6 Tools for Managing Audition Anxiety

by Joanna Cazden –

Managing your audition anxiety is key to your audition success. You want to be at your peak of health, relaxation, and confidence when you stand on that stage. But your anxiety about the outcome can feel like an impossible obstacle.

Performance anxiety is normal. Professionals learn how to manage it, but it never fully goes away. So don’t interpret your fear as a sign that you have no talent, or don’t deserve to succeed.

Here are 6 tools that may help—things I’ve learned from my own performing life, from my training as a speech therapist, and from coaching and counseling students like you.

1. The #1 antidote to anxiety is being prepared. So practice! The moments before you perform are when you’ll be most nervous, so work that sequence just as you work your music. Rehearse walking in, what you’ll say to the faculty, and your cues for the accompanist.

Link these actions to breathing: exhale-pause-inhale before you enter, before you speak, and before you start your music. This breath sequence—and your attention to it—will help keep you calm.

2. When you’re bored or in a rut, change it up. Run your pieces too fast, then very slowly, with comic attitude one day and melodrama the next. Do them in crazy order with dance or calisthenics in between.

Plug in competing music at the same time. Wear a stupid hat. These variations help keep your interpretation fresh. More important, they prepare you to cope with the unexpected distractions—snowstorms, family crises—that could challenge your audition.

During the last week before auditions, just run the program straight so that you’re not confused when you need to be clear.

3. Mentally practice, as athletes do. Go through the audition in your mind, seeing and feeling yourself glide easily from front door through hardest arpeggio to final exit. This reinforces your skills and you can do it anywhere.

4. Practice facing your doubts. “But what if….?” fears are common. Don’t suppress them but don’t give in either. Especially avoid spinning into “what-if-I-can’t-avoid-my-nervousness” spirals.

Anxiety usually hides an equal amount of positive excitement. So welcome your fear as if it’s an animal that is secretly tame. Thank your ambitious energy for showing up, review your exhale-pause-inhale pattern a few times, and go back to work.

5. If you still feel overwhelmed by anxiety despite all of these efforts, talk to a counselor. There may be some other problem or worry that is intensifying your natural feelings about audition season. Keep practicing in the meantime.

6. Find a way to reward yourself for getting through each audition. Ritualize what comes after, to help manage the let-down from all that adrenaline. For instance: jot in a special notebook or app about what you learned from each experience, have a favorite snack, then get some exercise and lots of sleep before the next round of challenges.

Best of luck to you!

Joanna Cazden is a singer-songwriter, voice rehabilitation specialist, and intuitive coach in Los Angeles. She has released six solo albums and is the author of Visualizations for Singers, a CD/MP4 of guided imagery that includes a voice relaxation sequence. Joanna is also the author of Everyday Voice Care:The Lifestyle Guide for Singers and Talkers.

Photo Courtesy of CSU Department of Music, Theatre and Dance 


  1. Michael Jacobs

    These are some very interesting suggestions! I just completed my doctoral dissertation based on evaluating a treatment for audition and performance anxiety. I think what may be more helpful than just making sure one prepares, is to make sure that your actions are guided by logic and reason rather than trying to escape emotions. For instance, it can be just as problematic to over-prepare in order to reduce anxiety as it would be to avoid adequate preparation due to anxiety. It’s great to remind performers that anxiety is totally normal and acceptable. A great strategy for dealing with anxiety based on proven behavioral and cognitive methodology would be to practice your piece after intentionally bringing the sensations of anxiety. I have created a website devoted to research and treatment for audition anxiety, auditionanxiety.com. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this important topic!

  2. Elberama

    Chris – I tried Inderal for the first time after 20 years of auditioning for classical vocal auditions. Every time I auditioned, I would start to feel my heart pounding and that cold, queasy feeling in my stomach would develop. It wouldn’t happen during performances, only auditions. Sometimes it happened the entire day of the audition. I found it impossible to control my breath support, lower my larynx, and relax into a vibrato during auditions, even though I can do it fine at other times. Today the Inderal blocked the heart racing and cold queasy feeling. It also made me feel a little light headed, as if my blood sugar was low. But strangely, I still felt the adrenaline, but just with those two aspects removed. I still had to remind myself of all the technique because the adrenaline still made me excited and forgetting to do everything. So I would say that it keeps the mental anxiety, but removes the body anxiety.

    • Beta blockers are known to dampen some of the physiological symptoms of performance anxiety. Since there are different kinds and strengths of beta blockers, they should not be taken without the guidance of a physician experienced in prescribing them for this purpose. While they do work for some people, there can be side effects (such as fatigue) that will get in the way of performing. Performers with heart conditions or asthma should be especially careful.

  3. Mckenzie

    Thank you so much! I have an audition in less than a week. This is the first audition I have done… other than the one I came unprepared for.

  4. Chris

    What if you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and insomnia? Anxiety is a regular part of my life as well as going days with just little or no sleep…..I’m auditioning at Berklee next week and I’ve heard that many musicians are using Inderal before major auditions (I read an article about a flute player and the NY Phil)….what do you think?

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