By Cari Cole
Over the past 3 decades of coaching singers, working with every kind of voice possible – from established, to beginning, to burning out — my primary focus has always been to build a strong resonant voice, free from tension, able to deliver powerfully over a busy touring schedule and to keep you in the ring. To help you build a voice that won’t wear out when you need it the most.
And you would think that in every professional vocal training this stuff is a part of the pedagogy, but from what I’ve seen there are 2 camps most techniques reside in. What sounds good right away or what sounds good over the long haul. I came from camp 2. My mentors had a strong vocal pedagogy — the best I had ever seen, and I studied them all. It was the only technique that actually built a voice from the ground up that released deep tensions while building a strong foundation. I was IN. And over the past 3 decades I’ve refined and improved on it to the point that I can turn around issues and problems faster than most any other coach I know. It’s a powerful place to be in my career, and I just want to share what I’ve learned with as many singers as I can reach – to help them free their voices and deliver their magic to the world.
The keys to a powerful voice that won’t burn out are really about your foundational vocal technique. Without a strong professional technique, you’ll easily burn out at the most inopportune times.
Here are the 5 Keys to a Powerful Voice That Won’t Burn Out. I hope it helps you free yours!
1. A Vocal Technique That Builds From the Foundation Up
If your vocal technique exercises don’t strengthen you, something’s not right with the technique itself. A good vocal technique builds your voice, from the foundation up or onto an existing technique. A good vocal technique will correct problems and issues like nasality, throatiness, and overall poor technique. It lowers the tongue, raises the palate, improves resonance, improves diaphragmatic breathing, helps you master breath control and vocal placement. It increases your overtone series which develops tone and power. As you practice technique you should feel improvements in all of these areas. If not then you don’t have the right technique or the right instruction.
Tip: When you practice vocal technique, don’t sing loudly. Save that for your performances. Vocal technique is best practiced at a moderate volume as this improves technique and precision.
2. Releasing Tensions Inside the Vocal Instrument
Imagine an athlete running a race without stretching their legs? They won’t perform at their best and most likely will end up with shin splits and injuries. The same applies to your voice. You are an athlete of the small muscles of the voice and breathing. Your voice is made up of the muscles of the tongue, jaw, larynx, soft palate, diaphragm among others. But these muscles are the most important to be stretched out before you sing and in daily practice to ensure vocal freedom and to avoid injury.
Tip: Stretch your tongue and jaw daily.
Tongue Stretch: Stick your tongue out and down towards the floor. Take 3 breaths and stretch further on the exhale. Then reach up to the roof of the mouth with your tongue and open your jaw as far as possible.
Jaw Stretch: Slowly open your jaw as far as possible (without tensing it.) Take a deep breath and open a little more. Slowly close your jaw. If you feel clicks or pops, go SUPER slow so it doesn’t click/pop. If you go slow enough – and I mean micro slow — you’ll be able to do it. If you still click/pop, visit Feldenkrais exercises for the jaw for more help (Google tutorials on YouTube.)
3. Daily Habits & Practices
The most important thing you do as a singer is to develop daily habits & practices and a daily vocal technique regimen. This is where you will experience radical results.
Practice technique for 30-60 min daily. Even 20 minutes is better than none. Work it in and make it non-negotiable. Your voice will love you for it ;).
Sing songs daily for 30-60 minutes daily. Even 20 minutes is better than none. Work on pitch, phrasing (rhythm), feeling and delivering more emotion. Incorporate vocal techniques you are working on into your singing practice as well.
4. Diet & Nutrition
Diet and nutrition plays a big role in the singing voice. Like an athlete, what you eat and how strong your nutrition is will affect your instrument.
Tips: Eat more fresh (not processed) foods. Fruits and veggies, fresh salads and fresh juices will improve the water content in your body and rejuvenate your voice. Stay away from processed foods (the middle aisles of the grocery store), and heavy meats and dairy are acidic and stress the body’s systems. They also contain chemicals, antibiotics and such which make the body work harder to process stealing your energy and vitality. Also add supplements (organic preferred) like B12 (with methylcobalamin vs cyanocobalamin which the latter is synthetic and not effective) for maximum energy and stress reduction. Take D3 to keep your immune system up and avoid colds and upper respiratory issues.) These are only a few of the many supplements that help singers, but are a good start!
5. Physical Strength & Stamina
A strong body is a strong voice. A healthy body is a healthy voice. Weight lifting (strength training), yoga, and aerobics are the 3 keys to build a strong body to support your voice. They are all components you need and compliment each other. Strength training is important to strengthen your muscles, yoga is important to release tensions that can result in injury, and aerobics are important for cardiovascular health and wind/breath. The ideal weekly regimen would be: 2 days of weight lifting, 2 days of yoga and 2 days of aerobics!
Tip: Be sure to stretch before and after weight training to avoid injury and tight muscles which can constrict your vocal instrument.
I hope this helps you commit to your vocal practice and blow people (and yourself) away with your voice!