Advice and strategies on how to take control of your voice
“How do I keep my voice from locking up when I’m on stage?” “What can I do to improve my singing or speaking voice for when I’m in front of a crowd of people?” “How do I overcome stage fright?” These are the questions I’m often asked as a vocal coach. Today I’ll address these questions and offer you some tips on how to take control of your voice.
The most obvious thing you can do to improve your voice is also the most difficult for some people to process: you’ve got to own it! The world’s greatest singers, actors and speakers all have one thing in common. They present themselves with a confidence and a passion that comes from self-awareness. But how do you “own it”? Here are a few strategies you can use to overcome stage fright and take command of any performance situation.
#1: It’s YOUR decision. Stand by it!
There is a harsh reality that many vocalists need to understand: people don’t care if you sing/speak or not. They only start to care after you’ve already opened your mouth. Think about that for a moment. Unless you’re famous, people won’t know enough about you (yet) to be concerned about your vocal prowess. Use this anonymity to your advantage. Believing you have nothing to lose can be an effective confidence booster.
The fact is: presenting yourself in front of people is a conscious decision made by you and you alone. This realization can be and powerful and liberating thing, giving you greater vocal freedom than you ever thought possible.
#2: Play to an audience of none
A lot of times, the best way to confront an audience is to pretend they are not there. People feel less intimidated when they think they’re alone, so visualizing an empty room while performing can be an effective strategy for overcoming stage fright. This requires some imagination, but learning this technique is a significant first step towards mastering your voice.
#3: Use a mirror
It’s been an indispensable tool in dance and theater for generations, now more and more vocalists realize its usefulness: the good-old mirror. Practicing in front of a mirror not only helps you see for yourself how you sing or speak, but it also allows you to put yourself in the audience’s shoes.
I usually have my students pretend that they are an audience member and their reflection represents how they look on stage. When you can see yourself how your audience perceives you, it becomes easier to make the necessary changes in your body language that will help you use your voice more efficiently.
#4: Avoid direct eye contact
Many vocalists have a difficult time making direct eye contact with members of the audience. Keep in mind that making a connection with your audience does not require that you look them in the eye; letting them think you are is what counts.
In theater, actors are taught to look at the tops of the audience members’ heads during a monologue to give the impression that you are looking directly at them. If you’ve ever been in a staring contest as a kid, you know that the secret to winning is to look between your opponent’s eyes instead of in them. You can use these simple tricks to project authority and passion to your audience, without opening yourself up to the feelings of shyness that can negatively influence your vocal performance.
For more in-depth information on how to overcome stage fright, I highly recommend the books Mastering Stage Fright by Stephen Bryant and Stage Fright: 40 Stars Tell You How They Beat America’s #1 Fear by Mick Berry (Ed: I am not an Amazon affiliate, so I don’t make money when you click on the links.)
If you can perceive it, you can achieve it
Learning to overcome the psychological barriers of live presentation are a crucial first step in taking command of your voice. If you make the decision to present your voice in such a way, then do it with passion, with confidence, and without fear. Your voice will follow your lead.
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