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Coping with Stage Fright
by Jan Smith, Added February 2007. Used by permission.

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Lots of people get stage fright, to one extent or another. For some people, stage fright provides an edge, a kind of excitement that stimulates their performance. At a low level, stage fright can be a plus. But for others, stage fright can get out of control and ruin an otherwise good performance. Stage fright (sometimes called “performance anxiety”) is often the result of tension. If you have butterflies in your stomach or tension in your throat, you need to put it somewhere else.

Pressure points to relieve anxiety
According to the ancient Oriental bodywork technique of Shiatsu massage therapy, there are certain pressure points on the body that correspond to relieving anxiety and nervous energy.

You simply press the pressure point and hold it for 10-15 seconds — that is, apply hard pressure to the exact spot. Hold the pressure, then release it, and go on to the next pressure point. Throughout the exercises, breathe in and out deeply and slowly.

TIP: Try this exercise to help reduce tension. Squeeze your hands into very tight fists and hold them that way for 10 seconds; then release. Next, tense up your toes, curl them under and hold for 10 seconds; then release. This helps you transfer your inner tension to your hands and toes, and you can probably live (and sing) with it there.

Some of the pressure points for relieving anxiety and nervous energy are:

1)   The center of your upturned palms (right and left)
2)   The center of your chin
3)   The space/cleft of your upper lip, directly under your nose You don't have to believe in crystals or spirits or anything special for this ancient technique to work — it’s truly a physical thing. Try it. If you want further information about practices like Shiatsu and acupressure, check with licensed massage therapists or certified instructors listed in your telephone directory or look for books at your local library. Or, your city might have a branch of the American Oriental Bodywork Therapy Association...or the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

More on this “frightening” subject
Sometimes stage fright can cause a shortness of breath that will make your heart beat faster and your mouth feel dry, which feeds your anxiety.  Try taking a deep breath in through your nose and exhaling slowly — but completely —through your mouth. This lets most of the air release from your lungs. Then you can take big, deep breaths from your diaphragm to help you relax. Only take a few, because too many can cause faintness or dizziness.

Stage fright might also cause a dry throat. For this, keep plenty of water (at room temperature) close at hand onstage. Note: It takes about 15-20 minutes for a sip of water to reach the vocal cords. Don’t wait to hydrate.  Drink water continuously.

As I mentioned earlier, if you have stage fright, DO NOT eat a lot of food before a gig. You’ll need the extra space above your diaphragm to breathe deeply and slowly. (Also, food plus anxiety can cause indigestion or nausea).  Eat a snack or small meal instead.

Stage fright can cause your vocal muscles to tense up. If this happens, perform the guttural vowel exercise, using the AHHH sound. Keep your throat open and relaxed. You might also try sticking out your tongue several times, to loosen the tension in that muscle as well.

Excerpted from So You Wanna Sing Rock & Roll (www.jansmith.com)


A nationally-recognized singer, songwriter and musician, Jan Smith is known to today’s charting artists as the vocal coach who helps keep their pipes in top shape. Smith’s clients include Rob Thomas of matchbox twenty, Usher, TLC, India.Arie, Ciara, Sevendust, LeToya Luckett, Injected, Collective Soul, Diana DeGarmo and many others. Smith has consulted on recordings for Arista, BMG, Atlantic, Geffen, RCA, Island, SoSoDef, LaFace, Warner Brothers, EMI, Sony, Motown and Universal, and worked with such multi-platinum producers as Matt Serletic, Jermaine Dupri and Jam and Lewis. She is the nation’s premier contemporary vocal coach, having worked with more than 4,000 students and professional bands over the past 20 years.

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