Updated: Oct 16, 2020
WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT IF WE COULD BE OUR BEST CREATIVE SELVES AT EVERY AUDITION AND DURING EVERY PERFORMANCE?
Our nerves get the best of us sometimes, but there are things we can do to quell and expelled them.
What do you do when you’re in the middle of an audition and you get ridiculously nervous? Maybe your body tenses, your hands get that nervous tremble, for me it's my mind - it goes blank! Perhaps your knees buckle beneath you and your whole body feels like it's about to melt like molten liquid into the floor. But wait, there's more.... your throat constricts, you can’t access your voice, it's been reduced to a thin whispery high pitch shrill, and now you sound just plain weird.
It’s quite simple really. Breathe. Just breathe deeply, fully. In simplest terms, breathe deeply allowing your ‘belly’ to expand, your waist to expand like a balloon, and your back to expand in the opposite direction of your belly. Your breathe, if you could see it, drops low, low, low enough to hit your kegel muscles, (yeah I know) LOW yes that low!
As you exhale, your belly and back deflate, and the breath gets expelled with energy. The exhalation should feel like a strong steady current, not a weak barely detectable trickle. It gets expelled through the mouth so that the action feels physical. It’s not a lackadaisical wimpy expulsion, nor is it thrust or forced out, it is a steady stream, creating a current that is expelled until the air is used up OR until you start a new phrase and take a new breath. If you were to exhale and expel this breath through a straw, and if you were to place a finger at the end of the straw, you should be able to feel the breath exit the straw and with a good amount of energy.
When you breathe this way, instantly, your brain declutters, your body recharges, your feet plant firmly, your nerves relax and your focus sharpens. Your voice? It returns with all of its range accessible for your use. It is strong, supported, full round, and resonant (if you know about voice placement-another discussion to be had).
Yes, there are other things contributing to nervousness, unpreparedness, poor thought process, lack of technique, low self-esteem, but breathing is one actionable step you can take hold of now, practice by yourself, in a yoga class or with a voice teacher, that will always centre you, relax you and give you control over vocal choices you make to enhance and elevate your song, or acting piece.
If you want to do some breath work, schedule a few lessons with me (wait until January 2021) and I’ll give you some pointers. You can, and should google ‘breathing’, specifically watch how babies breathe and apply that to how you breathe when speak and sing. Watch what the belly does. It rises and falls. It expands and deflates...over and over and over again. This is what singers and actors are aiming for.
To take breathing a step further, actors and singers must then learn how to ‘MANAGE’ the breath. That is, taking intentional breaths to be used to carry and sustain a phrase. This requires, using certain amounts of the breath at certain times, and reserving some for later use in the phrase. Breath management is also necessary to pull off higher or lower pitches, louder or softer tones, or to be able to simply speak or sing a phrase on one breath until the end of the phrase arrives! Sounds easy and trust me, with some practice, it is. If you’re unfamiliar with this kind of breathing, it may seem awkward at first - but just like anything else, the learning curve is masterable. Deep breathing can help you reach emotional states organically. Yes, the breath is a powerful tool that can be your secret weapon if you wield it correctly.
In the meantime, knowing and practicing breathing is helpful, essential and can be your best friend to ward off nervousness, keeping you and your voice grounded, strong, and yours to create masterpiece auditions and performances.