Nervous Singing – Nervous Shaking

A few days ago, Jo asked me a question about what to do about getting nervous when singing in front of people so I’m answering with this article about the 3 major things that can help you overcome singing fear by facing your fear in singing.

Sounds complicated and I will explain, but…

…first I have a story to tell.

Nervous About Singing?Being anxious about singing is….OMG, so real, so painful, so….ok, now I am going to faint.

No, seriously, I’m going to tell you a true story about how I fainted the first time I sang for a college recital when I was taking voice lessons and learning how to sing.

I remember having HUGE anxious thoughts while I was waiting to go out on the stage.

I was petrified!

Anxious me began to sweat, hyperventilate and everything that adrenaline does to my nervous system when I’m scared.

In fact, when I finally went out onto the stage, I was so nervous that I was shaking like a car that was struggling to get started but never did and finally died.

Which is almost what I did.

Died.

Of fright.

Okay, well, I didn’t die, obviously, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

But I did faint.

Really.

I didn’t fall down, although I was sure I was going to.  But I blacked out so badly that I went temporarily blind.

No kiddin’.  I’ll never forget it.  I could not see anything but a dark wall in front of me that shut out all light and felt like I had been buried under the ground and I could hardly breath.  I felt like I was suffocating.  It was horrible, and none of my teachers had taught me clearly how to face fear in singing. To be honest, I didn’t even guess that I would be so afraid. It came as a shock!

The piano was behind me and I just grabbed it and held on and kept singing, even though my knees were collapsing under me and my anxious face must have looked like it had seen my own ghost!

It was awful and I bet my singing was awful.  At least I know that it was nervous singing and nervous shaking so severe that it must have sounded awful, although no one ever said so.

But I knew it.

I knew how scared I was and how badly it had affected my singing breath, which, as my teacher had told me over and over again, is the support that has to be under control in order to sing well.

So, yes, you guessed what the first of the 3 things you can do to get over nervous singing.

Nervous singing Triangle

#1 – Improve your singing breath control

I always recommend the dog pant and the slow leaky tire as 2 singing breathing exercises that you can do before you go out in front of people.  Better yet, do them daily and you will have better muscle control when the panic attack starts.

#2 – You have to change your mindset

Your mindset has to do with getting rid of anxious thoughts about your life, about what people will think, about how you will sound and simply listen to the music inside of you.

What you believe about yourself will cause you to panic or pull it together and that all starts way before you get up to sing.  It starts with a silent place inside of you, that place that makes you want to sing.  Remember that singing is natural.  The thing that happens that is unnatural is how we let everyone else’s opinion mess us up inside.

Think about what it was like to sing when you were a child, before anyone ever said anything unkind to you about your singing.  Did you care what anyone thought?  No, of course not.  You only cared after someone messed with your head.  So now you have to undo that junk and get the right kind of singing mindset inside of you.

#3 – Focus becomes your best friend

Focus is partially a combination of #1 & #2.

For instance, the slow leaky tire directions tell you to pick a point out in front of you and send your breath to that point.  You can’t be distracted and do that activity well, but if you stay focused on the point, you will start to feel how the diaphragm works to control the stream of air that you sing “on.”

So, when you sing, don’t think about what everyone else is thinking.  Think about your singing breath, think about relaxing your shoulders, focus on a “tunnel” in front of you to send your breath through, focus on how singing makes you feel good, how much you enjoy singing, how you LOVE singing.

Forget about everything else and just focus on singing!

BONUS – All 3 happen while Stepping in Place

Okay, so this is something I came up with because where I live it is hard to get out during the winter and I don’t like going to a gym but know that I need to exercise to stay healthy and sing well.

So, I started stepping or running in place in the mornings.  I actually do 1,200 steps in place or around the inside of the house. During 200 of those steps, I swing my arms above me like in a “jumping jack” and then for the final 100 steps I focus straight ahead of like a laser beam and go as fast as I can, sort of like you would imagine a Marine might do, although I have never been in the military myself.

Which gets to my final point, something my best voice teacher taught me.

She used to say that if you want to sing well you have to be like an athlete and if you think about those 3 things above, plus the Bonus, you’ll see that it is the sort of thing that athletes learn to do.

#1 – Breathe Deeply

#2 – Change your Mindset

#3 – Focus on a Point in Front of You

Bonus – Run or Step in Place

That’s all for now so now go do the dog pant and the slow leaky tire, then run or step in place until you are panting then do the dog pant and slow leaky tire again….and again…and….well….you know what I mean.

Woman covering face courtesy of:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/laura-beth/ / CC BY 2.0

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Comments

  1. Jo says:

    Thanks Joy
    I identify so much with the ‘mindset’ – I have always had a very low opinion of my abilities and still compare myself to others. I always think they are so much better than me and I am rubbish. Definately I need to challenge my demons as I love to sing – it keeps me sane!!
    JO
    x

    • Joy says:

      Jo,

      You inspire me and I am so glad I can help you to not only challenge but get rid of those demons you mentioned. Yay for singing and sanity! I know exactly what you mean.

      If you haven’t already read my Singing Voice Mindset article, I encourage you to do it right away!

      Enjoy!
      Joy

  2. jo says:

    Thanks Joy
    I am still fighting the demons – I try hard to keep them away. I do seem to have a large physical nervous reaction that makes it very hard to sing as well as I know I can.
    Tight throat, shaking voice and legs!! Not good.
    But I do love to sing so I will continue to practice and read what I can to help.
    Deep inside the feeling comes that I just need to sing!
    Jo

    • Joy says:

      Jo,

      I truly understand that feeling, but I want to encourage you that there are things that you can do to conquer it. I’ll be writing more about that in future posts, but meanwhile, have you used my “slow leaky tire” exercise? It is a great one for calming yourself down before you get up in front of people to sing. If you have any questions about it, I’d be happy to answer them.

      That feeling, deep inside, that you need to sing? That’s the one to pay all your attention to. Getting over nervous singing takes a mindset change. Again, more about that in future posts.

      Keep your pretty chin up!
      Joy

  3. emt training says:

    What a great resource!

  4. Jay says:

    Ok. I need some help here. I’m a sixteen year old singer. I have been singing since I was 8 and I can sing around my family and close friends. But when it’s in front of someday I don’t know, I start shaking bad, even if i take deep breaths before singing, my legs just shake and I I just freeze up but still sing but it’s like that I shake so much that I can’t move :( I really need to get over it and have no clue how to. Please some advice. Thank you
    Jay-

    • Joy says:

      Hi Jay,

      The good thing is that you are 16 and you are dealing with this early in life! Kudos to you!

      I agree that you really need to get over it, so I want to start you out by going to two articles on the site:

      Joy Starts Your Singing
      Inside Voice Outside Voice

      After you explore those two articles and the links on them, get back to me.

      I am here to help you so the more questions you ask, especially under each of the articles, just like you did here, the more I can help you.

      I appreciate your question a lot because it is something we all deal with in a big way.

      Your honesty is the thing that will help you the most, so keep asking questions!

      Thanks again,
      Joy

  5. Heather says:

    I need Help

    im a 13 year old girl i can sing be my self but not infront of any one and i have asbergers which doubles the pressure and i haveto sing infront of my whole school on thursday morning and today 2nd period please help

    • Joy says:

      Hi Heather,

      Thanks for writing to me.

      The most important thing to do before you sing is take deep breaths and slowly slowly slowly let the air out. Do this several times and it will help to calm you.

      Also, there are a couple of other articles that might help you too.

      Let me know how it goes,
      Joy

  6. Abby says:

    Thank you so much! This really helps.

    • Joy says:

      Hi Abby,

      I apologize for taking SO long to respond to your comment. I was in the middle of a medical emergency and things got put on hold for awhile.
      But all is well now.

      I’d love to know how the article specifically helped you.

      Always sing!
      Joy

  7. Meghan says:

    Singing is my passion, I love it but get I so nervous…. I sing karaoke at random places to try to get more comfortable singing in front of people but it doesn’t help much. I found this article while searching how to get over my nerves because I have an audition coming up. My hopes are high that it will help especially after reading the story of your actual experiences (it is quite similar to what I go through). Thank you for posting such great advice! :)

    • Joy says:

      Meghan,

      I am so happy that the article helped you.

      What kind of audition and when is it?

      And how can I better help you with preparing for it?

      Joy

      • Meghan says:

        I am auditioning for NBC’s The Voice. I auditioned in April and I didn’t make it because I got so nervous I didn’t do as well as I could have but I’m not giving up. I’m auditioning again in August. I read your other articles and I’ve been practicing the breathing techniques… I already knew how important my breathing was but I couldn’t. Figure out how to not lose my breath when I got nervous. I just have to get over being in front of new people when I sing.

        • Joy says:

          Meghan,

          The GREAT thing that you are doing is working on getting your singing voice where you want it to be.

          Keep working on the breathing. It’s the key to everything when you couple it with the singing mindsets.

          If I can be of any help to you, please fire away with questions. That’s why I’m here!

          Joy

      • Meghan says:

        I’ve been to karaoke twice this week, so far the breathing has helped a bit. I’m not completely confident yet but it makes singing in front of people much easier. I am less shakey when I breathe like the slow leaky tire before I go up than if I don’t. Without the breathing my shaking is ridiculously obvious and I can’t control it no matter how hard I try to.

        • Joy says:

          Meghan,

          So happy to hear that the Slow Leaky Tire is helping you.

          Now when you go up in front of people, imagine your voice being inside that slow leaky tire and going out above all their heads.

          Focus on a point on that back of the wall and sing into it.

          Let me know how it goes next time.

          Joy

  8. Hi there, I discovered your site via Google even though looking for a related subject, your website came up, it looks wonderful. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  9. chantell gooderham says:

    i have to sing in front of my class and i am terrified ahhhhhh what should i do

    • Joy says:

      Deep SLOW breathing is the best thing you can do to prepare. That and creating a mental picture of yourself in front of your class totally fearless and free with your voice. What kind of class is it?

  10. Jackie says:

    This article was very helpful! I am just getting back into the performing world of singing. The last time I sang in front of people, my leg began to shake! When this happened you could hear my voice tremble a little during the recording. How to I control this??? I have another performance coming up on March 20th that I need to NAIL. Please help! Thanks!

    • Joy says:

      Hi Jackie,

      Thanks for writing and asking for help. I sure know the feeling you describe.

      In answer to your question—How do I control this?”—the first thing to do is calm your mind about the root causes of your nervousness.

      Do this by focusing on something entirely different.

      Nervousness and shaking happen because consciously and subconsciously we focus—without realizing it—on the fear that has gripped us. And I must tell you truly that this is where most of the root causes for nervous singing are found: in your thought process about your voice and self and what others may think.

      In my digital book, Singing Through Life With Your Mouth Closed, I have a number of thoughts that help with this sense of fear that hits us all.

      For instance, here are four of them for you to ponder:

      • “The time in between the times people hear you sing is where the power to sing in front of them is found. And the times of silence spent in quiet meditation about what you want are the most powerful times of all.”
      • “Once upon a time you sang without fear. Then you grew up. It is time to remember your once-upon-a-time voice.”
      • “Cease worrying about how you sound. Instead, stop listening to yourself and feel the physical vibrations of pure joy that take over your entire body.”
      • “Most every problem you have with singing grows out of fear. Fear that you are not good enough, fear that you will be rejected, fear that you will be breaking the rules, whatever all that means.”

      Let me know if what I have given you to think about helps you begin to focus on something other than the fear, then we can talk again.

      Thanks for your trust,
      Joy

  11. Kennan says:

    Joy-

    I am 12 years old and have been singing since I was seven. I am a guy and I have always sung in my head voice, even now when my voice is deeper than my dad’s. My aunt is a singer and I am going over to her house tomorrow and we are singing a few Fleetwood Mac, but I haven’t sung in front of her since I started singing. I recently sent a sound recording with my cell and she said that I had a nice vibration and that she loved my tone, but I have some fright in singing with her. I’m in choir at school but that’s a little different.. could you help me?

  12. Andrea says:

    Joy, what a wonderful article.

    You have hit the 3 elements of Natural Learning that I facilitate…

    In order to learn to overcome the fear of singing in front of others, you can:

    *Immerse yourself in a complex experience (being on-stage/singing in front of others – even one person to start), while you

    *Practice the tools for creating a Relaxed Alert environment – This includes the inner environment but also the outer, which we can’t always control. The tools can include everything in your article – breathing, focusing, creating the right mindset/mindstate – using tools to calm the whole living system and open the way for it to flourish.

    *Actively process the experience (notice what is coming up, especially the questions, working with them, processing the experience with others, processing the experience with Joy Sikorski, making decisions…).

    I have worked for years on over-coming stage fright and it is SUCH A BREAKTHROUGH and JOY to finally be able share (almost) my whole self on-stage (most of the time).

    Be well my dear,
    Andrea

    • Joy says:

      Andrea,

      Thanks for sharing the specifics of the 3 elements of Natural Learning that you mentioned!

      It makes me happy to know that you have had such a great breakthrough with your stage essence and beliefs about yourself, your voice and the important sense of beauty that you bring to world when you fully relax and share your lovely voice with us all.

      Looking forward to seeing you soon…

      Joy

  13. james burrell says:

    Great article. Just knowing I’m not alone in my nerves makes me feel better. Good tips that I will follow ahead of my gig tomorrow night!

    • Joy says:

      James,

      So glad to hear this helped you. How did your gig go?

      Another article you might get benefit from is about Your Singing Mindset.

      Stay in touch and thanks for writing,
      Joy

    • Joy says:

      Thanks, James. And yes, you are definitely not alone when it comes to nervous singing. The good news is that there are many successful ways to overcome this normal human response when singing in front of people.

      If you have any questions, ask away. I’m here to help!

    • Joy says:

      Hi James,

      Thanks and I trust that you are gaining more and more confidence each time you sing. If I can help you further in any way, please let me know.

      Joy

  14. MoonDark STEWART says:

    I am still scared of singing a solo i sang 3 solos for resitale hour and now i am going to sing another one. I am 17 years old. yeah it is scary but you might just close your eyes

    • Joy says:

      Hi MoonDark,

      I’m not quite sure what “resitale hour” is but how did your singing go for it?
      Yes, you can close your eyes when you are scared but I recommend that a singer find ways to overcome that.
      And anyone can with some simple concepts.

      Keep singing,
      Joy

  15. Charlotte says:

    I am singing tomorrow at my first rectial. im 12. im so nervous! any advice?

    • Elise says:

      Hi joy

      I am only 10 and have found your advice just in time I am in year 6 and totally understand this site.I have done a solo before but yet my confidence just dropped between then and now,I hope you understand my point.
      I hope you could give me some advice .Just to let you know I have a website of my own called eliseneale.co.UK I hope you look at it an keep in touch

      Kind regards
      Elise

      • Joy says:

        Hi Elise,

        I thank you for writing to me about your singing voice. When you wrote your comment, I was out of state for about 6 weeks and publishing a book so I was not able to respond to all of the comments here at Singing Mastermind. Please accept my apologies for not getting back to you sooner.

        I visited your website and your pictures made me smile.

        You mentioned that your confidence dropped recently and asked for advice. Here is what I would like you to do. I did an interview with a dear friend of mine who is also a collaborator. In that interview, he speaks about how to approach a singing mindset that has to do with having an authentic voice. Go to this page and read the article then listen to the interview. While you listen to what he has to say, ask yourself a few simple questions:

        1. What do I love the most about my voice?
        2. How does it make me feel when I sing with this thought in mind: “I love my voice and want to set it free.”

        Do that and then write back to me on this page to tell me what you love most about your voice.

        And… no worries about the confidence thing. You will get it back!

        Kindly,
        Joy

    • Joy says:

      Dear Charlotte,

      My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I was out of state for 6 weeks and publishing a book so I wasn’t able to answer all the comments on this site.

      How did your recital go? What kind of recital was it? Was it for a voice class? Or a school concert?

      I wish I could have answered you before your recital, but there are many things that you can learn that will help you get over nervousness and I’d be happy to help you with that, if you like.

      Kindly,
      Joy

  16. Vickie says:

    I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put
    in penning this blog. I really hope to view the same
    high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In
    fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my
    own site now ;)

  17. Joy says:

    Yes, Jermaine, it was difficult but what I learned to stop all that nervousness now allows me to help other people in a big way because people can see that if I could do it, so can they!

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  1. [...] may come out in nervous singing or tense singing or shy singing, angry singing….you name it, whatever is truly going on with [...]

  2. [...] Joy from Singing Mastermind shares that her singing teacher told her time and time again that her singing breath is the support that has to be under control in order to sing well. [...]

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