How to Sing a Sad Song without Crying

by   |  April 12, 2012
Make it through a sad song

Singing a tragic tune is rough. Just one teardrop will muddle the clarity of the voice. Learn the tricks to get over the tears.

When you’re acting in front of an audience, crying can be a powerful tool to help them feel your sincerity.   When you sing, however, crying can make it hard for the audience to understand the words you’re singing.   This article will help you learn how to sing a sad song without drowning in tears.
The process of eliminating tears will require you to deeply engage with the song.   From time to time, it will also be good to take breaks and come back to your work later.

When I began studying the role of Lily in The Secret Garden musical, I could not get through her songs without bawling.   Lily is a ghost who haunts her grieving husband and abandoned child.   Since I have a family of my own, Lily’s songs hit a nerve each time I attempted to sing them.
Some songs are just so sad that they make you burst into tears when you sing them.   Unlike straight drama, you can’t get away with crying while singing.   The tears and snot drip right into your vocal instrument, interfering with voice production.   Gross.
In some contemporary singing styles, rawness can add color, but not in classical singing.   Crying just doesn’t . . . work.   When caught in a tearful dilemma, being convincing is not the singer’s problem; it’s figuring out how to be less expressive!
Take these steps to heart the next time you must get through a sad song without losing it:
Step 1: Cry it Out
Don’t bottle up your feelings.   Suppressing the urge to cry will just prolong your pain.   Take the time to practice the song, being fully present in how you feel.   Let the tears flow freely, and spend as much time doing this as you need.   Spend an entire day or even a week crying over it if you need to.   Treat the situation with the same sincerity as you would a true grieving process.   You deserve it!   If you don’t invest time in releasing your intense feelings, they will continue bothering you when you perform.
Step 2: Let it Wash Over You
Take a break from singing and just listen to the song.   If you can access other recordings of this song, listen to as many versions as possible.   If no recordings are available, record yourself singing it and listen to yourself over and over again.  Embrace the intense emotions you feel as you do so.   As intense or time-consuming as this process may be, your reward will be a deep insight into your emotional self.   This will not just help the tears subside; you will likely start to heal from serious pain you still carry from past experiences.   This will aid you on your quest to greater resilience.
Step 3: Sing it Over and Over
Sing the song and allow your emotions to manifest themselves as they will.   If you are still crying at this point, don’t fret.   The sting will lessen with time.   In the meantime, you will learn how to sing through your crying.   This skill will rescue you in emergencies when you get emotional during performance.
Step 4: Write it Out
Make sure you write about this valuable experience.   Verbalize what you are feeling.   Write down your thoughts and read them aloud to yourself.   Feel free to share these thoughts with a trusted friend.   Articulate what you’re feeling in the mirror.   There is no such thing as coming to understand your feelings “too much”, especially as a performer.   Even if you think you are “over it” at this point, writing about your experience will help you preserve valuable insight for the future.
Step 5: Do Something Else
If after cycling through these steps you still don’t feel better, do something else.   Take out the trash.   Go for a walk.   Work out at the gym.   Talk to a good friend.   Volunteer at a soup kitchen.   Take a bubble bath.   Do anything to get your mind off the song.   An lively activity followed by relaxation could do wonders for you.
Step 6: Meditate and Draw
When you’re ready to sing the song again, take some time to imagine yourself doing so successfully.   Close your eyes and imagine yourself performing the song.   Visualize yourself doing so successfully.   What do you sound like?   What do you look like?   What do you see around you?   Take note of as many other details as you can.   Act like a little kid and draw what you see.   Let your right brain indulge in this sensory experience.
Step 7: Try Again
By now you have let yourself cry it out, think deeply, take a break, and reflect about your experience.   At this point, you have hopefully taken the edge off the pain you used to feel when singing this sad song.   Go ahead.   Sing it again and see what happens.
Step 8: Rinse and Repeat
If your attempt to sing still makes you bawl, don’t give up.   Repeat these steps in whatever order helps you the most.   If your efforts seem futile, don’t be shy about seeking professional help.   There may be unresolved issues that need addressing—not just so you can get through the song, but so you can live a happier life.


Happy sad song singing!

More on: Classical Music, Musical Expression, Musical Performance, Personal Development, Singing, Skills, Technique
About the Author:

Having achieved so many of her own dreams, Mimi West has devoted her career to paying it forward to the rising generation of musicians. You can follow her on Twitter @mydreamteacher.
Publshed: April 12, 2012  | 
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