This post about how to sing in public actually started out as a response to a comment that a reader posted here on my blog, which said:
“I do not sing in public, no guts. Some people say I have a good voice… Are there any websites you recommend?… I would like to sing in public just for the joy of singing. I joined a church choir, but it did not work out for me.”
I answered the comment, but have expanded on my response here because the fear of performing in public is very common – most people would vastly prefer singing in the privacy of their own shower than singing in front of an audience. Just like public speaking, public singing can be more than a little terrifying, but it’s not just about having guts, it’s about building up your confidence, and that’s largely based on experience. If you want to learn how to sing in public, there’s only one place you’ll learn, and that’s on the stage itself.
Some people hold mini-concerts, or recitals, in front of family and friends, just to get used to having others in the room while they sing. Sometimes this is helpful, but some people find it more stressful to sing in front of people they know. The nice thing about singing in front of strangers is knowing that if things aren’t perfect, there’s nobody to remind you of it at the next family barbeque! Colleagues of mine who are now professional singers even busked in the street in their early days – not for the cash, just for the experience and exhilaration of singing in public places in front of people they were never likely to encounter again.
I believe one of the best ways to build up your confidence is always to start small – maybe try entering a local music festival (sometimes they’re called an “eisteddfod”) so you’ll only be singing for a small group of people. These are easy to find if you search on the internet. You will notice that after a while people will start coming up to say that they think you have a good voice, or that they really enjoyed your performance of a particular song, and bit by bit that helps to build you up. Positive feedback is one of the BEST confidence-builders ever!
At the same time, you will be getting used to the practice of actually standing on a stage in front of an audience, and the more you do it, the more natural it feels. It really is one of those things you just need to work at, and looking out for suitable, small-scale opportunities is the first step. The first time I entered a music festival I put my name down for six different categories (yes, it was a long and exhausting day!). At my first performance for the day I was an absolute wreck of nerves, and it showed, but by my fourth piece I actually started feeling an eagerness to get back up and try again. I was already thinking about things I’d done wrong earlier, and how I could avoid those mistakes the next time around.
Singing in a choir can be a good way of getting used to singing in public without feeling exposed, but there’s still a pretty big leap between singing along with 20+ other people, and taking the stage solo. Looking for a quartet or someone to duet with might work better – just having an extra person on stage for both moral and musical support can be helpful as you get started. Alternatively, find an accompanist (usually a pianist) whom you trust and work well with – having them on stage supporting and performing with you can be a huge confidence booster.
Finally, to address the last part of the reader’s post I was answering – in terms of web site recommendations for singing and performing, if you can’t find an experienced singing teacher such as myself to work with you, I’d go with Brett Manning’s excellent Singing Success program. No matter how you learn to sing though, the important thing is to start getting exposure singing in front of other people as soon as you can, even if it’s just in front of a couple of friends to start with. If you have a good voice then you’ll soon learn that there’s much more pleasure in sharing it with others, than keeping your talent all to yourself.