Performing in front of an audience can be a terrifying experience.
This is especially true if you have 1) never performed or 2) if you perform infrequently.
Think about this: Is the emotion of terror proportionate to the situation? If you have uncontrollable physical reactions such as twitching of muscles, feeling a huge surge of adrenalin and thinking you must run away, then where is the actual threat? In fact, there is no actual threat and these feelings are not logical BUT logic and emotions can be like oil and water. They don’t mix.
There is a vast difference between STAGE TERROR and stage fright. There also is no “normal”. Everyone is different from everyone else. This not only applies to singing; it also applies to public speaking. How many times have you heard that most people fear public speaking more than they fear death? I know I’ve heard that many times. Does that really make sense, though?
If emotions are chemicals coursing through our veins, it would stand to reason that the more volume of chemical, the stronger the feeling. Where do these feelings come from? Are they electric, chemical, or electro-chemical? There are feeling-numbing drugs which probably block the ability to feel the emotion.
The feeling may be “there” but your perception of it could be blocked by a drug OR, depending on the drug, the feeling could be “amplified”. I’m not advocating drugs because you would most likely want to have certain emotions present in a performance, unless you are content with sounding like a robot.
A natural hormone, secreted by the adrenal glands, adrenalin, can act as an “amplifier” of feelings. If you are back stage, you can do some jumping jacks or other exercise to help deal with an excess of adrenalin. Some people are quite animated while performing and this may help deal with nervousness.
Think about this. Can you feel confident and terrified at the same time? This brings up a point. I have had the most fear when I have felt the least prepared.
When I KNOW I am ready, I feel a little nervous AT FIRST, but it doesn’t interfere with the performance. An amateur can expect a drop in the level of perfection, simply due to having too little performance experience. When you are singing 6 nights a week, where does the terror go? It isn’t there. If it has been 6 months since your last performance expect two things: You WILL be nervous.
Your performance will not be as good as it was in your rehearsal. If you are wanting a professional level of performance and you are practicing less than 2 or 3 hours a day, it may not happen for you.
If I get to perform a new song, I like having a minimum of two weeks, spending one to two hours a day, total, working on that song. Until I have performed it in front of an audience two or three times, my confidence is still not sky high. Nothing replaces being prepared.
Could it be the guilt of knowing that you did not do enough that causes the intense fear, or is it just too little experience? A little of both?