1. Singers are Vocal Athletes! Yep. Your voice is made up of muscles, which means that it needs regular exercise and practice to sound good! And, just like anything else in life, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Amateur singers, sing as much as you can, whenever you can, finding creative ways to add warm-ups and song fests to your days. And you professionals and aspiring professionals out there know perfectly well that happily singing regularly, at least an hour a day, will help keep your voice in tip-top shape.
2. With singing, your body is not only your temple, it’s your instrument. The way you care for it matters! Good self care that includes nutritious foods, plenty of water, sleep, physical exercise, happy thoughts, etc. will help keep your body AND voice healthy.
This topic merits it's own blog, and having suffered from and cured many health problems through diet and lifestyle alone, I am passionate about and will definitely return to this topic.
But to keep things brief for now, let's stick to the simple stuff that we all pretty much know:
• Lots of fresh fresh fruits and veggies (organic or at the very least, non-GMO)
•Limited (if any) processed and prepared foods.
The best rule of thumb is to eat as close to nature as possible. Imagine bringing an indigenous tribe into your living room who has never previously had contact with our civilization. You show them a variety of the foods you have in your kitchen cabinet. If they wouldn't recognize it as food (as in, having come from the earth), then it's probably best omitted or minimized. If this sounds like a total drag, just remember, go easy on yourself, take baby steps, and yes, it is possible to retrain our taste buds!
3. Hydration is a singer's friend! Please, do yourself a favor and drink plenty of water! Your vocal cords AND your body need it to function well. It's the most natural way to hydrate, makes up 70% of our bodies, is the one thing that all life drinks, and is a part of all life as we know it. It grows our food, cleans our food, and is in our food. And it's one of the first things astronomers look for as a possible sign of life on other planets. Water! It's essential to life and does a body good!
There are two other beverages worth noting:
A. Alcohol dehydrates us, and causes the vocal folds to swell, so they don’t fit together properly (like two puzzle pieces soaked in water that won’t fit anymore). It also interferes with small motor movement, which with singing means you won’t have as much control of your voice. It could potentially be easier to injure yourself while singing (over-singing and not realizing it, etc) when drinking. This isn’t a moral statement. It’s just physically best to drink alcohol sparingly when singing, if at all, and drink water abundantly!
B. Bubbly drinks make you well, burp! And burping isn’t so helpful when singing. For obvious reasons, it’s therefore best to drink bubblies way before or after you sing :)
4. Be aware of acid reflux. It’s common among singers, and many don’t even know they have it until something really goes wrong with their voices. What is it? It’s when acid from the stomach goes back up the esophagus, coincidentally burning the underside of the vocal cords. As you can imagine, it’s best to avoid this experience altogether. How? Well, first of all, it helps enormously to eat alkaline foods, and not to eat heavy, acidic meals too close to bedtime.
Case in point: my boyfriend used to suffer from serious acid reflux, but for the past 5 or so years, since he started staying away from processed foods, plus adding kale, veggies, and other alkaline staples to his daily diet, he has not only felt better all the way around, but also has practically zero reflux! He now only experiences it when he strays back to his old ways (and I do my best to make sure we have plenty of delicious, nutritious options so that doesn’t happen!). Again, your body is your instrument, and wholesome eating is an important foundation for a healthy body and voice.
5. Singers are Vocal Athletes. We Warm Up and Cool Down, Yo!
Athletes or dancers warm up first, and vocalists do too. It’s so much easier, and you’ll sound so much better after you do! It’s also great to include a physical body warm-up prior to your vocal warm-ups, because like we said, your body is your instrument and we want it warm, pliable, and ready to go!
When you’re finished singing, it’s equally important to warm down. When you take your toys out to play with them, momma says put them away when you’re finished! For vocalists, that means that after your vocal muscles get all stretched and exercised, a few gentle sighs from high to low and some neck and face massaging can go a long way to helping reduce swelling and strain in your vocal cords, which will help keep your voice healthy and happy for a long time to come.
6. Take the Time to Explore and Understand BREATHING, i.e. BREATH SUPPORT, for Singing. Confusing though it may be, “breath support” is a term voice teachers throw around for a reason ~ because breath literally is the gas that makes your voice go! And for singing, using breath used effectively to fuel your voice is a like a car using high-test gas. You’ll get more bang for your buck when you sing!
7. Visualize the Vocalist that You Want to Be. Train yourself into a positive mindset. Learn from setbacks and keep going anyway. Use affirmations and visualization to get yourself where you want to be. Also, listen to the singers that you want to sound like. Really listen to them. You can’t make sounds that you can’t imagine or hear in your mind first! Listening to all the subtleties of tone, vocal inflection, dynamics, riffs, style, etc, will help train your ear to tell your brain to tell your body what to do. It makes a HUGE difference!
8. Keep Your Head Level While Singing. This goes for low, middle, and high notes. We tend to reach up with the chin and neck for high notes, and tuck the chin into the neck for low notes. Both of these actions crimp the windpipe hose, which means the sound can’t flow through easily. Practice in front of a mirror, or with your hand under your chin to make sure your head is staying level while you sing.
9. Raising Your Eyebrows While Singing is Not Helpful! It’s an external crutch for what should be happening internally. We want space and muscular choreography inside of your mouth and throat, and the eyebrows just ain’t necessary for this process.
Let me tell you, I got into the habit of lifting my eyebrows when I was very young, and boy, have I had a tough time breaking that habit! To my chagrin, I still raise my eyebrows all bleeping the time. I am determined to continue lessening this habit, but it’s totally easier if you never start it in the first place. Either way, just know that it’s completely unnecessary, and actually lets us know that unnecessary tension is taking place somewhere.
10. If You Want to Sing, You Should Sing! Singing is a primal, wonderfully feel-good, healthy activity. Yes, we are all born with varying degrees of natural ability and “desirable” singing voices. Nevertheless, even though most of us will never be the next Bruno Mars or Beyonce, there is so much that can we do to develop and enjoy our voices.
Do people stop playing sports just because they’ll never be Olympic athletes? Heck no! So why would we do that with singing? It’s just as healthy as playing sports! Plus, you’d be surprised at how much joy and satisfaction even a little progress can bring. Learning how to sing and simultaneously letting go of perfectionism are great places to start.
What it comes down to is, if you want to sing, then By Jove, SING! Perhaps you’re a wounded singer (meaning you’ve been hurt by criticism about your voice at any time in your life, and have avoided singing because of it). But if you're still experiencing a recurring desire to sing, then perhaps it’s time to let it go and do it anyway! Find appropriate, supportive places where you can receive good guidance and practice letting your voice fly to the winds, and in the great words of Nike, Just Do It!
I so hope that's all helpful and inspiring!
And now I'm curious... Are there other vocal tips that would make it into your Top 10 List? Or do you have other questions, observations, ideas? Let's keep this party going! Please share them in the comments below.
With Love & Om On,
•Singing When Sick: Want to know when it's safe and unsafe to sing when sick? I made these videos when recovering from laryngitis so you could HEAR what's safe and what's not, plus to give you the lowdown on healthy vocal and self-care when you're sick.
•FREE Guided Vocal Warm-up Tracks: In Video 2 above, I mention a guided vocal warm-up I've made for you. Can be used when sick OR healthy! Click here to download the VOCAL WARMUP MP3, along with the INTRO & EXAMPLE TRACKS - FREE VOCAL WARM-UP
•Wondering if you're tone deaf? Here's my blog on the topic (includes videos for more info): What If I Might Be Tone Deaf?
•What does singing have to do with "The Big O," plus many other health benefits? Reasons To Sing In 2015