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Five Tips for Performance Anxiety

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Performance anxiety is a common and deeply human experience that transcends skill level or genre. The spotlight can be both exhilarating and paralyzing. As you step into the glow, your heart races, your palms sweat, and your mind races with self-doubt and fear of judgment. This gripping anxiety can stifle your vocal brilliance, dampen your musical expression, and hinder your growth as an artist. I've found five tips helpful for calming the nerves and embracing the stage with confidence.

1. Practice Smarter, Not Harder

girl practicing voice

Focused deliberate practice is a pillar of Estill Voice Training®. It reminds us that vocal success is achieved through mastering the small movements of the vocal process first. If you know you have trouble hitting a high C, focus your practice on hitting that high C. Don't waste time singing the whole song or doing useless warmups that only tire the voice. Practice the hard part. Confidence comes from mindful practice. Your practice should be short, to the point, and moving you towards your goal. Don't waste time; practice smarter, not harder.

2. Practice the Nerves

man practicing feeling nervous

So you've nailed your focused deliberate practice but you forgot one thing; the nerves! You can be a super star in the studio but a nervous wreck on stage. Why? You didn't practice what it's like to perform under pressure. Ask your partner or close (but honest) friend to watch you perform. Or better yet, film yourself! When we know that someone is watching us, we perform differently. Make yourself nervous and observe it, acknowledge it, and find strategies to move through it.

3. Ground Yourself

woman grounding herself

Often times when you're in an audition room it's you on one side of the room and then the creative or casting team on the other side of the room. It can feel like you're floating. Grounding yourself is a way to stay connected to the present. Instead of getting lost in anxiety and reviewing a made-up version of reality in your head, grounding allows you to experience the moment you are in. Give yourself something physical to connect to. In Estill, we use anchoring; engaging the larger muscles in your head, neck, and torso to ground our bodies and support the smaller muscle in and around your larynx.

4. Accept that your Audience Wants to Hear You

audience wanting to hear you

A performer is nothing without an audience and audiences are essential to any performance. It's so easy to get locked into thinking about what audiences are going to think or how they're going to react. We often overlook the most important thing which is that they are there to see and hear YOU. Most audiences regardless of who they are want to see you succeed. Accept that. Own that. And love your audiences back. Relationships prosper when both partners love each other. Love yourself and love those you're performing for.

5. Keep Performance Anxiety in Perspective

woman laughing

Keeping things in perspective allows us to maintain a balanced and grounded outlook on life's ups and downs. In the hustle and bustle of our performances, it's easy to get caught up in the minor frustrations of a missed note or the fleeting successes, losing sight of the bigger picture. By stepping back and taking a broader view, we gain the ability to see beyond the immediate challenges and celebrate the journey as a whole. Honor the simple act of getting up in front of group of people and sharing your voice. Cultivate gratitude for the blessing of your voice. Whether facing adversity or relishing triumphs, keeping things in perspective allows us to embrace life with a sense of clarity, mindfulness, and appreciation.

It's so natural to experience nerves when stepping into the limelight. Remember, it's not about eradicating these feelings entirely, but rather learning to navigate them with grace and resilience.So, take a deep breath, remind yourself of the passion that drives you, and step into the spotlight with confidence. Embrace your uniqueness, for it is what sets you apart as an artist. And above all, be kind to yourself, recognizing that imperfections and nerves are part of what makes us human.


About the author: Luke Steinhauer is a premier vocal coach, international voice consultant, and Estill Master Trainer, based in New York City. Luke is a graduate of The University of Michigan and an MBA Candidate at Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, CUNY. @lukesteinhauervoice

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