by Ramesha Nani
I started performing when I was only five years old. My mother gave me a toy guitar that I used it to “accompany” myself singing all the songs I knew.
One day it was announced that a local singer was giving a concert for the elderly people in the small village in Switzerland where I lived. I was very excited because he was my favorite singer and I knew all his songs. My anticipation grew as the day of the performance drew closer. Only a couple of days before the performance, the singer cancelled due to lack of funds. My mother didn’t want to tell me, because she thought that I might be too disappointed. But when she did, I said “No worries mom, I’ll sing instead!” The day of the event I climbed on stage and for over an hour I sang all the songs I knew, strumming my toy guitar! Everybody loved it, perhaps more because of my courage and young age than my talent.
It’s amazing how children can be so free of nervousness or self-consciousness, isn’t it? I’ll talk more about this later.
There is a wealth of information on the internet about the psychological and emotional reasons behind stage fright. Rather than exploring the reasons for stage fright, I will share what has worked for me to keep stage fright at bay in my many years of performing music as a singer and instrumentalist.
One of the most effective and fast acting practices that dispels nervousness and anxiety is deep breathing. When we’re nervous, scared, or worried our breath tends to become shallow and irregular, minimizing oxygen intake. One of my favorite breathing exercises is called “Regular (or Triangular) Breathing.”
- Inhale slowly, counting to twelve
- Hold the breath for the same number of counts
- Slowly exhale for the same twelve counts.
This is one round of “regular breathing.” You can increase the count to 16:16:16, or decrease the count to 8:8:8, according to your capacity, but be sure that the three phases of inhalation, retention, and exhalation are equal. Generally speaking, a slower rhythm is better, providing you are comfortable and don’t get out of breath. As you absorb more oxygen and you are able, you may want to increase the count in later rounds.
This technique helps me with stage fright, or nervousness or agitation of any kind. I find this technique particularly useful when confronted with situations (or people) that irritate me. Equalizing inhalation and exhalation calms the reactive process, enabling you to expand your perspective and accept situations and people as they are, rather than reacting (negatively) to unpleasant situations.
Another helpful practice is to simply close the eyes and concentrate deeply at the point between the eyebrows. This area is the location of the pre-frontal lobe, the most evolutionarily advanced portion of the brain. Science has shown that concentrating on this area decreases anxiety, fear, worry, and sorrow. This powerful practice increases mood control, fear management, stress reduction, and general happiness level.
A main cause of performance anxiety is the tendency to let the ego’s concerns rule the scene. If we’re excessively concerned about ourselves — our outlook, our gorgeous voice, our amazing magnetism – we often become anxious and nervous about every little detail about ourselves. We then arrive on stage a bundle of stress and nervousness. More importantly, we lose sight of our primary motivation for performing: to share something of value with our audience, to touch their hearts and change their lives.
If we keep in mind that our goal is to serve and inspire our audience, we can keep our ego in check. Using these techniques to achieve a more balanced perspective will result in a decrease in nervousness and anxiety.
Then, performing becomes more about giving to the audience than serving the ego’s insecurities. This allows us to return to that child-like simplicity I had during that performance at age five. There wasn’t any thought of me, only the joy of singing and sharing those songs that I really liked.
THANKS FOR EXPRESSING YOUR OPINION!
This coming year I want to make sure that the content of my newsletters matches your expectations and needs. Below is a list of possible voice-related topics. Please email me and list one or more topics that you would like to learn more about in the coming year. You can also propose something that is not listed here!
- Vocal Range
- Purity of sound
- Vocal Warm-Ups
- Vocal Health
- Performing Issues
- Vocal Routines
- Singing With Inspiration
- Getting the Most Out of a Song
- Illnesses of the Voice
- Overcoming Shyness
- Deeper Benefits of Singing
- Choir and Its Many Benefits
- Voice Registers
- Boosting Your Confidence
I look forward to hearing from you and learn about your preferences!
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