Like dieting, there really are no quick fix solutions to feeling nervous. If you want to become an amazing singer, be prepared to prioritise your singing over everything else. The old adage applies – the more you practice correctly, the better you become. When you’re more confident with your skills, the kind of nervousness that you feel will be different. It will be more of a nervous excitement which is quite positive and actually quite important, since the audience will feed on this positive energy. A recipe for a great show!
Warming up will also calm your nerves down. Find a quiet corner backstage or indulge in a diva moment and tell everyone to clear out as you need that time alone for a few minutes. If all else fails, you’ve always got the toilet cubicle. Close your eyes then take a slow deep breath, hold without straining, exhale very slowly, then repeat 5 – 10 times. Do your best to truly access that serene place inside of you. Do some full body stretches and head rolls too. Take your time and be at one with your full body and mind. Access that zen state that lies dormant within!
Feeling a lot calmer? Now, you can do some vocal warm-ups. My favourite is the lip trill. This is that exercise where you breathe out through your lips which are lightly pressed together. Start with a deep breath, lips together, make the “Brrrr” sound with your lips then breathe out continuously, sustaining the lip vibrations. I find this warm-up exercise most effective and kindest to the vocal cords. It forces me to breathe deeply and loosen up the throat muscles. It will exercise your diaphragm + throat + lips co-ordination while relaxing all other muscles that aren’t needed. Basically, if your lip trills keep cutting out suddenly, you are either not relaxed enough or you’re not breathing deeply enough. All you have to do is sustain the vibration on your lips using deep breath and Bob’s your uncle. Easy! If all else fails, place your 2 index fingers on your cheeks while trilling.
After the lip trills, you can now do the “fire engine” exercise on the “Ooh” vowel, starting from a fairly high note down to a low note then up again to the first note that you started with. Repeat this 5-10 times, making sure that you’re doing the exercise with intent. The purpose is to loosen up the throat muscles and access the notes from your highest to the lowest range. If you’re in tune with your vocal apparatus (which includes your mouth area, throat, lungs and diaphragm), you can gauge how much warm-up you need.
So there you have it. Your nerves indicate that you may not be as ready as you thought you were. This should prompt you to practice a lot more several days before your gig! On the day of the gig, make sure you’re fully warmed up and hydrated.
All the best with it!