You’ve probably seen this happen when watching music shows and performances, both on TV and stage. Have you ever wondered why singers close their eyes when singing?
There are a number of reasons why singers close their eyes when singing. It may be to create a sense of intimacy and drama. It may be because they’re concentrating, listening and involved, or in the case of a newer artist, it may be nerves and shyness.
We delve a little deeper into the reasons why singers close their eyes, as well as identifying when it’s a good thing, and when it’s not. Read on for some useful tips on using this technique to your advantage when you’re performing on stage.
Why do singers close their eyes when singing?
You’ll have noticed that many of your favourite artists close their eyes when performing. You may find yourself doing it too and wonder whether you should or shouldn’t be. There are genres of music that tend to lend themselves toward the closed eyes style of performance and others that would be downright dangerous to perform without open eyes!
The very first consideration is safety. If you’re dancing with equipment around and/or on a high stage. Then you must have clear vision at all times. Whereas if you’re singing soulful stuff, ballads, ethereal music it’ll work well. It’s fairly rare to find a slow love song sung without some closing of the eyes in fact.
Why do we close our eyes when we sing?
Turning off one of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell), helps us to immerse in the others – and this is particularly the case with sight, as is often our primary sense.
By closing down the eyes, it helps us to immerse, shut out the rest of the world and zone in. This is why we close our eyes when we meditate, get a massage, or pray. Often it’s an automatic reaction to getting into it the intention of the song and feeling a passion for what you’re doing.
Singing with eyes closed
There are times when you watch singers with closed eyes and you feel excluded, or like they’re cut off from everything. Some may even sing through an entire song in this way.
At other times, watching a singer do this appears beautiful, meaningful and moving. Knowing how to bring about the right effect is key, and balancing this with the importance of strong, confident eye contact.
When you close your eyes, what happens?
When you close your eyes on stage, you’ll see a brightness like stars, or even patterns. This is from the lights you were looking at right before you shut them. Gradually this dissipates and you see more of darkness, but there will still be something there before your eyes, albeit vague.
If in a very heavily lit room, this will appear as a kind of glow. If you have low blood pressure or a low oxygen intake (you should have a high oxygen intake when breathing properly for singing), the patterns you see may be increased. Once your eyes are closed, you become more aware of the sounds and smells around you, but you can also feel alienated from what’s going in around you.
Does closing your eyes help you sing?
This has no bearing at all on the sound you make. Unlike techniques like visualisation, posture and deep breathing, closing your eyes won’t actively change your tone and power. It may well aid with your visualisation techniques though. But be careful this doesn’t cause you to forget to open them again! Be sure to practice this on your own too. If you’re always singing with closed eyes in your lessons, at the studio and at home, it’ll be a very hard habit to break when you get out on stage.
I have a habit of closing my eyes hard – is this bad?
Particularly if you’re very nervous, shutting the eyes down hard can become a crutch. There are much better ways to overcome these feelings than by shutting everyone out. Closing your eyes – hard or softly – to intimate emotion and meaning is beneficial. But if you’re using it as a shield to hide behind, the audience will pick that up. It can look as though you’re watching a private film, that the audience is not privy to.
Some singers close their eyes more than others and it comes down to their own style of performance. But even those who do it a lot, strike a balance. Check out Birdy, showing how it’s done at Radio 1’s Live Lounge.
Why do musicians close their eyes?
As instrumentalists don’t have lyrics to convey emotion and their hands are otherwise engaged, they have far more limited options than singers, when it comes to expression.
Therefore you’ll often notice them using their head and face to emote. Perhaps a slow sway, a deep frown, a rhythmic nod of the head, or periods of closed eyes. Musicians in orchestras won’t be seen doing this, as they have to read music at the same time as playing – not so eyes with their eyes closed.
Many musicians also have to look at their hands to some extent, especially if trying to concentrate on singing simultaneously.
Closing eyes while listening
An instrumentalist who closes their eyes will also be immersing themselves even deeper into the soundscape and notes. They will ‘feel’ the music and really become one with it. Additionally, the requirement for musicians – especially backup and accompanying ones – to project to the audience, is less than a singer. Unless a soloist, they are not the only ones on stage, and rarely at the centre, so they can afford to get a bit more ‘lost’ in the music, almost forgetting the watching crowd.
Cool things to do on stage while performing
Shutting your eyes is certainly a cool thing to do on stage. The best way to work it is to choreograph it into your act, for maximum impact. Divas know this and will frequently be seen closing their eyes on super high notes, or when using their whistle register. Use a combination of searing eye contact and stillness, with shut eyes at certain points to add drama to a ballad. If it’s a sad song, think about the story and what you’re trying to portray. Even with your eyes closed, this intention will shine through and move those watching
Why do people move their hands while singing?
Your hands come second (after your face) as the most useful part of your body for emoting. This way you move your hands will be unique to you – and if you have fantastic nails, tattoos or jewellery on them, all the better. There is a limit though. Don’t be tempted to move your hands so much it’s distracting, or a result of nerves. Think cool, or funky, or powerful, in the way you use your hands. Sign language is a really cool thing to do with your hands too. It also makes your act accessible and more impactful.
How can I be a good performer on stage?
Practice! And get out there and do it. Much of your performance is learned on the job. Being a good singer is only part of the deal. You have to entertain a crowd with your personality too and that can be gently or in a ‘big’ expressive way. Strive to be confident and passionate when you perform and refine everything you do down to every last note and movement. Good performers never stop working, learning and improving on what they do.
How do I get over my fear of singing in front of people?
As we’ve mentioned, shutting down visually might seem to help in the short term, but it’ll have a detrimental effect on your performance. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of tried and tested ways to help newcomers to performance and those who suffer from stage fright, to cope with these feelings. We have lots more advice and information on this topic, as it’s a common cause for concern.
Why do we close our eyes when singing and nervous?
Not having to look at an audience in the eyes can alleviate nerves and stage fright – although this isn’t a great way to work around it. Watching people’s reactions can cause some anxiety and awkwardness, but it can also be immensely rewarding. Remember that people don’t always smile when they’re enjoying something. It’s not unusual for an audience member to look really quite grumpy for the duration of your set, only to come up afterwards and tell you how it has made their day! Let the smiles cheer you on, but don’t be put off if you’re not getting a positive visual reaction.
Why do people close their eyes while speaking?
Speaking in public raises the very same anxieties as singing. For this reason, many people resort to closing their eyes while doing it. More often than not this comes over as detached and a bit odd, as unlike singing, speaking doesn’t lend itself to the projection of emotion with closed eyes. Although there are exceptions from time to time.
Other techniques people often use to avoid eye contact when speaking, is to look high up, or to the side, either continually or intermittently. It is normal to vary in eye contact a little. A constant fierce eye to eye can be a little intimidating, so again it’s a balance.
Speaking to a group is easier, as you can move your eye line around to encompass everyone. This way it’s not too intense and is inclusive.
More reasons singers close their eyes when singing
Very occasionally, there may be a non-performance reason for a singer closing their eyes, so do bear this in mind. For example, this orthodox singer chose to tape his eyes closed for religious reasons, in order to not see the women dancing before him at a gig with an all-female audience.
Andrea Bocelli – closed eyes while singing
Legendary classical singer Andrea Bocelli, who boasts one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices in the industry, always sings with his eyes closed, as he has been blind since the age of 12. He often wears tinted glasses so it’s not always evident his eyes are closed. His performances are a masterclass in sharing the emotion of a song, with closed eyes.
To sum up, here are some final dos and don’ts to help you.
Do close your eyes to create drama and impact. Do let it happen when you’re in the zone, but don’t let yourself stay that way for longer than a few bars. Don’t use this as a means to cope with stage fright, there are better methods. Do enjoy the immersion that a few seconds of darkness creates, but don’t forget the audience is there. Do balance it with great eye contact and a confident gaze. Above all enjoy your music and work on using all the tools at your disposal to create a performance that’s unforgettable.
- Why do singers close their ears when singing?
If you’ve ever performed somewhere so loud you couldn’t hear yourself sing, you may have done this. By closing an ear, or cupping behind the ear, you are able to hear your own voice clearer than other singers, instruments, backup or extraneous noise. This helps with your pitch and tuning.
- Why do singers use headphones?
This is for the same reason as closing the ear. The singer can have their own voice redirected into their ear. Or they may want to have a particular part of the backing highlighted, so they can hear the melody and timing.
- Why do we close our eyes when we kiss?
While this topic might seem very removed, it’s actually connected. We close our eyes when we kiss, to be in the moment and create a sense of intimacy. Although, unlike singers, we also close our eyes because people look blurry up that close!
Do you close your eyes when singing? How do you feel when singers shut their eyes a lot on the stage? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.