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I want to sing even if there are people all around me.
I know that singing is not dangerous; it’s not physically dangerous, it’s safe. I know that I mustn’t care about others, but I don’t succeed. Nothing comes out, there isn't any sound at all, I’m afraid — It’s like that.

I want to produce a note with my voice but I don’t dare to sing. I have tried to manually close my vocal cords and force push air out, to beat my fear, but nothing happens, I don’t get out enough air to vibrate my vocal cords and I don’t know how to begin — that is unless I'm alone at home.

So how can I sing even if there are people around me?

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  • The eternal conundrum. I have no answer, but, yes, this is an umbrella question for many musicians. Part of my own experience was to be sufficiently oblivious at some early point so that I didn't think about an audience... I might suggest that this is a valid hint, but I don't know what people think. Surely it's not entirely good to imagine that there's no audience, or... why do it? I don't know... Mar 5 at 0:53
  • Re "it’s not physically dangerous": It can be extremely dangerous Mar 5 at 16:49
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    It's similar to when you start performing live with an instrument: perform along with one or more people that have experience, so they carry the performance and give you opportunities to come to the front. It's easier to start singing if you're singing as a second voice with another singer, and little by little you'll outgrow stage fright. Eventually you'll turn fear into excitement and will find that performing can be fun and also very addictive, you'll also find that people hear mistakes much less than you think they do.
    – Thomas
    Mar 5 at 18:24
  • Are you in a subway train? Mar 6 at 19:45
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    I’m voting to close this question because this is clearly a medical (psychiatric) question and not a music question. Mar 7 at 16:36

5 Answers 5

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(Disclaimer: We're not psychiatrists. You're displaying genuine psychosomatic avoidance; there's probably a reason in your thoughts, feelings, or experiences. There's nothing to be lost by investigating this topic with a counselor.)

But all change—learning a new concept or skill, or overcoming a hang-up—works best when "scaffolded." We build new learning on top of prior learning. You don't sit down at a piano with zero experience and expect to play Rachmaninoff; first you learn Hot Cross Buns, then that lets you learn Mary Had a Little Lamb.

So maybe don't jump straight to the end goal, singing in public (perhaps for strangers). You say you can sing alone at home. Would you be able to sing if you added one close friend whom you trust? Do that, then add another. Build from there.

We also find safety in numbers. It's not clear what kind of musical context you're describing, but I'm imagining performance—one in which you're singing and everyone around you is listening. Maybe try participating in a totally different kind of music-making—can you sing if you're in a choir? What about a group sing-along, where everyone's singing? Maybe try to trick your psyche by jumping into a totally different music-culture; join a shape-note sing or go to a sing-along screening of Frozen.

Although your goal is to sing, you can also get used to public performance (and non-"performative" music-making) in ways that move the music outside your own chest. Join a drum circle; take up a fairly easy instrument and play it for friends. This is ultimately about connecting your mind and your body, and it can be worthwhile to pursue other disciplines that tame this connection, like tai chi or yoga. If the problem is that you're "in your own mind," learn to be in your body as well.

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A major key to singing is to (pardon my french) not give a fuck. This mindset can be really hard to get into. I’d suggest to try out singing in a choir. This is less stressful than performing solo, and it gives you experience with singing around other people.

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Note that psychologically, it's harder to sing in front of 3 friends than it is in front of 100 or more strangers. Once you get beyond a certain head-count, they just become anonymous blobs - a crowd rather than individuals. At that point you feel the overall crowd reaction to your performance, no longer individual people.

Just the same as learning to play or sing in the first place, learning to play to an audience is something that takes practise.

I started young, 6 or 7 years old, in the school choir. By the time I was 13 I was in a local amateur rock band. I recall having nerves at the first few gigs, but I had the support of my friends in the band. We all supported each other so that no-one felt alone - we were facing the world [or the small audience of friends & strangers] as a unit. By the time I was playing 40,000 seaters a decade later, I'd got the experience to back my own confidence that what I was about to do would be welcomed by that audience. The fear had been trained out of me.

Climbing that first hurdle is where you need the support of others. Don't go straight into solo performance. Don't let that cringing embarrassment of singing to half a dozen close friends prevent you from trying out a larger audience.

It gets easier with time & experience.

If you think it's because you're not good enough yet, then be honest with yourself. Are you good enough yet? Record your performances & listen back. Play the recordings to friends, but don't rely on their feedback because friends will never tell you they hate it.
If you really are trying to run before you can walk… then first learn to walk. You have to have a certain amount of self-belief to take to the stage in the first place. It's a whole lot easier if you know you can sing than if you only think you might be able.

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  • The funny part is that my family generally says my compositions are mediocre. They're not afraid to speak their mind there.
    – Dekkadeci
    Mar 5 at 16:07
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How old are you?

The two time-honored methods for solving your problem are alcohol and singing in a choir. In a lot of cultures, they go together. While the first is age-limited and have some health implication, the second can be used as much as practical, provided basic anti-covid measures.

Get together with people who are willing to sing with you.

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    I came here to suggest these exact two methods! If you go to a pub where singing breaks out and get plastered it's never too shame-making to join in. Mar 6 at 18:52
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Stage fright is hard to deal with. Really hard. I was always fine singing in a crowd, but if I was the centre of attention then I just tensed up. This became a real problem playing at folk clubs, because it screwed up my guitar playing as well. It didn't seem to matter how much practise I did at home, playing in public was still utterly terrifying.

What solved it for me was a self-hypnosis CD. There was one particular visualisation exercise on that CD which broke the barrier for me. I can't say whether it'd work for you, but I can say it worked for me. I still get nervous, but I'm only nervous about whether I'll do a good job, not about the fact of playing in public.

Your situation sounds even more severe than mine. Based on my experience though, I would recommend finding a good hypnotherapist if you can afford it. If not, there are numerous self-hypnosis resources around. This is the guy I went with - apparently he's still going, just with an app instead of a CD - but there are plenty of others. (In case you're wondering, I have no connection with this guy other than buying a CD off him 20 years ago.)

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