Monday, November 03, 2014

Want to sing but are scared of being judged? Here’s what to do

Sarcastic remarks from X Factor judges. Teachers telling kids to “stand at the back and just mime”. Being made to stand up and sing solo to get into your workplace choir. Scary!

judges scores

And enough to put anyone off singing! However, there are plenty of other ways of singing with others without the fear of being judged or ridiculed. Here’s what you can do.

we all have horror stories from the past

Most people who come to my choirs and singing workshops have a story from their past about being told they couldn’t (or shouldn’t) sing.

It might be parents (“Stop that awful noise!”), teachers (“Just stand at the back and mime”), friends (“You couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag!”), auditioners (“Next!”), choir leaders (“If you can’t sing in tune, you’re out!”).

Whoever it was, it is damaging and can last a lifetime (see Never tell someone they can’t sing – it is brutal, damaging and untrue).

People become scared to sing in front of others, and even worse, scared to sing at all, even when alone. And if they do manage to pluck up the courage to sing after all these years, they fear that they will still be judged and found lacking.

The X Factor judges ridicule singers on the show. Gareth Malone makes people stand up in front of their peers to sing a solo audition for their workplace choir. Your mates take the piss if you dare to sing at work or at the karaoke session in the pub.

No wonder there are loads of potential singers out there who won’t even try!

what you can do to get over your fears

The main thrust of my own work is to make singing accessible to as many people as possible and to show people that it isn’t scary but can be joyous and freeing.

If you had a bad experience when you were younger, or watch too many talent shows on TV and think you’re not good enough, here are some things you can do to (re)discover the joys of singing.

  • find a “singing for the terrified” group – there are plenty of small groups around which specialise in helping and supporting those people who are new to singing, or who want to just test the waters gently, or have lost some confidence. They will support and nurture you until such time as you might want to branch out and join a more experienced choir. They use different names like “singing for the terrified” or the “can’t sing choir”. You get the idea.
  • sing harmony not solo – it’s all about mutual support. If you sing harmony with others they all have a vested interest in helping you to be the best you can be to benefit the overall sound. Safety in numbers means you don’t have to expose yourself by standing up and singing solo.
  • join an open-access community choir – ‘open-access’ means that there are no auditions, anybody can join and you don’t have to have any singing or musical experience. They are supportive, friendly environments helpint you to ease your way into singing with others.
  • don’t perform if you don’t want to – or enter competitions. Even if the choir you join does, you always have the option of saying no. Why put yourself through something that doesn’t help you?
  • don’t judge others – lest they judge you! If you’re in the habit of judging other people’s singing then you will continue to assume (rightly or wrongly) that people will be judging you at the first opportunity.
  • stop watching TV programmes like X Factor – it will reinforce your bad experiences. If you must watch a singing programme, then try The Voice which tends to be gentler and far more supportive of the singers.
  • there will always be someone better than you – and worse than you. It’s a fact of life whatever you do, so stop comparing.
  • stop comparing yourself with celebrities – or famous professional singers. They are not you, you will never be them. You have a unique voice which you should celebrate and not try to sound like someone else. See also Never let the fake perfection of pop singers put you off singing 
  • just do it! – there is no time like the present. If not now, when? – start singing NOW! 

If you know someone who won’t sing for fear of being judged, try to find a way of gently encouraging them and introducing them to the joys of singing. That can be your good deed for the day!

Chris Rowbury




Chris Rowbury


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