One of the most challenging aspects of singing is having the confidence to sing on stage in front of a live audience. A lack of confidence will not only affect the quality of your voice, but it will also affect how the audience perceives you. Some of the greatest singers didn't necessarily have the best voice, but they had the confidence and stage presence of a rock star.
Below are 12 ways you can sing on stage with confidence so that you can look and feel amazing while you sing. Some of these require preparation in the weeks before the performance, so it's ideal to prepare early.
1. Know your Song
You need to know your song(s) back to front. This includes the lyrics, melody and any 'improvisations' (variations to the melody that seem improvised, but that you've actually practised). For example, know where to add oo's, ah's or vibrato.
You should also make sure you have been practising the song in the correct key. If you sing in a different key when you practice, you will find that notes are higher or lower than expected when you perform. Your voice will not be prepared properly, you will be caught off-guard and your confidence will be shaken.
2. Practice Performing
Once you feel like you know the song back to front, you need to practice performing. Below are three important ways you should practise performing.
In Front of the Mirror
Singing in front of a mirror will show you what you look like when you sing. You should take note of your facial expressions, how your body moves and what yours arms are doing. Keep in mind that you might be holding a microphone for the performance.
Into a Recording
Recording yourself singing is very confronting. Nobody likes to hear themselves sing. But this is a big step in boosting your confidence. Once you have recorded your performance (which can be on your phone), listen back and note the positives and negatives.
This will help you identify what you need to work on and give you confidence for the things that sound great. The trick is to repeat this process until you deem your voice worthy of the stage. You are your harshest critic, after all.
In Front of Friends or Family
After singing into a phone or in front of a mirror, you need to practise singing to an audience. This is very important for overcoming the fear of being judged.
Put on a mini performance for your friends or family, including movements and facial expressions. It's up to you whether or not you ask for their feedback, but just singing to other people will get you used to others hearing your voice.
3. Get to Know the Backing Track
Double-check what's happening with your backing track. Some people may use a pre-recorded track to sing along to, while others will use a live backing, such as piano or a band.
Pre-Recorded Backing Tracks
Singing to a backing track is sometimes easier, considering you can practise singing along to the backing track as many times as you want before the performance. In this case, just make sure you've practiced getting the timing right and that the venue or sound desk have the right backing track ready for the performance.
Live backing is harder to deal with. You need to work with other people regarding the key and timing of the song. Make sure you have at least one practise with your live backing before the performance so that you know what to expect on the day. In particular, know your cue to walk on stage and when to start singing.
4. Prepare Your Body the Week Before
It always helps to keep your body healthy leading up to a performance. You should make sure you get enough sleep the week before and should be eating the right foods at least a few days before.
5. Increase your Vocal Range
Increasing your vocal range will allow you to sing higher or lower than the song requires. If you are unsure of what your vocal range is, click here. By increasing your range, the upper and lower limits of the song will be within your comfortable range, which simply means the song will be easier to sing.
One problem some people have is hitting the correct note when they try to sing too high or too low. Increasing your vocal range is one of many ways you can improve this problem. For more ways to improve your pitch, have a look at this article.
6. Exercise your Voice
Vocal exercises are essential to controlling your voice. If you have full control over you voice, you will know exactly what you can expect when you sing. Those without control may experience voice cracking, a sore throat, a nasally tone, etc. These issues are what takes away the confidence of many singers.
I have compiled a number of simple vocal exercises you can do to maintain control of your voice in this article. These exercises will take up no more than 20 minutes of your day, which can be done in the shower or in the car.
7. Familiarise Yourself with the Venue
Being in an unfamiliar environment can shake your confidence, which is why it's important to visit the performance venue several times. Once you become familiar with the stage, back-stage, parking, auditorium, etc, you will feel more comfortable. You should at least have the opportunity to walk around during the sound check.
8. Stretch Before the Performance
Stretching the muscles in your body is known to improve your posture (another key to confidence), relax your muscles and reduce stress. These things combined will help you to look and feel more confident.
You can choose any number of stretches that work for you. Some good stretches that I have used in the past include:
- Stretch and tighten your facial muscles with pouting and surprised expressions.
- Stretch your back, arms and legs by moving your upper body in large circles, up (reaching to the roof), around and down (reaching for the floor).
- Roll your shoulders in circles forwards and then backwards.
Don't forget to include some of your daily vocal exercises as a warmup for the voice muscles!
9. Take Deep Breaths
Taking deep breaths has a calming effect on your body and stretches the rib cage and diaphragm. Some singers also become very breathy when they are nervous because of the body's fight/flight response. Their heart-rate spikes up and their breathing becomes fast and irregular. Breathing slowly and deeply can help reverse this nervous response.
10. Look Confident
Looking confident can be hard when you don't feel confident. But when you perform, there is always an element of acting involved. When we sing, we play the role of the confident superstar, because that's what our audience wants to see. Ways you can look confident include the following.
- Smile (if appropriate for the mood of the song)
- Use facial expressions that match the lyrics
- Move your arms
- Move around the stage
- Open up your posture (head up, shoulders squared, feet apart, straight back)
If you're unsure about any of these, use YouTube to watch a variety of singers perform. You'll start to pick up on common mannerisms and body language. Once you're ready to try it, watch yourself in a mirror to compare to the professionals.
11. Take Your Time
There's nothing that screams confidence more than taking your sweet time on stage. If you have a time-slot to sing, you own that time-slot. Walk slowly and confidently to your position. Take your time to breathe, look around at people and get your microphone ready. You've got this.
12. Sing Through Your Mistakes
Finally, if you make mistakes during the performance, chances are that nobody will even notice. Only you know exactly how your song needs to go. The only thing more obvious than a mistake is when you react to it.
I was notorious in the early days for making a funny face whenever I made a mistake. My facial expressions would draw people's attention to the mistake. When I didn't make a face, most people in the audience though my mistakes were part of the performance. Therefore, keep singing through your mistakes. The more you focus on them, the more confidence you will lose.