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By Selena, 23/11/2021, Category:Confidence and Mindset, Singing with freedom and creativity
It can be both exciting and nerve-wracking when we get up to sing our songs in front of others. It can be thrilling to have all that attention and take people on a beautiful emotional journey as we pour out the story of a song.
And also, you can feel wobbly when your well-practiced piece seems to go to jelly.
So today I’m sharing 3 tips which I’ve stumbled upon through my years of performing experience, (including plenty of open mic nights). They really help you to get over issues and do your best job possible.
No.1. How to avoid the dreaded ‘artist comparison’ thought pattern
When you’re at an open mic night, there are by the nature of it, a whole array of other musicians and singers. You watch the people who go on ahead of you, some you think are amazing, others you think have got a long way to go.
But it’s all too easy to compare yourself to the singers who you think are better than you. You listen to the quality of their vocals, their skill on the guitar, their audience rapport. And you think to yourself:
‘Oh god, they’re so much better than me. Their music is far more entertaining / beautiful / polished than mine’ or whatever. Or ‘How can I go on after that? I just don’t compare’.
Well…. STOP IT!
There is NO POINT comparing yourself to others, except to inspire yourself to work on your skills later. You’re there, at the venue, ready to perform. You’ve decided that you sound good enough to share your songs with others. You’ve garnered the courage.
Instead, use this mental statement which I’ve found invaluable to dispel that debilitating comparison habit.
Say to yourself ‘ We’re all different, we’ve ALL got something to offer. We’re all unique’.
It really helps put you in a place of balance and self-acceptance, self-belief.
Remember, the audience LIKES going on a journey of variety through the different performing acts. You offer what YOU offer.
So, use this. You can just run it though your head while you’re watching other singers and waiting to go on.
It feels good.
No.2. Practise To Your Sweet Spot
Now, I’m going to say something really obvious but it’s surprising how many people perform without doing this.
Don’t perform unless you’ve practised plenty!
You’ve got to know the song / chords / instrumental INSIDE OUT.
It’s no good just practising it at home until you just about get it right.
Practise the piece until your body knows it so well that you can’t go wrong.
Practise until you don’t need to look at the words, until you don’t need to even think of the words, but they just come out of your mouth automatically.
Because when you’re on stage, your skill at the piece, however good you played it in your living room, WILL go down by about 30%.
So if you want to perform in public at 100%, practice until you can play it 130%.
I call this The Sweet Spot.
How do you know you’ve got there?
Well, you practise until you’re bored of the piece. This is when you’ve got the basic delivery of the piece of music down to a T.
And you know what happens then?
Because you’re bored of the standard of playing/ singing you’ve reached (which you would be happy to perform it at)…
…you start to add nuances. You find yourself getting creative with it. You hear places where you can add a twiddle / a melisma / a more subtle and expressive volume change / whatever…
i.e. you start to make it more interesting.
That’s when you have practiced to the Sweet Spot and you’re ready to perform.
Of course you can practice further and embed those nuances. But you can just say, cool! This is fun! I’ll keep exploring as time goes on but I’m ready to share now.
It’s a great feeling. Give it a go!
No.3 Create Your Performance Statement.
So far we’ve had tips for before the Open Mic Night, and for on the night before you get up to perform. This 3rd one is for on stage, just as you’re about to perform, and to some extent through the performance.
All the best performances come when a musician can let go into the music and focus their attention on expressing the music and sharing it with the audience.
Since you’ve practiced to your Sweet Spot, you can now let go into the music. So, to hone in on expression and communication is our task here.
One of my teachers said to me: When you’re standing on stage just about to play / sing, if you had the best voice coach in the world whisper in your ear a statement that would get you performing at your best, what would it be?
There are a variety of answers. I encourage you to create your own but here are a few possibilities.
They fulfil the remit of helping you let go into the music and your ability to play it, have confidence in yourself and put your energy into expressing the music authentically and artistically.
So feel free to choose one of these or make your own. Try them out, see what works best for you.
I just want to share 2 more important brief thoughts with you before we go.
One is: Please accept the reality that any musical performance will never be perfect. But trust yourself to do a good job and be able to handle it and get back on track if you do hit a bum note / chord or mess up your finger-picking.
Two is: Do make eye contact with the audience some of the time when you’re singing, it really helps them become more engaged with your performance.
I hope you find these tips inspiring and beneficial.
Let me know how they impact your experience performing at Open Mic Nights!
And please leave a comment below to say what you thought of my recommendations.
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