1. Stage Fright - What Is It?
3. Stage Fright - Extreme Conditions
One huge and most usual form of stage fright comes from stinking thinking. The good news is, we can change that.
Some synonyms for performance are:
- A public presentation
- A show
- An accomplishment
- A rendering of material
I believe with all my heart that the biggest contribution to stinking thinking in performance is the subtle and not-so-subtle messages we get (and deeply accept as true) from society and most definitely from the music business.
Some examples of rotten messages:
- You better be better than everyone else, or you are a loser.
- You are being compared to everyone else, and you probably won't measure up.
- You better get everything right, and you better look right, and you better move right, and you better be perfect. The audience is judging you. If you aren't perfect, they will think you suck.
- If you suck at performance, you will or should die because you are worthless. (American Idol/Gladiator, etc!)
- You are a failure unless you win the part/award/contest.
- It's all about the high notes. It's all about the long notes. It's all about the vocal licks. It's all about the strong notes. It's all about YOU!
The voice runs on instinct. We must train ourselves to instinctively use correct technique, that's true, but in practical application, we perform instinctively, based on habitual thinking and on actions of the automatic nervous system. Change your thinking and you can change the automatic nervous system response. Let's ask some questions:
Q. Why do we have voices?
A. To communicate messages TO someone. Period.
Q. To whom can we direct our communication?
- To the one heart of the audience physically present in your venue,
- To people-not-physically present (those who will in future hear the cd)
- To fictional people (but you must make them real for yourself to do this)
- to the living camera eye,
- to a character we're talking to in a play,
- to our own hearts (but to truly communicate to ourselves effectively, we must mentally send our voices outside ourselves so that our ears hear as if from someone else).
- To more than one person at time (writer Michael Clark once told me that if you sing like you're singing to thousands, you can't really move anyone; sing like you're singing to one person, you can move thousands.
- To someone you can't make real for yourself.
- To no one in particular. This is completely unfocused and is NOT communication. It's thinking about communicating, but it's not the act of doing so.
A. Happiness, relief, humor, pain, anger, sadness, hope, warning, love, an understanding, a request to be understood, a story, specific information, whatever the lyric is really about.
Q. Where are the hardest places to authentically communicate?
A. In auditions. Why? Because it's the most artificial circumstance to be communicating. They, after all, really ARE judging you. You must consciously choose people, either present or not, real or fictional, to deliver the message to, and mentally ignore and block "judging" as motivation for your delivery. Read the comment on my last post from "Leigh Ann" for some great suggestions.
Q. If we accept the communication of messages as the primary conscious motivation to perform, how does it change things?
- We will assume a different posture and body language, which will affect your breath and the openness of your throat.
- Our automatic nervous system's flight-or-fight response will be calmed, once again affecting breath and throat.
- Our self-consciousness will dissolve quickly into other-consciousness
- "Stage fright" will turn into "stage presence".
In the matter of winning awards and contests, getting parts, even in the act of moving an audience, all you can do is all you can do... and that is always enough! If you have joy in the actual act of performance, you have succeeded in doing your job. Believing this truth will set you free.
I agree with writer and retired CEO Adrian Savage, who says in his brilliant post "What Is Performance":
Finding satisfaction and purpose in the action itself is far better than fixating on an outcome that lies mostly in the hands of chance. If doing something well increases the odds on success, that’s a pleasant bonus... Winning is rarely as important as we assume, but if winning is all that counts, as in war, remember Napoleon. When someone asked him what kind of people he looked for to be generals, he replied: “Lucky ones.”What's your experience with stinking thinking, or with changing it? To comment on this post, click on the title which will take you to my blog on the web. Then click the comment link below this post.
Next post we'll talk about severe forms of stage fright based more physical issues such as biochemical imbalances in the brain. (Getting a doctor's input for this one!)