Human emotions are one of the most complex things to try and understand and come to terms with. Crying is one of those manifestations of emotion. And sometimes, it can happen at very unfortunate moments. One of those is while singing.
This leads us nicely onto the subject of how to deal with crying while singing.
Music And Emotions
Music has a wonderful way of stirring emotions. It can hold us gripped with its tragedy as in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” It can raise feelings of patriotism, as in Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.”
Likewise, it can highlight a sense of injustice and corruption and the need to do something, as in Bob Dylan’s “The Hurricane.” Or it can create a dozen other emotions in us, from pure happiness to total despair.
The reactions can be powerful and, at times, quite overwhelming. And they can appear instantly, just brought on by musical phrases or the briefest part of a tune.
We React, It’s Natural
Some people seem to be baffled by this, but I don’t think it is hard to understand. Music stirs emotions. We hear it, and we react. Emotions can stimulate crying, and that is just a manifestation of that emotion. So that is what we do.
The interesting thing, though, is that we can cry because we are overcome with happiness. Or it can be at the other end of the emotional scale, real sadness.
Humans are strange animals that can achieve the same emotional reaction for opposite reasons. We can cry when we are happy, but also we can cry when we are sad. How strange.
During a performance by musicians or singers, these emotions can be even more intense. But, whereas a musician might be able to bow their head and get on with it, the singer has a problem. How can you sing when you are crying?
A Variety of Different Reasons
A singer can start to cry for a variety of reasons. It is hard to identify the exact cause. Most songs are written about emotive issues. Topics that the songwriter feels very passionate about. That has certainly got something to do with it.
Sometimes the lyrics of those songs will be the reason, especially if the singer can relate to what is being sung. They can be sad or happy, but they can still move us emotionally.
Sometimes the words in poetry don’t have the same effect as the lyrics of a song. We can put that down to the music that is going along with it.
It might be true that the music can have more of an effect by itself. I say this because music without lyrics can still stir us emotionally in every way. But, put the two together, and you can experience a powerful range of emotions.
You might assume that the artist has sung the song many times. If it still affects them, why? There are several reasons for this. There could be something in it that they relate to on a personal level. If it is a deep emotion, then whenever they sing it, those feelings will appear.
There is another reason, of course. It could all be an act. Pretend tears to garner some false reaction from an audience. There are those singers, male and female, that do that. But many people know who they are and just ignore them. Yuk.
It Doesn’t Help At All
So what about those that do feel an emotional attachment to the lyrics or music or both. Crying during a performance is not going to help. Not only are you going to find it hard to hit notes, but it is also almost certainly going to affect your breathing. And breathing correctly is vital, as you know.
It is going to affect your ability to be right on pitch. Controlling vocal volume is going to be a problem, and it is probably going to make what you are singing about unintelligible. A no-win situation from every angle.
You Need To Be Heard
You may think that your audience is going to connect with your performance on a deeper level if you shed a tear. That is what the ‘fakers’ base their performance on.
There is an element of truth in it. But only when the song and the lyrics can still be heard and understood. And, of course, when the audience senses they aren’t being conned.
So, we can see it isn’t going to help you to fall into this emotional trap. But what can you do about it? Let’s see if we can give you some ideas on how to deal with crying while singing.
Where Is The Song In Your Performance Set?
It is likely to be a ‘big number’ which means it is likely to be near or at the end. That might be good for the balance of the performance. But, not so good because you know through the show you’ve going to sing it.
Some might say take a quick break just before, but you can’t just leave the stage. What is the audience going to think? If you can arrange it so that the song before has a long instrumental break, that will help.
So, maybe a song with a long coda that you can skip. Get off the stage, change your shirt, or whatever, make yourself feel good, take a deep breath, focus, and back you go. If you want to see how it is done, Tina Turner was the master of the exit and re-entrance.
No doubt you have been taught how to control your breathing when singing. That not only allows you to deliver a good vocal performance, but it also helps you to relax. Breathe from the diaphragm and feel the control you have over yourself.
Meditation and Relaxation
These are processes that some people use, but they are pre-performance activities. It’s not possible during the show. It can help you to prepare before you start. But once the performance kicks in, you are going to be carried away with it.
Practicing meditation with yoga can help you gain control over emotions. But this is a performance; you don’t want to feel too relaxed. You want to be “in the moment.”
If meditation and relaxation techniques make you feel good about the coming performance before you start, that can be carried forward. But, it can’t be used just before a big song other than as a very brief reminder to stay calm.
Have you Practiced The Song That May Cause A Problem?
Familiarity with an emotion may sometimes lessen its impact on you. It is like anything in life. The more you are exposed to it, the less of an impact and meaning it can have.
Practicing the song over again for hours could help you get used to the feelings. However, you don’t want to completely remove the emotion and what the song means to you.
Emotion is one of the things that will drive your performance. You’ve just got to find a way where the emotion remains, but you stay in control of it.
Starting the performance feeling confident and prepared about the song is one way of removing a little of the stress involved. That is where a good rehearsal program will help.
But, always remember it is what the song means to you that helps you sing it well. Crying in the middle of a song will likely destroy it.
What Is It About This Song Or Piece Of Music?
If you have an emotional attachment to a song, then that can be tricky to deal with. It is all well and good people saying, “Oh, don’t think about it, just concentrate on the song.” If you could do that, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.
You can’t just cast it out of your mind. You aren’t a machine that can just turn off emotions when you feel like it. People who make those comments have probably never had to deal with what you are dealing with. And what you’re dealing with is real. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t.
Do You Know What It Is?
It might sound like a silly question, but maybe you don’t know what triggers these emotions. Is it emotion by association?. Do you hear the lyrics or the music and immediately associate it with something that has happened to you?
Maybe it’s something you have seen? Possibly something that happened to someone else? Most of us carry emotions. It is what makes us who we are. Some can deal with them. Others, who are emotional by nature struggle, because it is just too much.
That is why some pretend and force themselves to cry while on stage. They think it enhances their performance. But I think they are doing more harm than good. In a way, they are belittling those who carry deep emotions. Obviously, they don’t have them, which is very sad.
Is It Personal?
Maybe the song is telling a story that has a very personal meaning to you. Can you confront it head-on and deal with it? Or do you always feel the same when you hear it? Even worse, when you try to sing it? There is an answer to that which I shall touch on later.
Whatever You Do, Stay Calm
You may think you have conquered the worst, and then in one performance, it all comes back. Don’t panic. That will only make it worse. Remain as cool as you can, remember your breathing exercises and just get through it.
Some publications may be able to help you. Here are three that I personally recommend…
- Relaxation Meditation for Singers
- Twelve Lessons on Breathing and Breath Control – For Singers, Speakers, and Teachers
- Strengthening Your Singing Voice
The Bottom Line
I mentioned that there is an answer that I would come back to. But, before we do that, let’s just clarify something.
Some singers and performers have a hard time understanding, or just don’t want to understand, a basic principle. You are not performing for yourself. You are performing for them.
That is why bands and singers still play popular stuff they have recorded years ago. They might absolutely hate it now, but the audience still wants to hear it. They paid their money after all.
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How To Deal With Crying While Singing – Conclusion
If a song creates so much emotion in you that you cannot control it, then it is time to consider whether you should include it. That might sound a little harsh, but if you cannot perform it, then it seems pointless to keep it in. You are only doing yourself a disservice.
That, of course, is the last resort. Before then, you need to try everything you can to do the song, and yourself, justice. All things are possible; you just need to find out how.
Until next time, let yourself be heard.