Good Singers Don’t Get Stage Fright, Right?

February 9, 2020

One of the biggest vocal myths is that if you experience stage fright it’s because you’re not a good enough singer. Or not good enough yet.


I hate to break it to you (and I sincerely mean that) but stage fright has very little to do with your singing skill. In this blog we’ll examine stage fright and what you need to know about it.


Before we talk about how to deal with stage fright, let’s define it:


What most people call stage fright is a label put on a set of physical sensations that cause most singers to feel uncomfortable.


These sensations include butterflies in your stomach, increased heart rate, shallow or erratic breathing, clammy skin, dizziness, and elevated body temperature.


Stage fright is not these sensations–it’s simply what you choose to call them. You could also label these sensations excitement. It’s important to note that most of us assume these sensations have power over us. We assume they mean something about our skill as singers. We assume they will determine how good (or bad) our performance will be. We make judgements about ourselves because we have these sensations.


In fact, just about every performer feels these sensations regardless of their skill level or experience. What’s important is how you deal with these physical sensations.


In his book Thought Exchange, David Friedman explains that these uncomfortable sensations are always preceded by a thought. It could be “if I make a mistake on stage, it will be awful,” or “I’m not good enough to be up here,” or “I’m not prepared enough for this!”


Your subconscious decides when you have a thought like these that the quickest way to avoid being uncomfortable is to try and stop you from the activity that scares you. So, up pop the sensations.


What’s the best way to deal with the situation if you don’t want to cancel the performance? (and you’ve probably thought about doing that more than once!)


Friedman suggests two things (I’ve used them both numerous times with great results):


1)    Practice creating stage fright. Imagine you’re about to walk out on a stage facing a big crowd. When you start to feel the uncomfortable sensations sit down and courageously let them wash over you. This is difficult at first. They may feel pretty intense. Don’t try to get rid of them or figure out where they came from–just feel them.


What you’ll find is that within 2 to 3 minutes they will pass. Again, this is a challenge that you have to practice. The sensations can’t hurt you even though there uncomfortable. Just feel them.


As you practice this more and more, the sensations have less of a negative impact on you. Then you can start calling them excitement instead of stage fright! Once the sensations have passed…


2)   Determine what thought (or thoughts) you had just before the sensations started. Once you isolate it (let’s say it’s “I know I’m going to screw up and embarrass myself), you can exchange it for another thought.


Affirmations like “I’m going to get a standing ovation!” may not work because your subconscious can have a hard time believing them. Statements like “It’s possible for me to have a fun performance which connects with the audience” are a lot easier for your subconscious to believe–because that is possible.


I’ve found “It’s possible…” statements to be great tools that can powerfully change the energy for me when I’m experiencing uncomfortable sensations, and I use them regularly.


In case you’re still thinking that stage fright is tied to your skill, talent, experience, etc., here are a few folks you know who’ve experienced intense stage fright:


1.    Elvis Presley

2.    BarbraStreisand

3.    MichaelJackson

4.    CarlySimon

5.    Adele

6.    Rhianna

7.    Lorde

8.    Andrea Bocelli

9.    Beyoncé

10.  Katy Perry



Practice surrendering to the sensations and exchanging the thought that preceded them and you’ll be on your way to feeling “stage fright” and having a great performance anyway!


Mark Bosnian

Mark is an award-winning songwriter and professional voice coach with 30+ years of experience teaching people how to take center stage. He has toured nationally with the 80's hit band Nu Shooz and coached Grammy award nominees, American Idol semifinalists, and singers on The Tonight Show.