Do you get nervous when singing, or maybe right before a vocal performance? You’re not alone. Thinking about all of the worst-case scenarios can be scary! Luckily, these situations aren’t the end of the world. Read on as Austin, TX teacher Gfire M. shares how to deal…
If we lived in a perfect world, our voice would always sound 100% our best, the venues would always love our choice of material and provide the best sound reinforcement possible, and we’d never, ever, ever make any mistakes on stage. But realistically, the magical, musical Murphy’s Law will ensure that you encounter some of these worst-case gig scenarios. But instead of letting your nervous energy take over, use these tips to cope with grace.
1. You forgot the words to your song
This particular problem is actually easy to deal with for us creatives! You can repeat a verse that you do remember, or you can even make up some words on the spot. At least 90% of your audience won’t notice!
2. You have to sing even though you’re sick
This problem is more difficult. Plan to get extra sleep on the night before the gig if possible. Drink extra water, Throat Coat tea (with honey, if you like), or perhaps some raw juices to get things flowing. Make sure to pack ibuprofen and throat drops for the show to help you feel better. Then, just do the best you can.
3. You can’t hear yourself on stage
This is also a difficult problem. If you don’t play an instrument, you can hold one ear shut with your finger so that you can hear yourself internally while the other ear listens to the band. For a long-term solution, you may find that in-ear monitors offer you a better opportunity to hear the band and yourself in a mix that is programmed to your needs.
4. The venue doesn’t like your music, singing, band, etc.
This problem is horrible, but it does happen! Just do your best to be as professional as possible and get through the gig — hopefully getting your full pay at the end. And then, never perform at that venue again. There’s always another venue that will totally love your music, singing, and band.
5. You’re nervous about singing that spot in the song that you never really hit in tune…
There are a few ways to approach this problem. The first is to have an alternate note ready to sing instead of the problem note. You can then work on hitting the note better at home, while having an easier note to hit in the meantime on stage. Or you can practice like crazy on that note at home and just go for it as best as possible at the gig. Again, at least 90% of the people will not hear whether you hit the note or not. It’s just one note among the thousands you sing in any one night.
6. You forgot your microphone, mic stand, music, music stand, etc.
Facing this problem can be easy or hard, depending on your circumstances! If you live close enough to go back to your house or wherever you’re staying, just tell whomever is in charge that you’re going back to get this vital piece of musical equipment, and that you’ll do your best to get back on time. If this is impossible, you just have to improvise. If you’re prepared, you have stashed away a spare mic in your bag, or perhaps one of your bandmates has a mic or mic stand you can borrow. Just do the best you can.
At its best, the music industry can be quite challenging. While getting nervous when singing is normal, it doesn’t have to take over your performance. If you can maintain an attitude of flexibility and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to help your gig go well, you will be primed for a successful singing career!
Gfire teaches music theory, opera voice, piano, singing, and songwriting in Austin, TX. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music from University of Maryland, as well as her Master of the Science of Singing from Ernest George White Society. Learn more about Gfire here!
Photo by Andrew E. Larsen