I have been asked many times in my years of performing, "How can I be a performer, what tips can you share, how do I get started and how do you get past the stage fright?" There are more of course, but these are the general questions.
When I was 8 years old I sang Tomorrow from Annie all by myself at a talent show. I wish I could post that old VHS video for you to see me in all my glory, up on the stage in an Orphan Annie dress that my great Aunt Mamie had made me, (I'll have to write a blog just about my home made dresses one day, lol,) singing my litter heart out. I am a natural read head but no curly hair, so I had it back in a pony tail. I remember the puppet hosts commenting, "This little girl is going to sing all by herself, " and I wasn't nervous, I was excited. That moment was defining for me, I loved that 4 minutes and wanted more of it. I have sought out those moments every day since. Even when I thought I might finally give it all up, the Universe gave me a push and a moment to let me know I can never walk away from my life's passion and what I truly feel is part of my purpose for living.
Through the years I have performed countless times in all types of venues and situations., from the smallest venues with only 2 people to a festival of thousands. The only time I have ever been nervous was singing the National Anthem. That's for another blog though. So I promised 5 quick tips, but I wanted to give you just a bit of background on my performance experience. I will give more specific performance details in different blogs, but I thought this might get us started.
1. So you're nervous, now what? Don't fret, this is normal, in fact some nerves are a good thing and usually ensure a great performance. However; being so nervous you can't open your mouth isn't what the people paid to see, so what to do when you get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and you memory goes blank? Honestly, nothing at that point, it's a little to late. What you need to do is be ready well before you get to your performance moment. The only way to do that is (this is shocking) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and then do some more PRACTICE! I mean it, you really can't practice enough. This will ensure that you know the words, you know the dance moves, you know the staging, etc... Whatever is required as part of your performance you need to know it. Even if you're singing straight from the hymn book at church, you need to know the song, you need to know melody, timing and stanza's, so you need to practice. If you do then when that moment comes to perform and you feel like you're going to toss your cookies, or that your mind is suddenly jello, it won't matter, you're autopilot will kick in until your body catches up. Trust me on this, as confident as I am, I have had moments that were only saved by lots of preparation.
2. Did I mention Practice? Practice is more than just memorizing lyrics or melodies, when you practice you should be mentally preparing for they type of performance you are giving. Are you singing at school, church, bar, Bahmitzvah, festival, etc...? It's important in the beginning of learning to perform to practice the way you would play it live. Dancers call this practicing "full out", meaning arms fully extended, pointed toes and appropriate facial expressions. You're going to need a mirror or video camera so you can see what you look like when you perform. If you close your eyes the entire time or look like Joe Cocker, either way these are things you need to be aware of before your audience is.
3. Know your skill set. This one might come across as harsh, but it's as important as practice. If you're a powerhouse vocalist choose music that showcases that. In the same aspect if you sing with a quieter, pretty voice choose selections that showcase that. This will make all the difference on how people perceive your style. Some vocalists are fortunate enough to be able to sing nearly every style and genre of music there is, but that isn't the case for most vocalists and in my experience can end up badly for the performer. I will address this in a separate blog because this is a very common mistake with new artists and vocalists that aren't sure of their voice, so they try to sing like artists they like. That is okay, but if you can't sing like Adele it will end up not being a good performance, I promise. So listen to your voice, honestly. Record yourself and make sure what the style you have chosen fits your skill.
4. Learn from the best! Years ago chorale and performance was taught from elementary school up through high school. Students were given the opportunity early on by teachers that noticed a talent and allowed to mature it through the years. Sadly this happens less and less in schools, but the talent is still out there. So, how do you learn how to improve your talent if you don't go to a school where it's taught or you can't afford private lessons, thanks to the internet you watch videos, lot's of videos. Pick you favorite performer and start from there. I used to watch Tina Turner, Cher, Celine Dion, Reba McEntire, Patsy Cline and more, all of the women that I aspired to be like. I studied them for hours, hundreds of hours, I started by emulating their moves; the way they stood, hand gestures, etc... I used their moves until I crafted my own. In my opinion this is the best way to craft your skill, especially until you get comfortable enough to perform for any type of crowd. I always felt like I could channel them when I got nervous and it worked. Find artists that are similar to your style and learn from them, it will be one of the best things you do for your performance ability.
5. Create your signature! Whether it's a move with your arm, a stance, an accessory you always wear, you have to find something that makes you stand out. You would think your voice or musicianship would be enough, but... it's not, not in this cut throat world. There are so many fantastic vocalists and musicians out there, you have to have something that sets you apart and makes people remember you. Having a great voice or ability is about 50% of it, the rest is what you make people remember. Are you funny, sexy, able to juggle while yodeling? Whatever it is that adds that certain something that has people wanting to see more of you, find it and use it every time. Even a certain vocal style or way of playing can be what makes you stand out. This actually goes back to practice, the more you do that the more you can pay attention to that certain little something that works for you. A look, a vibrato, or even a shimmy might be the one thing that gets a label interested in signing you, so find your signature and work it!
Okay that's it, 5 quick tips. Well 5 of my quick tips. There are a lot of performers out there and so many have great advice that I implore you to learn from as many people as you can as you set out on your journey to being a pro performer!