5 Vocal Care Tips for Modern and Active Musicians
There are countless tips on vocal health, and many people have varying opinions on them.These are just a few that have aided me the most in performing often and at a high level of energy.
#1. Warm up dummy!
When I was a young and inexperienced vocalist, I never saw the point in warming up. I was in a pop-punk band...kicking ass, running around and causing general mayhem. Warming up would have just “cramped my style”. Then Springfield Missouri happened, It was probably only about 3 or 4 days into our run, the town was shitty and weird...but the show was packed and I was pumped and ready to roll. We started our intro and by the time the first chorus hit I knew something was terribly wrong. I was hoarse, unable to reach half the notes I normally did, cracked all over the place and my confidence was shot. Now, there is a handful of technical and scientific reasons these things happened, but long story short, I had not warmed up the nights before and had given myself a minor vocal injury from abuse. I learned the hard way so you don’t have to….just keep in mind that you look way more stupid butchering your set than you do warming up in the van ahead of time.
Common questions about warming up:
“How long before I play?” - I recommend 20 minutes prior to a short 45-30 min set. However, set length, the amount of vocal fatigue and even the weather can have and effect and needs to be taken into account.
“What the hell should I do to warm up?”- USE THE INTERNET. You will find an incredibly vast and diverse catalog of warm-ups there. Sometimes taking that sea of warm ups on by yourself can be a bit daunting, but I have faith in you! PHONE A FRIEND. There are plenty of professionals and private coaches willing to sit down and help you plan out a warm up routine that works for you and your style of music. It may cost you a small fee, but a couple bucks out of your wallet is a little less painful than a vocal injury.
#2. What you eat matters
As an avid and dedicated grilled cheese connoisseur, this one pains me often, It’s true though, no matter how much you want to deny it. If you wouldn’t want to dump it on your vocal cords, don’t put it down your throat. Dairy causes phlegm, spicy food may clear your sinuses but it’s a recipe for acid and that’s no beuno...same goes for fried food, chocolate and sugary foods. The heavier your meal before you sing, the more likely you are to experience gas and that’s just not cute into a microphone. That doesn't mean to cut out these foods all together, but you may want to limit them the days surrounding a big performance.
#3. What you drink matters
Wherever you go, you will hear competing opinions on caffeine and it's effects on the voice. Most experts have considered caffeine to be a diuretic.....
What in the name of Davey Jones locker is a diuretic?!?! well, to put it plainly, a diuretic is a substance that makes you pee more often meaning you can lose vital fluids and become dehydrated.This means, coffee, tea, soda and anything with caffeine is likely to dry you out. We need sufficient hydration when we sing to promote a healthy amount of mucus on our vocal folds. This mucus acts as a sort of padding to avoid friction and irritation between the vocal stuff ya got going on in there. Water is the best way to make sure the consistency of that mucus is A-Okay. Now, what kind of water you drink also matters, it's all about creating optimum conditions within your "instrument". Cold water has a pretty negative effect on the voice, think about what your internal body temperature normally is. Probably somewhere between 96-98F right? When your body comes in contact with something cold like...I don't know... a cold ass lake or something, what happens? You instantly start shivering, your body is trying to warm itself up! Drinking cold water is like pushing your sweet little vocal cords into the pool in the middle of November. They will seize up and be pretty pissed at you until they acclimate. Hot water is soothing but, not super easy to drink in large amounts...so I recommend stick to room temp.
#4. Chill the F%$k Out
Anxiety is something many artist face on and off the stage for many reasons. Anxiety can be a huge detriment to your vocal performance as well. Just like you shiver when you emurse yourself in super cold water, when you experience anxiety your muscles tense, you make even shake a little. Newsflash: your larynx are a muscle...they are in charge on lengthening and tensing your vocal folds. That means you need to keep them happy, and not limit them by seizing up those muscles. Got it?
#5. Don't Be a Hero.
There are two ways to get a one-way ticket to vocal injury. Firstly, singing without warming up and secondly, singing while you are sick. Your body is your instrument. You wouldn't continue to play on drum sticks that were cracked or a fraying guitar string would you? When your body isn't at 100% you can do more damage trying to power through. The best way to make sure you can perform is to take care of yourself... sleep, adequate nutrition and all that feel goodery. Avoiding sickness is better than pushing past it to a point of injury.