Confidence or Competence: This is how the dictionary defines these two words:
• A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities:
she’s brimming with confidence | [in sing.] he would walk up those steps with a confidence he didn’t feel.
• [Mass noun] the ability to do something successfully or efficiently:
courses to improve the competence of staff | the players displayed varying degrees of competence.
Confidence can make or break you as an artist. As a vocal coach in London and Malta, I have seen the difference between a really good singer with very little confidence and an ok singer (sometimes not so ok…) with a lot of confidence and the difference is astounding!
The confident one thrives & shines when he is put on the spot, the one who lacks confidence turns into jelly! How many of us have experienced that? I certainly have, even the most established artists have had their battles with confidence or the lack of it!
So what does it all mean? Well just because you lack confidence, does not mean you are not good enough, it doesn’t mean that those that appear to be “better” than you or more confident than you have more right to success than you do. It doesn’t mean that you are rubbish at what you do & should just give up!
These are the inner voices that plague us all the time in scenarios like that. Confidence is not an accurate reflection of competence! Competence is our innate ability to know or do something successfully or efficiently. Confidence is tricky to define, but it can be looked at as a composite of experience, and encouragement and trust & belief in one’s self.
With experience, you gain knowledge & understanding of something through successful trial and error. Meaning you make mistakes in a certain environment until you gain enough knowledge & understanding to correct those mistakes and turn them into triumphs that in turn encourages your belief in your own technical & creative ability. Fundamentally, This is the best course of action in how to improve your voice.
Confidence is about TRUST. The word confidence come from a Latin word, with the meaning: “to put one’s trust in someone’’.
In this case who exactly are we to put our trust in? The answer is you!
To have faith or trust in your own worth, value & ability as a performer no matter what competition you face and no matter what unconstructive criticism you might receive. Learning to appreciate other talent and not be intimidated by it, because we all have different strengths and weaknesses!
Put trust in yourself & learn to realize that whenever you can’t trust anyone else, you can trust yourself. Trust that it is not the end, trust that you can improve, trust that you have what it takes to be the best at your game, trust that you have something worth fighting for & developing. Trust that you are good enough & that everything you have inside of you is enough for that time in your development & is enough to help you move forward to the next phase of your development.
So, I have outlined 3 key ways in which you can build your confidence as a live singer and its foundation is in becoming more competent through discipline and diligent practice, in my next article I will break down the different kinds of effective practice.
The 3 Keys
1) UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE
“The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become second nature and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual – if they are also a singing teacher – may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned”.
[Quoted from Noel Burch, Gordon Training International]
This is the first stage, accurately practicing voice warm ups or a vocal skill or a song until you become unconsciously competent with it, meaning you don’t even need to really think about the mechanics of the song anymore but can just focus on enjoying the song.
2) PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
Have you realised that when you’re in the shower or in your bedroom, your voice seems to work just like a superstar? You even go as far as picking up a dummy microphone in the form of a hairbrush, duster or water bottle and you prance around in front of the mirror like a BOSS.
Have you noticed that the problem with lacking confidence does not come from there, but only when you are in front of people or just preparing to go in front of people?
You must make the pre-planned choice to go from the shower to the stage or from the bedroom into the boardroom. Anywhere that requires an audience to hear you perform. Getting this experience is a great way to show off everything you have practiced and is a chance to publically exhibit what you have been working on and have ‘nailed’ in your practice time.
3) TRUST YOURSELF
AT this point, you will feel like everything that was in your head was not as bad as you thought it was. By taking these practical steps, generally you will feel like actually doing it was not as difficult as thinking about it. By this point you have gained a huge sense of achievement and this should be the start of you having more faith in your singing abilities and in what you are potentially capable of.
This should also strengthen your stimulus to learn more and do more of the above, thus crafting, developing, growing, maturing and perfecting all these things into actual SKILLS during your voice training routine. Once you recognise that you have developed something into a skill over time, your confidence is amplified because a skill is the expertise or the controlled ability to do something well, and when a performer knows that they are performing well, they naturally become more confident.
It has been said that greatness is given to you at birth and that is that? I say that is WRONG. Studies have shown that greatness in anything is not given at birth, but is grown through time and focused trial & error.
If you are someone that has more deeper rooted issue with regard to confidence, and you feel the points above were helpful in theory but not in practice, then please realise that this is ok and there are still many avenues with which you can receive help if you suffer more serious issues like ‘stage fright’ or other emotional blockages that stop you from singing or performing live. A couple of very good resources from professionals in this field include hypnotherapy & performance anxiety reprogramming conducted by Zoe Clews: http://www.zoeclews-hypnotherapy.co.uk/. Zoe Clews is a leading specialist in this field based on Harley Street. I can also recommend a very good course in ‘dealing with stage fright’ run by Shed Light Events (Line Hilton): http://www.shedlightevents.com/. Line Hilton is a great resource in this field with years of experience in working with singers and actors. Please feel free to contact them via their websites for more help.