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john legend pre-show routine

10 Pre-Show & Stage Fright Rituals of Famous Musicians [Infographic]

Do you get butterflies before you’re about to perform, even for a small audience? Imagine singing or playing your instrument at sold-out arenas!

Performing for screaming fans can be nerve-wracking even for the most seasoned musicians. To combat the nerves, many rely on pre-show rituals to center themselves. Continue reading to find out what some of your favorite famous musicians do behind-the-scenes…

stage fright in famous musicians - pre-show rituals

How 10 Famous Musicians Battle Stage Fright

Learn about the pre-show rituals of your favorite musicians.

  • Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper eats Skittles as a pre-show snack and watches kung-fu movies before he takes the stage.

  • Beyoncé

Beyoncé has a pretty specific pre-show ritual: she gathers the members of the band to say a prayer and do a stretch. After that, she sits in a massage chair while she gets her hair and makeup done. She also enjoys an hour of peace before her show and has a special playlist that she listens to every day.

  • Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones rocker is very specific about his pre-show meal. He always eats a Shepherd’s pie, and he must be the one who breaks the crust.

  • Justin Bieber

When Justin Bieber was a young star, he enjoyed Sour Patch Kids and gummy worms before his show. We’re not sure if he still eats these snacks before he performs for sold-out arenas, but whatever he’s doing, it’s working!

  • Rihanna

Like Beyoncé, Rihanna grabs her musicians and backup dancers together for a prayer circle. Also, right before they take the stage, they put their hands in the middle and raise them as they yell a rallying cry.

  • Eminem

The fit rapper requests 25-pound dumbbells and six Lunchables Snack Packs (three turkey and three ham and cheese) for his dressing room.

  • Coldplay

The British rock band enjoys a little bit of quiet time before their shows and always makes sure to do a group hug.

  • John Legend

John Legend knows it’s important to eat a good meal before a performance. The singer eats roasted chicken before his shows.

How to Battle Anxiety and Stage Fright

While the musicians listed above have a lot of performance experience, it doesn’t mean they’re immune to feeling some pre-show jitters. In fact, many famous musicians — including Adele, Barbra Streisand, and more recently Zayn Malik –have shared their personal stories of anxiety and stage fright.

In reality, stage fright is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, you can even use that energy to your advantage — check out our Ultimate Guide to Stage Fright to learn the strategies. So get out there and enjoy yourself! The rush you’ll feel is worth it, we promise.

Readers, do you have your own pre-performance rituals? How do you battle stage fright and anxiety? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Sources: MusicNotes, Mental Floss, EMGNHuffington Post, Photo by Benny Chandra

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30 More Romantic Songs to Sing at Weddings

30 MORE Romantic Songs to Sing at Weddings | Love Songs

30 MORE Romantic Songs to Sing at Weddings

As a wedding singer, choosing a song that represents the couple and their love story can feel like a lot of pressure! As you’re working with the bride and groom, here are some ideas from voice teacher Molly R. for choosing the perfect song to sing…

 

Love is in the air! Before you know it, June will be here — the busiest month of all for weddings.

If you’re a singer, you might already know how fun (and let’s face it: lucrative!) it can be if you offer wedding gigs.

Sometimes, the happy couple knows exactly what they want as far as the song goes. But often, they are certainly open to suggestions from the professional!

Before you decide which songs to sing at a wedding, think about the following:

1. Consider the couple.

If the bridge and groom are young and hip, a Josh Groban song might not fly! Likewise, if it’s an older couple, they may want an old standard. If you know the couple personally, you might already know what kind of music they like. Browse through my recommendations below and offer them a couple of ideas to go from.

2. Consider the ceremony.

Another important thing to consider is whether the event is super formal, or more casual. A beautiful classical song is ideal for a formal wedding in a church, but you may want a more current love song for a backyard wedding with a more laidback vibe.

3. Consider your own strengths.

The final thing to consider is… YOU! When selecting any song, you have to think about your voice type, vocal ability, and styles that you sing comfortably in. A Handel aria would be out of some pop singers’ ability, and likewise, an opera singer may sound completely awkward singing the Beatles.

Now that you’ve put some thought into it, take a look at my recommendations below. There’s a lot more where these came from, so just use these as a starting point!

Traditional/Classical Songs to Sing at a Wedding

1. “Let the Bright Seraphim” – Handel

2. “Panis Angelicus” – César Franck
3. “Ave Maria” – Bach/Gounod
4. “Bist du bei mir” (If you are with me) – Bach
5. “Irish Wedding Song” (Traditional)
6. “Ich Liebe Dich” (I Love You) – Beethoven
7. “You Raise Me Up” – Josh Groban

Pop Songs (Old and New) to Sing at a Wedding

1. “We’ve Only Just Begun” – The Carpenters

2. “At Last” – Etta James
3. “Just the Way You Are”- Billy Joel
4. “I Can’t Wait” – Ben LaRue
5. “All of Me”- John Legend
6. “Could I Have This Dance” – Anne Murray
7. “Here and Now” – Luther Vandross
8. “Here, There and Everywhere” – The Beatles
9. “Thinking Out Loud”- Ed Sheeran
10. “From This Moment On” – Shania Twain

Broadway and Movie Songs for Weddings

1. “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof”

2. “Someone Like You” from “Jekyll and Hyde”
3. “Till There Was You” from “The Music Man”
4. “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story”
5. “A Thousand Years” – Sung by Christina Perri, from “Twilight”
6. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – Elvis Presley, from “Blue Hawaii”
7. “Evergreen”- Barbra Streisand, from “A Star is Born”
8. “There You’ll Be” – Faith Hill, from “Pearl Harbor”

Duets to Sing at Weddings

1. “Endless Love” – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

2. “It’s Your Love” – Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
3. “The Closer I Get to You” – Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway
4. “E Più Ti Penso” (The More I Think of You) – Andrea Bocelli and Ariana Grande
5. “Lucky” – Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat

If you’re having a hard time deciding on a song, check in with your voice teacher. Brainstorm together, keeping your vocal strengths in mind, to really come up with something that’ll impress the bridge and groom! Your teacher can also help you prepare for the big event so you feel confident.

Most of all, have fun with it! Weddings are beautiful, and it’s such a great feeling knowing you’re contributing to the experience of both the bridal party and the guests. Enjoy it!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

Photo by Krystian Olszanski (with text overlay)

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MO - 6 Helpful Diction Exercises for Singers [Video]

6 Helpful Diction Exercises for Singers [Video]

MO - 6 Helpful Diction Exercises for Singers [Video]

Improve your technique (and your next performance) by working on diction! In this article, singing teacher Liz T. shares some great exercises to try out…

 

Imagine you’re at a concert, and your favorite artist gets up on stage to sing. You recognize a popular song from her album starting, but when she opens her mouth… you can’t decipher any of the lyrics.

As a singer, paying attention to diction — that is, the way you enunciate your words — can make a big impact on your performance. It’s a crucial part of connecting with your audience and even having proper vocal health!

If you struggle with you diction when you sing, though, don’t be ashamed. It is truly something all singers struggle with! It doesn’t mean you are a bad singer… but the better diction you have, the more your audience will be able to enjoy and appreciate your performance.

There are tons of diction exercises you can try, which will help you train yourself. Start adding these to your practice sessions, and you’ll notice a difference!

1) Practice Tongue Twisters

Try speaking your favorite tongue twisters first, and then try singing them! I recommend focusing on ones with letters or syllables that are more difficult for you. Start slow, and then work up to a faster speed. Really make sure you are articulating each sound. You can also try speaking or singing the alphabet to get the shapes ingrained in your muscle memory.

Here are a few tongue twisters that are great for improving your diction:

  • She sells seashells by the seashore.
  • Red leather, yellow leather.
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • Who washed Washington’s white woolen underwear, as Washington’s washer woman went West.
  • Mommy made me mash my M&Ms.

2) Study Phonetics (IPA)

For this exercise, take a look at the song you’re currently working on, and break down each word in the lyrics. Break apart the vowels, consonants, and diphthongs. Feel free to write in your score, if you need to spell a word differently for it to make sense in your singing.

Many singers refer to the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) when singing. This is a system derived from Latin that is used today as a standardized representation of sounds. It’s a great tool for singers to use and study!

3) Practice Vowels

Take some time focusing on each of the vowels: ah, ay, ee, oh, and oo. Add a consonant at the beginning (such as “mah, may, me…”) and sing through the list, making sure each one is clear.

4) Practice Consonants

Next, focus on consonants, like D, T, and N. Practice speaking the different sounds, repeating each a few times.

5) Do Some Lip Buzz/Trill

Warm up your lips, tongue, and teeth with simple lip buzzes and tongue trills.

6) Incorporate Breath Support

Pick one of the tongue twisters above, and practice saying it all in one breath.

Now that you’ve read the descriptions of the diction exercises, here’s a video you can follow along with:

Whether you are performing live on stage (using a microphone or not) or singing in a studio, you should always use clear and accurate diction! And if you’re struggling, remember that clear diction may not happen overnight. Keep practicing these diction exercises, and work with your voice teacher to improve your technique. Good luck!

 

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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best graduation songs

30 MORE Awesome Graduation Songs to Sing Along With

best graduation songs

If you’re taking the stage to perform at your upcoming graduation ceremony, you’ll want to pick a great song to sing! Continue reading for 30 good graduation songs to check out, recommended by voice teacher Molly R...

 

Spring has sprung! And one of the things many of us attend in late Spring is a graduation ceremony or two (or more, if you’re super social!).

If you’re a singer, you may even be asked to perform at a graduation ceremony or party. And the toughest part isn’t getting up there on stage — it’s choosing what to perform for the audience! So, how do you choose the best graduation song to sing? Here are my tips:

  1. Consider your audience. Is it at a more formal institution? You want to select something more traditional, or even classic pop.  Are you performing at a friend’s party after the big ceremony? Well, maybe current pop may do the trick!
  2. Consider the message. Whether it’s formal or informal, you’ll want a song that inspires both grads and family! Some of the themes that work include lasting friendships, new beginnings, hope, and confidence.

To get you started, here is my list of 30 fantastic graduation songs that you may want to consider for 2016…

Traditional Songs

1. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel”

2. “Homeward Bound” by Marta Keen

3. “An Old Irish Blessing”

4. “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban

5. “The Prayer” by Josh Groban

6. “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha”

7. “Amigos Para Siempre” by Andrew Lloyd Webber

8. “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman

Newer Pop Songs (’90s to current )

1. “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars

2. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles

3. “Now and Forever” by Carole King

4. “You Were There” by Michael Jackson

5. “Firework”  by Katy Perry

6. “Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot

7. “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors

8. “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey

9. “Hero” by Mariah Carey

Classic Pop Songs (’80s and older)

1. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

2. “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass Elliot

3. “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston

4. “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles

5. “That’s What Friends Are For” by Burt Bacharach

6. “In My Life” by The Beatles

Broadway and Movies

1. “No Matter What” from “Whistle Down the Wind”

2. “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”

3. “Any Dream Will Do” from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

4. “Dream For Your Inspiration”  by The Muppets

5. “Go the Distance” from Disney’s “Hercules”

6. “Our Time” from “Merrily We Roll Along”

7. “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Disney’s “Tarzan”


Final Tips for Singing at Graduation Events

Not only do you want to choose the right song, but you want to be sure you’re super prepared for your big performance. Your voice teacher can help you make sure that the song is suitable for your level and voice type, as well as help you polish it. No voice teacher? No problem! TakeLessons can help connect you for in-person or online voice lessons.

Break a leg!

Readers: Know any other good graduation songs to sing? Leave a comment with your suggestion!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

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Photo by Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office

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How to Be a Better Singer... With One Overlooked Secret

How to Be a Better Singer… With One Overlooked Secret

How to Be a Better Singer... With One Overlooked Secret

Wondering how to be a better singer? There’s more to it than knowing how to use your voice. Read on as teacher Tony F. explains…

 

Do you love to sing? Is singing the first thing on your mind in the morning and the last thing at night? If you can answer yes to those questions, you might be what’s known as (cue the Star Wars theme music, maestro)… a singer.

Symptoms may include: rocking your head to a favorite song as you sing along while driving down the road… an unbalanced addiction to karaoke parties… or a tendency to sing along with songs you don’t even know, just because you can.

While there’s a lot to learn about keeping your voice healthy, developing your ear, and improving your pitch, here’s something you might not have thought about: your voice is actually all in your mind.

Here’s what I mean…

1. Your Mind’s Eye

Yep, you’ve got to see yourself singing. Imagine yourself singing five years from now. Can you see it? Good. Now imagine yourself singing 10 years from now. And 20 years. And maybe even 30 or 40 years from now. Can you see yourself with gray hair… singing like you did when you were young?

When you can see yourself, in your mind’s eye, singing confidently in front of a group of listeners, you’re one-third of the way to actually doing it. And don’t just see yourself singing… take it to the next level and see yourself in full control of a powerful and stylish voice. Are you starting to get a clear picture?

OK, now see yourself smiling. There’s sheer joy in singing when you keep yourself in the moment. See the troubles of the world fall at your feet. See your audience swept away in the moment with you. And see yourself floating weightless through every note, phrase, and inflection.

Practice this kind of visualization in your spare time and before every rehearsal or performance. Your voice will thank you.

2. Your Mind’s Ear

Can you hear music when no music is playing? I’m not asking if you can recall your favorite song and the way it sounds. I mean actual notes and scales. Can you hear those? You should be able to, if you quiet your mind and listen.

Set aside any distractions like your mobile device or your social accounts, and listen. Start by thinking of the first note in a scale. DO. Got it? Doesn’t matter if it’s a C or G or E. Just start with DO.

Now move up the scale past RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI, and all the way to DO. Listen closely. Do you hear the sound of each note in your own voice? If you can’t, you might need to find somewhere even more quiet and secluded. And you might need to practice focused listening.

Focused listening starts in your mind’s ear. When you can clearly hear notes in your head and in your voice, and when you combine hearing yourself sing with seeing yourself sing, you’re two-thirds of the way to actually doing it. But you’ve got one more area to deal with as you learn how to be a better singer.

3. Your Mind’s Voice

Most successful singers (or successful people in anything, really) will tell you they’ve had to battle a nagging, negative voice inside their head. Have you ever heard that little voice in your mind, the one that says “you can’t do it”?

Have you ever started to sing and thought, “What am I doing?” or “Who do I think I am?” If so, you’re not alone. But here’s what will set you apart and what will get you over that hurdle…

don’t be afraid to mess up. Tell that nagging voice in your mind who’s boss.

Remember, you’re in control of your thoughts. And if you’ve been practicing your visualization and listening techniques, you should be able to think thoughts like…

  • “I’m gonna sing the notes off this scale!”
  • “I can sing circles around this song!”
  • “I love singing so much, no one and nothing is gonna stop me!”

You can do it. Start right now. When you change the thoughts in your head, you’ll be well on your way to being a better singer!

TonyFPost Author: Tony F.
Tony F. teaches vocal training in Colorado Springs, CO, as well as through online lessons. With over 25 years of live performance experience, and has also written jingles for radio and websites. Learn more about Tony here!

Photo by WFIU Public Radio

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MO - How to Sing With Confidence

How to Sing With Confidence | The 3-Ingredient Secret Sauce

How to Sing With Confidence

Feeling nervous about an upcoming performance? It’s a totally normal feeling! Getting used to being in the spotlight can take some time. Learn how to sing with confidence in this article by voice teacher Sphie H...

 

How many times have you listened to your favorite musical artists, bands, and pop stars and pictured yourself in their shoes? Many people dream of unleashing their inner rock star, but very few actually set forth in doing so. It takes a lot of courage to learn how to sing and, for some, understanding how to formulate the first note can be a challenge — let alone imagining the excitement of singing on a stage!

With the guidance of the following few, simple steps, all of the butterflies will melt away and you will be on your way to discovering your voice in no time. So, what are the ingredients in building confidence as a singer?

1) Have Patience With Yourself

The first ingredient in learning how to sing with confidence is patience. Learning how to sing can be a very similar experience to a baby learning how to walk. When a baby learns to walk, they learn step-by-step. In singing, the process is not very different. You are learning not only how to listen to the notes but also how to formulate and re-create the notes you are listening to.

Because your body is your instrument, it takes your entire body to learn how to sing, so be patient with yourself. It is the baby steps in learning that formulate the bigger picture. Finding fulfillment in the building blocks allows you to feel confident in the work that you have achieved.

2) Practice Often

The second ingredient is practice. When I studied opera as a teenager, I sometimes loathed stepping into the practice arena outside of my teacher’s guidance. It felt like wandering through a foreign territory only to find myself at a dead end.

I thought to myself, “I don’t want to sing opera. I want to sing soul.” I felt in my youthfulness that this soulful voice was somehow going to jump out of me and one day it did. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was all of those years of practice that had helped me to achieve it.

Practice helps strengthen both quality in tone and the relationship in building your own voice. Practicing singing is like an insurance policy for you voice. The more you practice, the more you know your voice. The more you know your voice, the more confident you are singing in any situation. Preparation is the backbone of self-confidence.

3) Take Risks

The third ingredient in building self-confidence as a singer is in taking risks. You may have heard the quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” When applied to singing, the same rings true!

We often hear this voice in our head when we first start singing that sounds much different than the voice that actually comes out. When applying the building blocks in practicing scales, exercises, and simple tones and in mastering them one step at a time, we then feel comfortable enough to take risks in the creation and formulation of new exercises. If you hear something in your head, but don’t know exactly how to create the sounds, try anyway. Taking risks in singing means stepping into uncharted waters of sound and testing all of the different sounds available to you. This can be as simple as humming a line to your favorite song out loud.

Every great singer has to know how to hit the “bad” notes a few times before they understand what it means to hit the “good” ones. In the end, confidence in singing comes from knowing both the “good” notes and the “bad” notes and how to move more fluidly and comfortably between all of them. The truth is, you will never know unless you try and it takes more courage to try than not to. Having the courage to take risks will build confidence in knowing your voice.

Learn How to Sing With Confidence

When it comes to learning your voice, it takes patience, practice, and a little bit of risk-taking! Ultimately, you are the captain of your own ship. Learning how to sing is an art and a balance of the above three items. With the combination of all three ingredients, you will find yourself well on your way to singing even more vibrantly and confidently in no time.

Post Author: Sphie H.
Sphie H. teaches singing, piano, yoga, and more in Indianapolis, IN. She offers her students in-home lessons, as well as lessons in her own home studio. She’s been teaching for over a decade and aims to offer a relaxed, versatile, and professional approach to her lessons. Learn more about Sphie here!

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25 Best Karaoke Songs for Women With a Twist

The 25 Best Karaoke Songs for Women With a Twist

25 Best Karaoke Songs for Women With a TwistWant to be the star of your next karaoke night? We’ve got you covered. In this article, voice teacher Elaina R. shares 25 recommendations for karaoke songs for women — and a twist that makes them work so well…

 

Have you ever noticed that guys like Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, and Adam Levine sing so high that barely any other guys can eke out the same notes? What about the fact that female artists like Sia, Ariana Grande, and Katy Perry leave women in the same painful situation?

You aren’t imagining things; the popular music industry has been overrun by high voices ever since pop was invented. It’s nearly impossible for normal people (without digital enhancement) to sing lots of popular songs. In fact, many of the original singers of these songs can’t reliably belt out those high notes night after night – it just isn’t healthy.

This is why if you’re a female vocalist, instead of attempting to screech out “Chandelier” at your next karaoke session, you might want to consider sticking with Justin Bieber instead.

Why Songs by Guys Make Great Female Karaoke Songs

Hear me out… In my experience, the average woman can belt up to about a G4 or an A4 before things start getting uncomfortable (if I just lost you, check out this article on voice types). I’m a professional singer and I can only comfortably belt up to a C#5 or D5.

In contrast, here are a few of the belted high notes in some popular songs with female singers:

Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” (D5)
Katy Perry’s “Firework” (D#5)
Sia’s “Chandelier” (F5)
Ariana Grande’s “Problem” (G#5)

These notes are a fifth to an octave above what most women are capable of belting. They’re so high, in fact, that a trained singer like me can’t belt most of them! It’s physically impossible for most women to sing these songs without straining their vocal cords or flipping up into head voice.

Now let’s take a look at some of the high belted notes in popular songs by male artists.

OMI’s “Cheerleader” (E4)
Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” (F4)
Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” (G#4)
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” (D5)

Aside from the Bruno Mars song, all of those have belted high notes that most women can comfortably handle. And although you might expect the songs to go too low for women, they usually don’t. The lowest note in the four songs listed above is a momentary C#3 in “Shut Up and Dance”. Some women can sing down there, but if you can’t, it’s easy enough to substitute a higher note that fits in the chord (one safe tactic is to simply stay on the previous note).

Have I convinced you? If so, consider some of these hits next time you go to a karaoke bar.

25 Best Female Karaoke Songs (Originally By Guys)

1. “The Lazy Song” – Bruno Mars
2. “Forget You” – Cee Lo Green
3. “Photograph” – Ed Sheeran
4. “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap
5. “Firestone” – Kygo ft. Conrad Sewell
6. “Hold Back the River” – James Bay
7. “Let It Go” – James Bay
8. “Want To Want Me” – Jason Derulo
9. “Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey
10. “Love Yourself” – Justin Bieber
11. “Years & Years” – King
12. “Are You With Me” – Lost Frequencies
13. “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
14. “Sugar” – Maroon 5
15. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson
16. “Thriller” – Michael Jackson
17. “Avicii” – The Nights
18. “Cheerleader” – OMI
19. “Hey Ya” – OutKast
20. “Happy” – Pharell Williams
21. “I’m Not The Only One” – Sam Smith
22. “Stay With Me” – Sam Smith
23. “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
24. “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd
25. “Earned It” – The Weeknd

 

Are any of these songs your favorites? Comment below with your thoughts and a song recommendation of your own!

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

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Top karaoke songs

100+ Best Karaoke Songs for Girls, Guys, Groups & More

Top karaoke songs

Karaoke night! Some people make this a weekly ritual. Some do it for fun, and some take it very seriously… and even compete in karaoke contests!

No matter how you view karaoke singing, it’s a wonderful way to practice performing — especially if you’re a beginner singer. This guide is here to help you make the most of the night, including tips to prepare beforehand, how to choose the best song to sing for karaoke, and how to shine on stage!

For a limited time, try a free online singing class.

Reserve My Spot

How Karaoke Can Make You a Better Singer

Going to karaoke is a great idea if you’re pursuing music. Think of it this way: you’re not being judged as you would be at an audition or vocal contest, so it’s certainly less stress. You can try out new material here before you take it to the “big time”!

It also goes without saying that performing, in general, becomes easier the more you do it.  Karaoke night is a great way to get over stage fright if you attend regularly — you’ll always have an audience, and they are usually very supportive and encouraging (especially if you go with your friends and family!).

How to Pick the Best Karaoke Song For You

Before you hit the stage, I’d recommend having a few songs in mind. Thinking ahead can be especially helpful for beginner karaoke singers, since it will take the stress away from choosing the song the night of. But there’s a lot more to it than just picking your favorite song and rolling with it…

Let’s say you just love the Beatles. That doesn’t mean you can SING it in the original key without straining! John and Paul had very high singing voices, and most males are baritones. So, ask yourself this: “When I sing along to my favorite songs, who am I most comfortable singing with?”

Maybe it’s Taylor Swift, a middle voice. Or perhaps a higher one, like Dolly Parton. Use this as your guide for picking your song.

Oh, and since karaoke is about fun, don’t forget to pick a song that you truly enjoy singing! It’s usually a better idea to choose something more up-tempo as it’s less likely for nerves to show. If you’re nervous and singing a ballad, things can get shaky.

5 Tips for Singing Karaoke

Here are some other things to keep in mind about how to have a successful karaoke night:

  • Look confident! Start with a smile and with your feet planted shoulder width apart. Make no apologies for being on that stage!
  • Pick a song you really know so you’re not always having to look at the lyrics on the screen. Don’t forget you have an audience that wants you to sing to them!
  • Use good vocal technique. Breathe low, and keep your sound placed in your mask rather than shouting into the microphone.
  • Practice at home! YouTube has many excellent channels, such as KaraFun, where you can pull up the song for free.
  • Remember it’s about fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you pick a song you love, it will show in your performance. That’s when you can expect the compliments to pour in!

Ok, ready to find out the top karaoke songs? Here are our top picks, broken down by genre, category, and more! You can also jump to specific song recommendations using these links:

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Best Female Karaoke Songs

Ladies, you’ve got so many great choices when it comes to karaoke songs! From powerhouse pop to girl-power classics, these songs are really fun to sing! Here are our picks for the best female karaoke songs.

  1. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
  2. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
  3. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
  4. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls
  5. Single Ladies – Beyoncé
  6. Like a Virgin – Madonna
  7. Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
  8. Emotions – Mariah Carey
  9. Rehab – Amy Winehouse
  10. Black Velvet – Alannah Myles
  11. Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
  12. Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover – Sophie B. Hawkins

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Best Karaoke Songs for Men

Guys, start warming up your voices for these top picks in all vocal genres: rock, pop, punk, and even lounge-style. Here are our picks for the best karaoke songs for men.

  1. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
  2. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  4. Wonderwall – Oasis
  5. My Way – Frank Sinatra
  6. I Wanna Be Sedated – the Ramones
  7. Losing My Religion – R.E.M.
  8. Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
  9. 867-5309/Jenny – Tommy Tutone
  10. Mack the Knife – Bobby Darin
  11. If I Was Your Girlfriend – Prince
  12. When I Was Your Man – Bruno Mars

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Top Easy Karaoke Songs

Need something a bit easier to sing? If your vocal skills aren’t quite where you want them to be yet, don’t worry — there are plenty of easy karaoke songs that you can still rock out to.

  1. 500 Miles – The Proclaimers
  2. These Boots Are Made for Walking – Nancy Sinatra
  3. Crazy – Patsy Cline
  4. Happy – Pharrell Williams
  5. Copacabana – Barry Manilow
  6. That’s the Way (I Like It) – KC and the Sunshine Band
  7. Celebration – Kool and the Gang
  8. Funkytown – Lipps, Inc
  9. Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
  10. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

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Duet Karaoke Songs

Grab a friend for twice the fun! Duet karaoke songs let both singers shine — check out the list below for our top picks.

  1. The Boy is Mine – Brandy and Monica
  2. Cruisin’ – Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow
  3. Islands in the Stream – Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
  4. Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
  5. All I Have – Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J
  6. Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
  7. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
  8. Ebony and Ivory – Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
  9. Dream a Little Dream of Me – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
  10. Hunger Strike – Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell

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Best Group Karaoke Songs

For those of you that hit the bar with a bunch of friends, these group karaoke songs will let you all join in on the fun at the same time!

  1. We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  2. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and the Papas
  3. ABC – Jackson 5
  4. Wannabe – Spice Girls
  5. Push It – Salt ‘n Pepa
  6. No Scrubs – TLC
  7. Lean On Me – Club Nouveau
  8. Rapper’s Delight – Sugar Hill Gang
  9. YMCA – Village People
  10. Supersonic – JJ Fad

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Funny Karaoke Songs

Want to just have fun, without worrying about your vocal skills at all? Pick one of the funny karaoke songs below, add in a splash of confidence and stage presence, and the crowd will love you.

  1. Rock Lobster – B-52s
  2. Just a Friend – Biz Markie
  3. Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
  4. MMMBop – Hanson
  5. Mickey – Toni Basil
  6. Party All the Time – Eddie Murphy
  7. The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades – Timbuk 3
  8. Whip It – Devo
  9. If You Like Piña Coladas – Jimmy Buffet
  10. Rico Suave – Gerardo

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’90s Karaoke Songs

’90s kids, listen up! Whether you grew up with rock or pop princesses, these crowd-pleasers will get everyone singing along with you.

  1. Closing Time – Semisonic
  2. Time of Your Life – Green Day
  3. You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette
  4. Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
  5. I’ll Stand By You – The Pretenders
  6. Genie in a Bottle – Christina Aguilera
  7. Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It – Will Smith
  8. Who Am I? (What’s My Name) – Snoop Dogg
  9. Santeria – Sublime
  10. Don’t Speak – No Doubt

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’80s Karaoke Songs

More a fan of ’80s music? Here are our favorite jams to sign up for.

  1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
  2. I Want to Know What Love Is – Foreigner
  3. I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany
  4. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go – Wham!
  5. Don’t You Want Me – Human League
  6. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
  7. I Can’t Wait – Nu Shooz
  8. All Night Long – Lionel Richie
  9. Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears
  10. Part-Time Lover – Stevie Wonder

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’60s and ’70s Karaoke Songs

Break out the bellbottoms and get your best John Travolta impression ready for these disco tunes.

  1. Dancing Queen – ABBA
  2. Stayin’ Alive – The Bee Gees
  3. I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan
  4. Rapture – Blondie
  5. Do Ya Think I’m Sexy – Rod Stewart
  6. Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
  7. Brick House – Commodores
  8. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
  9. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
  10. Let’s Get it On – Marvin Gaye

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Best Karaoke Love Songs

Can you feel the love tonight? If you want to impress your sweetie in the crowd, pick one of these top karaoke songs about love.

  1. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
  2. Wicked Game – Chris Isaak
  3. Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding
  4. Come to My Window – Melissa Etheridge
  5. The Sweetest Thing – U2
  6. I Melt With You – Modern English
  7. That’s the Way Love Goes – Janet Jackson
  8. Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis Presley
  9. She Loves You – the Beatles
  10. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor

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Best Rock Karaoke Songs

Love singing rock music? Here are some of the best rock karaoke songs to consider.

  1. Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
  2. Creep – Radiohead
  3. Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
  4. Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  5. We’re Not Gonna Take It – Twisted Sister
  6. Livin’ On a Prayer – Bon Jovi
  7. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  8. Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin
  9. Zombie – The Cranberries
  10. Enter Sandman – Metallica

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Best Pop Karaoke Songs

Pop songs are just plain fun to sing! Here are some of our favorites.

  1. Royals – Lorde
  2. Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
  3. Push – Matchbox Twenty
  4. Treasure – Bruno Mars
  5. Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen
  6. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
  7. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
  8. The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
  9. Timber – Ke$ha and Pitbull
  10. All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor

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Best R&B Karaoke Songs

Feeling that rhythm and blues? Put your heart and soul into these top R&B karaoke songs.

  1. This is How We Do It – Montell Jordan
  2. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
  3. Poison – Bel Biv Devoe
  4. End of the Road – Boyz II Men
  5. No Diggity – Blackstreet
  6. Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill
  7. Un-break My Heart – Toni Braxton
  8. Not Gon’ Cry – Mary J. Blige
  9. He’s So Fine – The Chiffons
  10. Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin

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Best Country Karaoke Songs

More of the honky-tonk type? Whether you prefer classic country songs or modern-day hits, here are the best country karaoke songs.

  1. Man! I Feel Like a Woman! – Shania Twain
  2. Something to Talk About – Bonnie Raitt
  3. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
  4. Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
  5. Stand By Your Man – Tammy Wynette
  6. Friends In Low Places – Garth Brooks
  7. Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams
  8. Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood
  9. Celebrity – Brad Paisley
  10. All My Ex’s Live in Texas – George Strait

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Worst Karaoke Songs

And whatever you do… avoid these WORST karaoke songs!

  1. Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus
  2. I’ve Got You Babe – Sonny and Cher
  3. Picture – Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock
  4. Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot
  5. Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
  6. Barbie Girl – Aqua
  7. My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion
  8. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffet
  9. Boyfriend – Justin Bieber
  10. Friday – Rebecca Black

Readers, what top karaoke songs did we leave out? Add a comment with your favorites!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!
 

 

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How to Enter (and Win) Singing Contests (3)

How to Enter (& Win) Singing Contests & Competitions

How to Enter (and Win) Singing Contests

Are you ready to step out of the practice room and take your talent to the stage? In this article, voice teacher Milton J. shares his tips for preparing for a competition or audition, and then continue reading for our list of contests to enter!

 

For quite a few years, we’ve tuned in our televisions, phones, and tablets to our favorite singing contests and competitions every week. We’ve been picking our favorite singers, voting for them (sometimes more than once), and hoping they win the coveted record deal at the end of the season.

We’ve watched as the juggernaut American Idol, a derivative of Pop Idol from Europe, gave way to other singing competition shows like The Voice, The X-Factor, and The Sing-Off.

Other worthy and not-so-worthy opponents, such as ABC’s Rising Star, have tried to get into the singing competition game. While American Idol may be ending, there are many singing competitions locally, regionally, state-wide, and nationally that vocalists can enter into, in addition to auditioning for the current king of reality singing competitions, The Voice.

The following tips will help out vocalists who audition live, as well as those who audition through a prepared recording. Let’s first take a look at tips for those who are preparing to audition live in front of a panel of judges.

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Tips for Live Singing Auditions

More often than not, singers will have to audition in front of one or more judges in order to be considered as contestants. It may sound nerve-wracking to sing in front of others, but you’ll be glad you seized the opportunity.

Live auditions give you the benefit of having instantaneous feedback from a panel of judges who, as a standard, should be well-versed in the art of vocal performance. Let’s go through some tips to help you conquer any live audition you wish to attend.

1. Be Well-Prepared

Judges can and will recognize an auditionee who has put enough time and effort into perfecting their performance. Practice is not something that should be overlooked. Develop a routine and structure your singing practice in a manageable way.

Your degree of preparedness will only be determined by how comfortable you are with your greatest weakness. Turning that weakness into a driving force in your performance will help you get to the level of comfort you need for a live audition.

For example, if your weakness involves your voice cracking at a high note, embrace it and try to make the voice crack fit the feel of the song. Australian singer Sia has a natural voice crack that has made its way into many of her songs. She embraced what many would call a weakness and turned it into something stylistic and beautiful.

2. Choose a Song That’s Suitable for Your Voice

One issue that plagues even wonderful singers is performing a song that’s not suitable for their voice. If your voice is more Andrea Bocelli (opera) than Justin Bieber (pop), that’s ok! Being true to your own voice, which inherently has unique qualities, is what will shine instead of doing a song that’s popular but doesn’t showcase your voice in the best light.

Find out which type of music suits your voice by listening to different singing styles and genres. Once you figure that out, you can start working on perfecting your style.

3. The Judges Are Your Audience

One mistake some vocalists make in their auditions is forcefully singing to judges, which turns to ineffectively singing through the judges — this is a common singing audition mistake. Treat the judges as your audience members as opposed to your adjudicators. Take them on your journey and help them feel the emotion you’re conveying through the lyrics of your song. The more you sing FOR them and less TO them, the more effective your performance will be.

4. Always Warm-Up Your Voice

One of the things vocalists time and time again fail to realize in their rehearsals and auditions is to properly warm-up their voices. Much like how an athlete that needs to fully stretch out their body before entering a game, a singer must stretch the muscles in their vocal cavity to be as musically effective as possible.

Be sure to take ample time to go through all of the warm-ups and vocal exercises you have learned from your vocal coach. This is very important to ensure that you can hit all the notes you need to and acquire consistency throughout the song.

There’s more to warming up your singing voice than you may think. For example, reciting tongue twisters are a great way to practice syllable annunciation. Be sure to try more outside-of-the-box vocal warm-ups to increase your vocal effectiveness.

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Tips for Pre-Recorded Auditions

In many cases, vocal competitions will require you to send in an audition video in lieu of a live performance. This may be a result of limited space in the audition venue, limited time with the judges, or due to the sheer amount of auditionees that can’t possibly be given the chance to perform live.

Make no mistake, pre-recorded auditions are not necessarily easier than live ones. Sure, you’re able to record yourself as many times as you need, but in turn, the judges are able to play your tape over and over again. If you make a mistake, a simple rewind will allow the judges to hear it again.

With that said, pre-recorded auditions can be powerful when done right. Let me show you some tips on how to make an impact on the judges via a video performance.

1. Create a Performance

One interesting thing about the major singing competitions, such as The Voice, is that their video submission guidelines are straightforward, and yet they leave room for creative freedom. With that freedom afforded to you, you should create a performance video.

For this, have your camera set up with a view of a stage, makeshift stage, or perhaps even just curtains. Whether you’re able to record in a large auditorium or a small bedroom, make the best of the environment to boost your performance.

A performance is only supplemented by how well a singer can act. You need to make sure that your performance resonates with the audience behind the camera lens, which is a great reason why singers should learn how to act.

2. Eye Contact and Connection

While performing in front of the camera, understand that your audience lies behind the camera lens. You must therefore create an artificial connection toward the camera by engaging your eyes, facial expressions, and body language. Maintaining eye contact is an important facet of how to sing with confidence.

The best way to find this connection is through a couple methods: record and review your interactions with the camera or ask someone to stand behind the camera so you may sing to them. Performing in front of someone else is good practice for suppressing your nerves and building your confidence.

These tricks can help you see what’s working in your performance and what’s not.

3. Stay Loose!

With a lens in front of us, many vocalists tend to lock up and become methodical, robotic, or in layman’s terms, fake. We may lose the natural tenor of our speaking voice when introducing ourselves, or we may rush to get our words out and muddle our speech in order to meet the time requirements.

That nervous energy is then transferred into our performance, which we know isn’t the best performance we’re capable of giving. Be sure to keep yourself loose before the camera turns on. You’ll be more relaxed if you practice your introduction and conclusion, and use the natural cadences in your speaking voice to keep you grounded as you move into your vocal performance.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be sure to rock your vocal audition!

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2016 Online Singing Contests

Ready to enter? Here are some competitions to look into, most of which are online singing contests that you can enter no matter where you live. Some of them do require travel if you advance to the next round, so be sure to check out the details on the contest’s website.

Young Arts

  • Cash awards of up to $10,000
  • Must be a U.S. resident, age 15-18, or in grade 10-12
  • Submit an online application through National Young Arts website
  • Apply here

Song Door

  • Must be 16+ to enter
  • Submit your song online, along with your $10 entry fee
  • Enter here

New Song Contest

  • Open to anyone 18+
  • Submit your song online, along with your $30 application fee
  • Enter here

Mid-Atlantic Song Contest

  • No criteria currently given, check back later

Fox’s Next Empire Artist

  • Must be a U.S. resident, 18+
  • Submit a video performance of your solo or group act
  • Enter here

Song of the Year

  • Must be a U.S. resident, 18+
  • Submit your song online and pay the entry fee (varies)
  • Enter here

Unsigned Only

  • Must be amateurs 18+, younger entrants may enter with parental permission
  • Submit your song and lyrics online or through the mail, along with $30 per entry
  • Enter here

Paramount Song Contest

  • Please contact contest officials for more information
  • Enter here

American Traditions Competition

  • Must be 21+ to enter
  • Submit three songs from the categories listed on the contestant information page, and pay the entry fee of $55
  • Apply here

Hal Leonard Vocal Competition

  • All ages welcome
  • Submit a video recording
  • Enter here

Classical Singer Competition

  • Open to anyone 14+
  • Two song submission by video recording online, by mail, or audition in person, along with $85 entry fee
  • Register here

The American Prize

  • Open to U.S. residents 18+
  • Send in 3-5 recordings of arias to the email below, along with $40 entry fee and form
  • Enter here

Schmidt Competition

  • Open to high school sophomore, juniors, and seniors
  • Complete your application and pay the $45 entry fee, then perform three musical compositions live from one of the locations listed
  • Apply here

Texas Troubador

  • Anyone is welcome to enter, but finalists will be asked to travel to Clifton, TX
  • Submit one to three original songs, along with application and entry fee
  • Apply here

Singist Online Singing Contest

  • Submit a video (see guidelines on their page) and users vote on the winners
  • Contest re-starts each month

SingSnap Online Karaoke Competitions

  • Join the SingSnap network to upload videos, meet other singers, and share your talents

American Protege

  • Anyone five or older can enter (varies by category)
  • Send a video recording, $200 application fee, and application form
  • Enter here

American Guild of Music regional contests

  • Open to students with 3 months to 12 years of music study, up to age 21
  • Your teacher must be an American Guild of Music member to participate
  • Regional contests are held throughout the year; see website for details and upcoming dates

The Voice Auditions

Singing Contests for Kids

If your son or daughter has an interest in the spotlight, a few of the singing contests listed above are open to youngsters. However, it’s a good idea to start with voice lessons to help build their confidence and refine their voices before entering. And of course, make sure to show your support along the way, no matter how they place!

Singing Contests for Teens

Singing competitions can be a great resume-booster and wonderful experience if you’re thinking of pursuing a music degree or a career in music. Getting as much performance experience as you can is key! Check out the age restrictions on the singing contests listed above, or check with your teacher for local competition recommendations.

Additional Resources for Singing Contests

Readers, do you know of other singing contests for teens, singing contests for kids, or singing contests for all ages? Leave a comment and let us know the details!

MiltonJPost Author: Milton J.
Milton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

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how to overcome stage fright

The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Stage Fright

Stage performance is a challenging art form. Whether you’re acting out a role in a musical theatre setting, giving a speech in front of a crowd, or even playing a solo at an open mic night, the experience can be nerve-wracking even for seasoned performers.

It can be even more anxiety-inducing if you’re a perfectionist, as that can breed a fear of failure… and from there, performance anxiety can feel even stronger.

Performance anxiety (commonly referred to as stage fright) can devastate a performer’s career and enjoyment of their craft, but it doesn’t have to — performance anxiety is a normal human reaction and a completely curable condition if given the right resources, patience, and support system. This article is a guide to learning how to overcome stage fright, for anyone who may experience it — musicians, actors, dancers, speakers, educators, and students. If you wish to understand and improve anxiety issues that are holding you back from giving your best performances, read on!

What is Stage Fright?

Let’s start with anxiety, which is defined as a feeling or worry, nervousness, or unease about an upcoming event. Most people have experienced some level of anxiety before, during, or after a performance, speech, sports game, or test. Anxiety differs from fear in that fear addresses a present threat, while anxiety is typically felt in relation to something in the future. Anxiety is a normal, healthy human experience and, in small doses, is beneficial in making decisions and in achieving peak success.

Performance anxiety (stage fright) in particular is nervousness or unease about a specific future event in which you will be required to execute a task, such as a song, a scene, speech, or test — and usually when you’ll be in front of an audience. Symptoms may be present during the task, for weeks or months leading up to it, and sometimes after the event is over.

So, how do you get over stage fright? Even most experienced performers feel anxiety, so it’s more a process of learning how to deal with stage fright. Here are the steps I recommend.

dealing with stage fright - step 1

Knowing if you are truly experiencing anxiety is critically important, as it’s the first step toward understanding and overcoming it. If you have experienced a few or many of the following symptoms before or during a performance situation, you are experiencing stage fright:

  • Excessive sweating (typically in the palms, feet, armpits or face, but could be anywhere)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chills, hot flashes, or sudden changes in body temperature
  • Shallow breathing, tightness in the chest, or hyperventilation
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Racing thoughts, obsessive fear of failure during the task
  • Inability to concentrate or process logical information
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent urge to use the bathroom
  • Inability to make small talk or hold a basic conversation
  • Shakiness, especially in the hands
  • Sensitivity lights, sounds, or textures in the environment

As you can see, this list of sensations is not only unpleasant, but makes performing at your best nearly impossible. Fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

  • Look at the list of anxiety symptoms, and make a mental checkmark next to the ones that you have felt during performance situations.
  • Note when it happened, how often, and any other details you remember. Are your symptoms limited to a specific few, or all of them? Are there symptoms you’d like to solve first as a priority, before others?

Now go back next to each symptom that you’ve checked, and rate it on scale of 1-10 as to how severe it felt (1 being hardly felt it, 10 being you felt it so much you couldn’t concentrate on anything else).

If you are seeing numbers in the 1-4 range, it’s likely that you are experiencing normal, healthy jitters that can actually add to your performance by making you more focused. If you are seeing numbers in the 5-10 range, you are experiencing moderate to severe stage fright and should read on to discover strategies for improvement.

dealing with stage fright - step 2

Before you can properly map a route to overcome stage fright, it’s important to know where you’ve been — and what has caused stage fright in the past. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you are experiencing stage fright, how they might contribute to your present challenges, and how you can utilize them most effectively.

Start by asking yourself some questions about your performing career, starting from the very, very beginning, which might include childhood memories or more recent situations depending on your age.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

  1. Recall the first time you performed for an audience, formally. Who was there? What thoughts and feelings do you remember? Were you happy with the outcome of the performance? Was it a positive or negative experience, was it stressful or relaxed?
  2. Recall the first time you performed and experienced anxiety (if different from above). What were the circumstances? Who was there? Did you practice or prepare, and how much? If different from #1, what do you think sparked anxiety if there were previous performances that didn’t?
  3. Recall the next few times that you performed, after #2 above. Ask yourself the same questions and look for patterns.
  4. Recall the 2-3 most recent times you performed. How recent was it? Have you purposely avoided performing in recent circumstances due to fear? Were you with a large group, small ensemble or solo? Were there any post-performance experiences worth noting?
  5. From the above questions, look for patterns. Are there any pivotal events that dramatically changed the course of your performance history? Are there any key people, venues, or pieces that contributed to where you’re at today?

dealing with stage fright - step 3

The next step is re-contextualizing key anxiety triggers so that they don’t continue causing problems. Most people can identify one or two key incidents that left a large impact on their self-esteem.

Maybe it was a teacher giving an aggressive critique, a family member telling you not to quit your day job, or a performance in which you froze on stage and ran off crying.

At the time you may not have realized the impact of this key event, but in hindsight you can see that it has undermined your confidence and affected your ability to perform ever since.

Journal Activity 2 (3)

The mind is powerful and can distort memories, making them seem bigger and nastier than they really were in real life. As far as exercises that can help you deal with stage fright, this is a great one to try. Pick one of your key incidents that is particularly painful or memorable and jot a few notes about it to the facts:

What venue were you performing in?
What piece were you performing or practicing?
Who was watching?
What feedback were you given, either verbal or non-verbal?
How did you react? Did you shout, cry, freeze up, or laugh it off?
If you responded verbally, what did you say?
What did you do after the event?

Re-Contextualizing the Event

Now let’s bring some imagination to it: sometimes taking the gravity out of a memory and bringing it into a lighter, if not humorous, context can be extremely healing. By re-contextualizing this event, you are not dismissing it or minimizing its impact, but re-framing it in a more positive, lighthearted perspective. By giving your brain a new way to interpret it, you will begin to move past it and no longer allow it to block your present performance opportunities. Jot a few notes in response to the following:

If you could go back and re-live this event, what would you do differently?
Is there anything positive that has come out of the negative memory?

dealing with stage fright - step 4

We’ve spent the preceding sections of this guide processing your past. Now it’s time to move into the present and start thinking about what you can do now, and in the near future, to overcome stage fright.

There is no magic formula, unfortunately; you must expose yourself – you must perform, perform, perform, and this is known as exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a fancy name for the common-sense approach known as “facing your fears,” a technique commonly used by psychiatric doctors to treat phobias of all kinds. However, there is an art to exposing yourself to your fears, and it should be done in careful, small, planned doses that gradually lead up to a major milestone.

Create an Exposure Ladder

Exposure ladders are a technique used widely by the medical psychiatric community to treat generalized anxiety, panic disorders, and phobias of all types.

An exposure ladder is a list of activities that lead you gradually to a big goal (such as performing on your city’s biggest stage, for example), with activities ranked from least to most anxiety-provoking. An individual will work up the steps of the ladder, moving on to the next step only after mastering exposure to the current step with little or no anxiety.

You’ll need to create your own customized exposure ladder, starting with #1, which is your first, tiny little step toward performing — something that you could handle right now, today, with little or no anxiety symptoms. Then you’ll move on to #2, and so on, gradually making steps more anxiety provoking as you go, until you’ve reached a final step which is your final performing goal. You can make your final step as big or small as you want, just be honest with your true performing goals.

One precaution: be careful not to create too big of a jump between steps on the exposure ladder. You can repeat a step as many times as needed, in order to master that level with little to no anxiety. Depending on how often you are working on the steps, it might take months or years until you feel you’ve mastered a step, and that’s just fine. Study the example below to help you brainstorm ideas for your own ladder.

Example Exposure Ladder

1. Imagine yourself performing.
2. Perform alone.
3. Record yourself performing a scene or song and watch it without critique.
4. Perform for a supportive partner or friend.
5. Perform a duet or ensemble in front of family or friends at an informal gathering.
6. Perform solo in front of family or friends at an informal gathering.
7. Perform a duet or ensemble at a venue that is higher caliber, like a talent show for your class at school, a neighborhood barbeque, or karaoke at a bar.
8. Perform solo within the same circumstances in #7.
9. Perform with a semi-professional ensemble, such as an audition-only community chorus or community theatre.
10. Arrange an opportunity to perform solo for your peers or an audience, within the group you’ve identified in #9.
11. Enter a competition.
12. Continue finding opportunities similar to #11 with gradually higher caliber venues (or even paying gigs!).

dealing with stage fright - step 5

Once you start working the steps on your exposure ladder, there are going to be successes, and also setbacks. It’s important to arm yourself with relaxation techniques so that when setbacks occur, you have a strategy in place to deal with them in a healthy way. Try these:

Meditation

Find a quiet space, sit or lay in a position that is comfortable enough to sustain for 10 minutes minimum, close your eyes, and stop thinking. It’s as simple as that; meditation is simply a state of thoughtlessness. Your mind will wander, and when it does, just bring it back to a blank space. If you can commit to meditation as a daily practice for 10-20 minutes, over time you will be able to push aside thoughts that distract you during performances, including anxious thoughts.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Find a quiet space and lay down with your arms naturally at your sides and legs fully extended. Close your eyes. Prepare with three slow, deep breaths. As much as possible, focus all of your attention on the task at hand; don’t let your mind wander. Tense your forehead muscle, holding it as tight as you can for about five seconds. As you do this, inhale and hold the breath while the muscle is tense, and then exhale and breathe normally as you let the muscle relax. Enjoy the relaxed position for about five seconds.

Repeat the above process with the following muscle groups: your face/cheek muscles, neck muscles, shoulders (pull them up and tight), back muscles (pull your shoulder blades back and in), abs/stomach muscles, arms and hands (make a fist while you do this and tense it all the way down to the fingers), glutes, thighs, calves, and then finally feet.

dealing with stage fright - step 6

Acceptance is a final and critical step in learning how to overcome stage fright, as resistance will only make a problem grow stronger. It’s important that you stop criticizing or judging yourself for having fears or challenges on stage, as it is one of the most common types of anxiety, and you are definitely not alone!

Acceptance is not declaring that stage fright is “just a problem you have” and that you’ll have to deal with it for the rest of your life. Acceptance is realizing you have some uncomfortable symptoms that are occurring and allowing the process of change to unfold, even if the process is difficult. Acceptance is allowing setbacks to happen, refraining from self-criticism when they do, and celebrating the small successes along the way.

Conclusion

Public speaking and performances of all types continue to be the number one fear of most adults. By reading this article, you have embarked on a journey that very few are brave enough to take – congratulations are due just for starting!

Your reading has given you initial tools for understanding what stage fright is, how you experience it personally, how your past is affecting your present, and beginning to learn how to deal with stage fright.

Performing is one of life’s great joys and you too can enjoy sharing your unique gifts and stories in front of an audience, free of fear, paralysis, or uncomfortable feelings. Don’t give up, and remember that psychological change is a gradual process. Good luck, and happy performing!

Readers, what other ways have you learned how to overcome stage fright? Let us know in the comments!

How to Overcome Stage Fright Infographic

ErinRPost Author: Erin R.
Erin teaches acting, singing, speaking voice, and more in San Diego, CA. She holds a B.A. from University of Minnesota in Vocal Performance, a M.A. in Education from National University, and has been teaching since 2007. Learn more about Erin here!

Image credit: Kian McKellar