Many singers can give a flawless performance in the privacy of their own practice space, but as soon as they step on stage, certain parts of their range become strained and wobbly. Nervousness and other mental/emotional factors have a huge impact on the voice, which is why it's always important to maintain a healthy perspective on your performance before you take the stage.
A common mistake many singers make:
Connecting the quality of their performance to their sense of self worth. Putting this much pressure on yourself can throw the body into fight or flight mode, thus tightening muscles in the throat, and throwing off regular breathing patterns. Singing should feel like speaking - natural and relaxed - but it’s difficult to keep your throat at ease when you believe that your identity is at stake! Therefore, reminding yourself that singing is something that you DO, not who you ARE, is very important in achieving proper vocal technique while on stage.
Yet, even with the proper perspective, pre-show jitters are always prone to attack in the minutes leading up to a performance. Luckily, there are some great vocal tricks to employ in the moments before you take the stage in order to keep your body in step with your mind. One great trick is to speak the lyrics to one of your songs out loud as if you’re having a conversation. Pay attention to how your throat and shoulders feel as you speak, then try to remain in that relaxed position as you slowly raise the pitch and stretch out the vowels of your lyrics. Then, still remaining in your relaxed “speaking state of body,” start to casually sing your song as if you were just humming along to it in the car! This is a great way to remind your body that singing should feel relaxed and easy even in the face of pre-show nerves.
Another great exercise to use with this trick...
Is one I like to call the “SAY WHAAAAT?” In this exercise, you pretend that someone just told you some juicy gossip, then you do your best impersonation of Fran Drescher from “The Nanny”, and you say “WHAAAAT, THEY SAID WHAAAT?” It’s important in this exercise to have fun and be goofy. You’ll be shocked at how high your voice will go without any strain or “pushing” because you’re in the mindset of having fun instead of feeling like you’re being judged. It’s another great way to get your body into the swing of relaxed, proper singing technique minutes before a high pressure performance!
The purpose of these tips is to make public singing feel just as comfortable as private singing. After all, if your body takes on a different physical state when you’re performing than when you’re practicing, you’ll never be able to truly be yourself! As singers, we should aim to level the playing field between the practice room and the stage.