Learning How to Handle ‘Nerves’

Since the last post, I’m hoping you’ve spent some time practicing your recital song and using expression. As much as I would love to say truthfully that this is all you need to get rid of those butterflies in your stomach, it just isn’t the case. So how do you deal with these anxious feelings?

1. Yes, first start by learning and memorizing your music better than you thought possible.

2. Practice, practice, practice. What? You mean after I memorize I still have to practice my song? Yes, of course you do, or you may discover you no longer have your song memorized. ;) The kind of practice I’m referring to here is practicing your performance of the song. Yes, this is something you should practice on every song you learn so that you are always prepared. The performance of your song does involve good technique, memorization of words, and expression…as well as collaborating with your pianist or guitarist.

There are a few ways to practice your performance technique. I would start by watching in the mirror (just as we do in lessons while watching facial expressions and breathing and posture and mouth position….and just about everything for that matter). Next, take it to the next level and sing for your stuffed animals or pets, then some friends, siblings or other family members. If it makes you nervous then you definitely want to complete this step.

3. Make a list of what happens when you feel nervous: sweaty hands, heart racing, can’t breathe, forget your words, forget facial expression, start fidgeting, sing too quickly, sing out of tune, have to swallow a lot, get dry mouth. The list may go on and on or be very short. Once you have your list, then you will know how your body reacts and can start watching for these signs and try to control them or use them to your benefit.

4. Do another practice performance (one that makes you nervous) and try to overcome some of the items on your list. First, when you are in front of your audience, drop your chin to your chest, close your eyes and take a few slow deep breaths. Try to keep your arms/hands loose at your sides and sing your first line in your head. Second, open your eyes, look out but slightly above your audience’s heads and smile. Third, take a low deep breath and start your song. If you make a mistake, just keep singing, just keep singing, just keep singing. :) Fourth, take a bow and avoid apologizing for any mistakes; remember to smile.

5. Repeat number 4 over and over. Remember to celebrate the improvements you’re making and your achievements even if they seem like baby steps.

Learning how to cope and use your nervous energy to help you sing can take some time. Although you may see results immediately, it is more common over a period of time with many performances. Also, many times it’s hard to get started with your song, but after the first verse you may feel fine. If you don’t know what to expect, then sing your song for as many people as you can before you reach the performance.

6. Make a list of positive attributes about yourself and your singing; especially about your strengths in the current song you are performing. Read this to yourself before you go on stage. It may sound cheesy, but I know some professional singers who do this and it makes a huge difference for them…so why not try it out?

7. Have fun!!!! Remember, you are doing all of this because You Lo-ove to Sing! Enjoy your pretty/cool outfit, enjoy the applause and have fun sharing your song with everyone! You know you will see me standing in the back of the room cheering you on and sometimes crying (in joy) because you are awesome! It is such a huge step getting up on that stage and you make me very proud to be your teacher.

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