Conquering Stage Fright: Vocal Strategies for Confident Performances

Conquering Stage Fright: Vocal Strategies for Confident Performances

A Journey from Failure to Fearlessness

Imagine this scenario: You’ve spent countless hours honing your craft, transforming your passion for music into a tenacious pursuit. You’ve played countless gigs, refined your skills, and now you have the opportunity of a lifetime – an audition for a world-class all-star band. This is your moment to shine. But then, when the rubber meets the road, stage fright takes over. Your heart races, your mouth turns dry, and your palms become too sweaty to control your instrument. You rush through the audition, and within minutes, it’s over. You’ve blown your chance, and the disappointment is crushing.

Overcoming the Deleterious Effects of Stage Fright

This scenario, my friends, is all too familiar to me. In the early stages of my career, I experienced this exact scenario when I auditioned for the band Bad English, a supergroup featuring members from Journey and The Babys. The overwhelming stage fright I felt that day haunted me for years, but it also inspired me to embark on a journey of self-discovery and research to uncover the strategies that would help me conquer this debilitating challenge.

Over the course of my career, which has seen me perform for over a billion people alongside artists like Pink, Foreigner, Cher, and BeyoncĂ©, I’ve gained a deep understanding of the mechanisms behind stage fright and how to overcome them. In this article, I’m excited to share with you the insights I’ve gathered, the stories I’ve collected, and the strategies I’ve developed to help you become a confident, fearless performer.

The Three C’s: Clarity, Capability, and Confidence

At the heart of my approach are the three C’s: Clarity, Capability, and Confidence. These elements form a sequential path that, when followed, can help you surpass anxiety and actualize your goals as a performer.


Clarity is the first step in conquering stage fright. It’s about identifying your goal and determining the skills you need to get there. In my case, when I auditioned for Bad English, I lacked the necessary skill to control my internal sense of time. I wasn’t prepared to be in a world-class band, and my anxiety was appropriate – I was out of my league. But it wasn’t until I knew what I was missing that I could create the mindset to move forward.

The moment you clarify your true goal and where you stand relative to it, you’ll know what you need to do. There’s no mystery, and that diffuses the anxiety. By gaining clarity, you can cut through distractions and ambiguity, allowing you to focus on what truly matters.


Capability represents the preparation, education, and appropriate execution of skills. It’s about busting through barriers and solving problems to achieve the goal you’ve clarified. In my case, the way to develop the necessary fundamentals in the area of meter was to get busy working with a metronome – the very symbol of my earlier failure.

When you’re capable, you’re accomplished, talented, proficient, skilled, and able to do a particular thing well. This is paramount to fundamentally reducing fear – you have no question about the capability you’ve worked hard and smart to create. Always ask yourself if you can really do what you claim. If you’re just puffing, it’s time to rewind and continue developing your capability.


Confidence is the state of being certain. It’s the simple and powerful result of clarifying your goal and becoming capable. I’m now completely confident in my ability to control my internal sense of meter. As I rehearse with Pink for her world tour, playing songs I’ve performed hundreds of times, I get a refreshing hint of nervousness, but I’m energized and confident because I know I’m prepared.

Once you’ve gained confidence through the three C’s, you can apply the same process to small steps, even after you’ve successfully presented. If an upcoming performance is bringing you anxiety, it’s time to take a step back and clarify what you may be missing.

Taming the Physiological Symptoms of Stage Fright

Now, let’s dive deeper into the physiological symptoms of stage fright and how to tame them. As Merriam-Webster defines it, anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs such as sweating, tension, and increased pulse.” For most of us, performance anxiety is synonymous with action anxiety – the fear of doing something.

These physical effects may include:

  • Heart palpitations and rapid heart rate
  • Muscle weakness and tension
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Tension headaches

The key to overcoming these symptoms lies in your breathing. When you perform, you get nervous, and that causes a surge in adrenaline. Stage fright is a more extreme reaction, where your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, leading to shallow breathing.

To counteract this, find a quiet place and focus on breathing low into your stomach and lower back. Close your eyes, relax your shoulders, and breathe slowly and deeply. Remember how much you love to sing and how good it feels. Right before your performance, do this again. The more you perform, the more you’ll gain confidence, and the easier it will become to manage those physiological symptoms.

Shifting Your Mindset: From Self-Doubt to Self-Assurance

Another crucial aspect of conquering stage fright is shifting your mindset. As Lis Lewis, a renowned voice teacher and performance coach, points out, “Stage fright has less to do with what your audience thinks of you and more to do with what you think of your performance.”

The audience wants you to succeed. They’re not there to analyze your every move or nitpick your performance. They’re there to feel the emotions you convey through your music. As Lis says, “Missing a note or forgetting the words is trivial if you are connected to the story and the music. The audience isn’t there to analyze you; they are there to feel what you’re feeling.”

One of my favorite examples of this is Sheryl Crow’s album “Tuesday Night Music Club.” Her vocals are pretty pitch-y, but I didn’t even notice it the first million times I listened to it because her singing is so heartfelt. The audience is on your side, so shift your focus from worrying about mistakes to connecting with the emotion and story of the music.

Embracing the Power of Experience

As Lis Lewis rightly points out, “The more you perform in front of an audience, the less frightening it is.” Experience is a great teacher, and the more you put yourself out there, the more confident you’ll become.

Start small, perform for a few people in a small club, and gradually work your way up to larger audiences. Each time you conquer a new situation, you’ll become more self-assured. Singing for 100 people isn’t so hard when you’ve already sung for 300.

Remember, even the greats like Jennifer Lopez and Adam Lambert have had their share of stage mishaps. What matters is that you recover and keep going. The audience is there to support you, not to nitpick your performance. Embrace the journey, and let each experience build your confidence.

Embracing the Power of Community

As I mentioned earlier, my journey of conquering stage fright has been enriched by the stories and insights of other top performers, from executives and athletes to celebrities and musicians. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing over 50 amazing people, and their inspiration, insight, and philosophies have truly amplified my understanding of the three C’s.

These individuals, like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, the passionate keynote, and Robbie Gould of the Chicago Bears, the lonely kicker, have all faced their own battles with performance anxiety and have valuable lessons to share. By tapping into this community of successful, confident people, you can gain a deeper understanding of the strategies that work and find the support you need to overcome your own challenges.

Embracing the Power of the Three C’s

The three C’s – Clarity, Capability, and Confidence – are more than just a process toward setting goals; they can also be applied to small steps, long after you’ve gained confidence. If an upcoming presentation or performance is bringing you anxiety, take a step back and clarify what you may be missing.

Remember, these principles are not just for musicians; they can be applied to any aspect of life, from leading a meeting at work to giving a toast at a wedding. The three C’s are a powerful tool that can help you transform those tenuous moments into confidence and success.

So, my friends, take a deep breath, embrace the power of the three C’s, and get ready to step onto the stage with a newfound sense of fearlessness. The world is your stage, and you have the power to conquer it. I’ll be cheering you on every step of the way.

If you’re ready to take your musical theater performance to new heights, I encourage you to explore the offerings at The Musical Theater Center. With their world-class education and performance opportunities, you’ll have the support you need to unleash your full potential and conquer any stage fright that comes your way.

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