Check out this six-point plan to helping anxious singers build confidence as they return to live gigs.

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the live music scene, and the absence of regular gigs pummelled the confidence of many singers. Even some of the most exuberant performers lost their swagger and struggled with doubts about their ability and stamina.

The good news is that singing teachers can play a pivotal role in helping vocalists rediscover their self-belief.

In fact, Hannah Smikle, a professional voice coach and vocalist, and BAST’s Line Hilton, will co-host a workshop on this subject next month. Empowering the Vocalist on April 2 will give the singing teacher tools and strategies to help their students build performance confidence.

Here’s a quick overview of Hannah’s six-point confidence-boosting plan. To delve deeper, get yourself a ticket to next month’s event. See you in Manchester!

1 Go on a fact-finding mission

It’s tempting to dive straight in at the first session with a new student (you want to show them what you can do, after all). But taking the time at the beginning of the coaching relationship to discuss a singer’s priorities and struggles will help you better serve their needs. “One of my favourite questions is ‘how do you feel about your voice?’,” says Hannah. “Some will just write ‘OK’ and others will write a whole page.”

2 Be student led

Be guided by your student rather than imposing your agenda on them. “I like to check in with my clients at the start of a lesson to get a sense of where they are,” Hannah says. “If they’re anxious or emotional, maybe we need to take a slightly different approach and not jump straight into vocal exercises. We could do other things around the creative process or some breathing techniques.”

3 Be a listener, not a counsellor

“It’s really important that we create a welcoming space, where somebody can feel supported,” Hannah says. “However, we need to stay in our lane and understand the difference between being a listener and a counsellor.” If you feel that a student needs professional support, make sure you can recommend a therapist in your local area or an organisation, such as BAPAM.

4 Give a singer space

When silences or pauses occur during a lesson, you probably feel the urge to jump in and say something. Don’t! Give the singer space to process the moment. “Silences can be useful, particularly if somebody is feeling quite emotional or overwhelmed. Just pause before you move on; be respectful and allow them a moment of reflection.”

5 Plan for a key event

Find out what your student’s goal is and work backwards from there. If they’re gearing up for a big gig, formulate a detailed preparation plan. Cover everything from getting to the venue, getting set up backstage, and any technical kit they’ll need to ace the show.  

“The more prepared you are for a particular performance or recording opportunity, the better,” Hannah says. “What we want to do with our preparation is minimise the variables and the opportunity for things to make us feel anxious.”

6 Ask for feedback

Put your ego aside and ask your student what they think. Are they getting what they want out of their sessions? Do they feel like they’re getting closer to their goals? Is the pace right for them? Give the student the chance to change things up, if they want to.

Book your place at the Empowering the Vocalist Workshop on April 2 here.

Listen to Hannah on the Singing Teachers Talk podcast here.