administrator

    I will be doing a whole section on overcoming stage fright shortly.

    Stage fright may single handedly be one of the greatest factors in keeping people

    from singing or at the least performing at their maximum.

    There are many ways we will be discussing, on how to overcome stage fright.

    If you have questions about stage fright, post them here and you will get help.

  • KokonuhtKokonuht Posts: 658Member, Moderator, Enrolled
    Sadly to say, my stage fright all come from lack of practice. XD If I know a song well and I rehearsed it. I'm pretty fine. Though if I'm having a bad vocal day and it's the day of my performance... I get kinda nervous a bit XD I just keep telling myself it's okay, you can do it. I'll be nervous at the start but as the performance goes on, I'm pretty much fine XD
  • I find this a very fascinating subject. 

    For me over coming nerves/anxiety when singing and playing my guitar in front of an audience is an ongoing process that took some time to overcome, and I am still working on it constantly. 

    Here are some things that I do to help improve my confidence when performing:

    1) Know the material inside out. This will give you a quiet confidence.

    2) Use positive, assertive, but relaxed, body language which gives off authority; this will help you convince yourself and the audience you are in command.  

    3) Make eye contact with the audience; this shows confidence and helps make a connection with the audience. It can be hard at first to do but after a while becomes very natural.

    4) Smile at the audience (at appropriate times), this will help  relax them and they will smile back which in turn will relax you. Also throw in the odd comment or one liner to break the ice.

    5) Don't get caught up in what you think the audience may or may not be thinking about you. Your own inner voice should only be telling you positive things about yourself.

    6)  Play to the whole audience; front, back, sides, include everyone, even the ones that aren't so animated or seem indifferent to your performance, the chances are they will be won over in the end:-)

    7) The chances are that you will make some mistakes, but the trick is to roll with them and make them part of the performance, not crumble and feel bad about yourself.

    8) Before hand, visualise yourself giving a great performance and getting a positive reaction from the audience.

    9) Some audiences need to be warmed up and given cues on how and when to react. e.g. when finishing a song say "Thank you" and this can cue them into applause.

    10) Always sing with conviction; a half hearted performance will, at best, only ever receive a half hearted response.

    Interestingly I have a harder time singing in front of people I know and family than in from of a complete audience of strangers. This is because I find it harder to access the part of my personality that I need when performing if I am surrounded by people that know me. It inhibits me..... I'm still working on it though:-)



  • crscrs Posts: 46Enrolled
    Thank you for the insight, @sspatrick! :)

    @DDisNow I got over it eventually, but when I was practicing for shows in High School, I would always stress that we keep the auditorium doors closed at all times to outsiders until we had a number that was only in the perfecting stages (everyone knows their part, just needs to have some technicalities fixed.)  Thing is, regular audience members don't know anything about preparing a performance, and all the little things that go into it that make them just go, 'what the heck are they doing?' and dismiss a band or artist's abilities because they don't hear the whole thing right away.  You kind of just have to pretend like they're not there, because in the end, you gotta get stuff done for you and your band.
  • TrineTrine Posts: 269Moderator, Enrolled
    edited September 2012 Vote Up1Vote Down

    I come from Norway, and generally we are much more afraid of standing out than people in the US. I would think: "why should I think that I am better than anyone else and go up on a stage and show them anything at all?"

    I am perhaps less 'Norwegian' in this manner than many, and have never been afraid of standing on a stage, speaking or acting in front of people. BUT when it comest to singing, I totally close down, especially if a microphone is involved. I feel so much more vulnerable when it is my own voice I show, when I express feelings through it. I think: "I am not good enough". And it feels terrible, because all I want is to express, express, express!

    However, I went to see a guy who works with these issues, and all it took was for him to say: "Wow, you really have a great voice. Don't hold back. I love to hear it!" That gave me the confidence to sing more. And that also made me want to refine what I present to others, not only to be ok, but to be good. That is why I just started this course with Ken. And I am not going to wait performing until I feel that I am getting good. I will show my progress to others, so they can follow me along the way, however it sounds. I am planning to make a blog where I post how I develop. That is part of how I am going to challenge myself not being afraid. I really look forward to learn.

  • Old thread, but so important. It's good to know that I'm not alone having stage fright. Even if it expresses itself differently, it seems to come from a common factor.

    My experience with stage fright is a bit different from the different perspectives I've read.
    For me it really depends on what I'm doing on a stage or in front of a audience. I have no problem making a fool of myself on a stage, or giving lectures/classes.
    But the thought of singing seriously in front of a crowd scares the living fudge out of me.
    Since I started to sing about almost two years ago, I've sung in front of four individuals. The first and second one were pure agony, but the remaining two were easier. I'm constantly preparing my mind of the thought of singing in front of a crowd, because that's what I want to do some day.
    I'm also in the thought process of recording myself and post something here. I've already gotten all the necessary stuff to do that, but I haven't learned how that works yet.
    Worth to mention is that I'm also working on my low self esteem that I've had for the past 30+ years.

    I'm not going to give up yet, that's for sure!
  • crscrs Posts: 46Enrolled
    Yes.  You are on the money with stage fright preventing us from performing at our best.

    I have performed for my High School concerts before, both semesters, all four years, so performing isn't ENTIRELY new to me.  I was also on the debate team, so public speaking comes naturally to me.  I have no problem projecting my thoughts to groups of people.

    However, I always have this concern with how the audience is reacting to me.  It's gotten to the point where I limit myself to the microphone stand and just emoting from there.  I feel like it's really stiff in comparison to stage movement and really connecting with your audience.  I hesitate to dance to beats because of it, and I feel like I'm not expressing myself as fully as I could be.  In addition, I always have had trouble keeping direct eye contact with people, and it sometimes shows during my performing, because sometimes I would just look away elsewhere, or I would try to think of the song too much and close my eyes.  I'm tired of using the, "focus on a point on the back row," method, because I feel like it's avoiding the issue altogether.  At times when I've had direct eye contact with some audience members, I'd see some blank facial expressions, and I don't really know what to think of it.

    Sorry for the mouthful, but I felt like I needed to get that out of my chest.  I'm so glad you guys made a topic like this, because this is definitely something that us vocalists struggle with.  Thank you.
  • timitzitimitzi Posts: 14Enrolled
    edited August 2012 Vote Up0Vote Down
    I used to have tons of stage anxiety a year or two ago. I can now sing safe and sure, as long as I know the song's not hard. I still get extremely anxious if I try to perform a difficult number, especially if it involves some very high notes.

    Positive comments have made me way more confident about my own singing abilities. Nervousness, if taken too far, will affect the quality of the performance. I've been always pretty confident about performing on stage, singing just used to stir up lots of trouble back when I was unsure about my voice and couldn't control it that well.

    Looking forward to Ken's comments about this topic, seeing how confident and knowing he is about his own vocal skills.
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 9,916Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro

    Fear of "The High Note" can have you worrying in the back of your mind over a note that is in the turnaround of the bridge on a song.  You worry, worry, worry about it, wondering if you're going to blow it... You start thinking about it early in the song, and it keeps getting closer and closer....

    And when you do that, it is almost a given that you will be so UPTIGHT when you finally get there, gee, I wonder what's going to happen.. ? Let's see, worry, plus tension, minus the knowledge and confidence that you can and have hit that note before effortlessly equals SQUAWK!!!

    We psyche ourselves out of notes we are perfectly capable of sounding great on!!!

  • I don't know whether this qualifies as stage fright or not, but when I'm doing my workouts/warm ups or just singing for fun, I'm always very consciences of people hearing me.

    I live in a small studio apartment, and the area where I do my warmups is probably 3 feet away from the door, and I know for a fact that anyone walking down the hallway can hear me.
    Hell, when I walk down the hallway I can hear pretty much everything that's going on in any given apartment, it's like the walls and doors are paper thin.

    However, the apartments themselves are very well insulated and you can never hear anything coming from another apartment while you're inside. It's just that damn hallway.

    I try to tell myself  "So what if someone hears you? Who gives a crap? It's non of their business what I'm doing etc", it works to a certain extent, but it's still kinda there in the back of my mind, and if I notice that I'm getting too loud, which isn't difficult at all when your working out with Ken and trying to match what he's doing, I'll usually catch myself and scale my volume down, even though I have no reason to cause I know for a fact I'm not disturbing anybody!

    Anyway, it's a psychological hurdle I'm trying to work on, I'm doing better than I was before, but still ways to go before I totally don't give a s**t about people hearing me.
  • KokonuhtKokonuht Posts: 658Member, Moderator, Enrolled
    Agreed with that Bob!

    Oh and DDisNow, I still am like that sometimes at home. Lots of people tend to come to my house so yeah. Think of it this way. "People walking down the hall don't know who I am, so I shall not care" XD! If they knock on your door and ask you to keep it down, tell them "Huh? Keep what down?" and play dumb 8D! Hahaha XD I'm kidding. But yeah they don't know who you are so you shouldn't care much about it :P.

    For me, it's like, I have to keep telling myself, so what if they hear me, even their kids who play in my room bear with me and tell me how noisy and annoying it sounds but I just ignore them. For the sake of my vocal adventure! XD
  • I have a question that maybe Ken or someone could answer;

    Many people are afraid they may be heckled if they get up and speak or sing in front of people. It can happened to even the greatest singers and speakers: I realise it's a fairly rare occurrence, but what is the best strategy to adopt when dealing with a heckler?   
  • Yes, thanks, that sounds like the professional approach; each case, I guess, is a unique situation ranging from friendly banter all the way up to getting bottled, so a little flexibility and improvisation is required and try to remain cool.

    Amazing how Dylan just carried on completely unfazed when he got all that continuous heckling during the shows when he went electric with the band. 
  • @DDisNow Yes I can relate to exactly what you are saying about feeling concious of people over hearing workouts and practice/rehearsal sessions. Somehow it inhibits me because I feel less able to make mistakes or sound bad with the knowledge that someone can hear or is listening to a process that is not for public consumption. For the most part, to get the best out of the session, I have to know that no one can hear me.

    Once I've got my stuff together though and I'm in front of an actual audience, I have noticed that I actually enjoy performing and entertaining people; but that took a lot of performances and experimenting on what works for me to get to the point of enjoying it.   
  • NigelNigel Posts: 138Administrator
    Hey guys,

    We just announced the next webinar - it will be on Stage Fright and overcoming performance anxiety. 

    It will be on Saturday, September 15th at 10:00 am Pacific Standard Time (Los Angeles).

    Thanks for all your input thus far, please feel free to keep this thread going, I'm sure your examples will be addressed.

  • reessereesse Posts: 159Enrolled
    Hello guys I am sorry for not coming on here in a while. Its been at least 4 months. I have had many things happen, college being one that has overwhelmed and stressed me. I am feeling better as a person though. Sometimes I think the medicine I am on makes me lazy, and not wanting to do much like I used to. I have stopped singing, sadly. I cant pinpoint one exact reason. However I feel it deep in my soul that I want to make a difference (been the exact same way since I was little) I want to make the biggest switches in peoples lives turn around by showing them my passion for singing and loving it. I do know for one my anxiety is being controlled by my medicine a lot better which is heaven sent. I would take that any day....given I was scared to even walk into a store for fear of people thinking bad or awful things. I was sort of delusional I would say, I always internalized things and beat myself up mentally over stupid things WAY out of my control. No one could ever imagine the fear I have of being the center of attention in a crowd let alone thousands of people. I am the best person to talk to for that if you want to relate. I sort of feel like the outcast in the big boy group called New kids on the block. Look up Bill Fleming. Fortunately I only feel like him on the inside but I don't act like that. I have more mental control over myself because of my brain chemistry I think. I do suffer with chronic anxiety problems as you have read; and with that comes a lot more downsides. BUT the great news is that you can control it. There is ALWAYS hope if you are still alive.Sorry for the rant guys, but I feel so strongly for people who share their passion outwardly like we ALL are doing with this singing. Reaching out is how  to change the world. Never let anxiety stop you from this day forward. I still am working on it daily. God bless everyone. Ken Tamplin your the best vocal teacher. Ill be coming for you when my singing career gets started! Sing on.
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 9,916Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro


    It is good to hear from you again.  Life is very busy and full of pressing issues; school can be challenging...

    I hope you are able to find your joy in music, as it is an outlet for us all... somewhere we can open up and let our hearts cry out.

    Ken did a webinar last week on Stage Fright.  He made a lot of good sense about fears.  You might be able to relate to some of the things he said.  It was helpful in putting fears in the right perspective. 

    Here is a link, if you're interested... 


    Please know that you're among friends here, and that we care. 

    Sing more.  It makes you feel better.



  • reessereesse Posts: 159Enrolled
    thanks so much for replying!! I really appreciate it! School is challenging for me. I would love to be a professional singer with a good home life. Thanks for the link. Ill be sure to listen to it soon!
    Friends on here forever I love it. It does feel like a home!
    Marie ps: singing is like the world to me. It does heal and make me feel better.
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 9,916Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
  • Ken_AKen_A Posts: 15Enrolled
    edited September 2012 Vote Up0Vote Down
    I feel like my biggest issue is confidence, which will hopefully continue to develop through the program. Feel like I am much better than a month ago, etc. I've done speaking before in front of large audiences and been extremely nervous, but I really new my material and focused on engaging the audience (e.g. making eye contact, working the room) and the nervousness began to wear off. The one thing that did help me succeed though more than anything was the confidence. I tried to deliver it in a passionate manner and hit the other necessary checkboxes as I went through. I'm hoping that singing will be the same for me and that again I can develop the vocal confidence. 

    Side note... I also share some of the same mental blocks that @DDisNow mentioned, especially if I feel like I'm being pitchy. I live in a town home with no one underneath or above, but I still feel like I'm blasting everyone to the sides and on the streets. I'm not forcing anything, but to really just open up or even do the scales I can be pretty loud. I keep reminding myself though... I don't know these people. Do I want them to hold me back from something great? Do I want to live in fear? Etc..etc..
  • @Trine I'm in the same boat... lots of things I want to express and I won't be satisfied until I can make that connection. Good luck! This is definitely the right place to be! :)
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 9,916Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro

    This is a great place for you to post your demos.  People on this site are singing students, just like you.  They are afraid of sounding bad, just like you, just like me.  But when you post your demo, you get lots of honest feedback.  If you're off-pitch we'll tell you.  If you sound great, we'll tell you. 

    Just posting helps you to work through a lot of issues, and gets your ball rolling towards progress.  There is no better way to help yourself than to record all that you can, and listen to yourself on the playback over and over.  Be honest with yourself and get yourself growing!  It's magic!

    You just might get some tips from the best singing Teacher of them all! Ken offers advice and insight, and nobody knows KTVA like KT!!!

    Looking forward to hearing your demos!!


  • reessereesse Posts: 159Enrolled
    I know its a big task but I want to become like the girl who sings first and of course Charice, she was always my go to girl when I was not feeling well emotionally. These girls are the best singers Ive ever heard. Id like to think I havent lost my hard work from a few months ago. I worked on my voice for a good 3 months straight. I want to try and upload a demo so you guys can listen to me. Thanks...ps: I accidently deleted my microphone I am mad!! But I shall try.
  • I know it's been ahwile, but is there a place on the forum I can find more on this topic? I need to break my fear of performing, even practicing too loud in my pratice room at times. I always seem to come up with an excuse for not doing it when I'm not comfortable with the song. I really hate this and I want to conquer it so bad.
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 9,916Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    edited March 2016 Vote Up0Vote Down


    Have you watched the Webinar on overcoming Stage Fright?  If not, it's a good place to start on the subject.

    Ken recently commented on having to sing into a pillow when he was in hotel rooms on tour and needed to warm up without disturbing his neighbors.  You do need to have a place where you can feel safe to work on your voice and not worry about how it sounds to others.   Without that feeling of freedom, you will be hindered from proceeding with your vocal progress.


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