By Cari Cole
You’ve got a great gig or an important recording session. You’ve warmed up, downed a boatload of water, stocked up on 5 kinds of throat spray, gargled with salt water and honey a million times (and mistakenly swallowed some .. gross.) You’ve stayed home while you’re friends were out having fun, abstained from alcohol and pizza, crossed your fingers & toes, prayed to the archangels (whether you believe in them or not), and basically wrung yourself into a ginormous knot from the anticipation of whether your voice will make it through.
You’re hoping you’ve got this one nailed because there’s a lot riding on this and secretly you’re a little scared sh**tless. Because no matter what remedies you’re working, tactics you’re trying…. even when you did absolutely everything right, your voice still gave out on you from time to time. Totally sporadically. What if it decides to now?
It’s so mysterious. Why can you sometimes sing perfectly well and other times, no matter how much throat syrup you toss back, you still end up hoarse and raspy or not able to deliver the way you should when it counts the most.
Nothing sucks more than having your voice punk out on you midstream of a precious recording session you saved your precious moula for… or at a special gig when everyone important is there and you need to sound your best, or just secure your job and not get fired. And no matter how well you cover up, it’s downright annoying and even embarrassing when you can’t control the beast that is your voice.
But it doesn’t have to be.
30 years and basically 45,000 voice lessons, vocal recording and arranging sessions later… I’ve figured out a thing or two about how to get your voice sounding great time after time. There’s a path and a science to it.
Here are my Top 10 Vocal Performance Health Tips that are guaranteed to keep you from losing your voice.
Water, water, water… You can’t get too much of it (well you actually can, but it’s tough to do.) Concentrate on 8-10 glasses a day to stay hydrated. Keep in mind that the more raw food you eat (salads, fresh veggies and fruits) the more water content you’re taking in. I was on a raw food diet for about 3 months straight and my skin and voice were never so hydrated. I wasn’t drinking that much water, it was the water in the food that was keeping me so hydrated. We are what we eat.
Veggie juices also fall under the hydration category.
As well as brothy soups (not cream or tomato based).
Sometimes sleep is different from rest. Nothing steals your vocal endurance and clarity like a lack of sleep and stress that eats away at your center. The best solution I’ve found in 30 years is to meditate. But not just regular meditation which can cause stress. Transcendental Meditation is a specific meditation that drops cortisol levels 30% in just one meditation (your stress hormone.) Right away with this technique, the body starts to heal deep stress. It’s particularly helpful for anxiety, stress-related illnesses, PTSD and heart disease. I highly recommend it for performers. You’ll have a better voice and give better performances as a result.
3. Warm Up.
Nothing beats warming up the right way. Too many singers either belt at the top of their lungs (to see if they can hit those high notes) or warm up singing songs – which basically just wears you out and long-term, creates vocal problems. Think of an athlete warming up for their big race. Do they sprint as hard and fast as they can to warm up? Um, that’s just a case of shin splints. They do the right guided exercises, in the right sequence they learned from their coach, to get the most out of their muscles. Click here for the best warmups on the planet.
4. Cool Down.
Wanna know for sure that your voice will be golden for tomorrow’s show after tonight’s? Wanna go on tour and know that you’ll not only crush it, but so will your voice? Cooling down is a way to condition your vocal cords and reduce inflammation after a big performance. Used for singers on tour, this alone can keep you from developing vocal problems when executed after every show. We think cooldowns are so important we throw them in as a bonus exercises on our Singers Gift Vocal Warmup series.
5. Over Prepare.
Don’t kid yourself. Over prepare. For real. Contrary to what you might think, you can’t prepare enough. Here’s my paraphrased quote from the famous classical guitarist of his day, Andres Segovia about practicing:
1 day of not practicing, and you know it. 2 days your fingers know it, 3 days your audience knows it.
Give yourself the chance to really strut your stuff. Daily practice is the key to stellar performances and standing ovations.
6. Don’t wear out at rehearsal.
Careful not to exhaust your voice at rehearsal. It’s super easy to over sing and blow your voice out for your performance. Pro’s keep their volume down at rehearsals – especially the ones that are close to performances, as a way to monitor their endurance. For those that have trouble doing that, try using Hearfones or have the band play to your vocal track ;). Works like a charm!
7. Foods to stay away from.
As a singer, you have to be careful what you eat, because the wrong foods can cause vocal problems before your big show. Problems like excess mucous and/or dryness (sometimes you can have both at the same time), loss of high notes, a bumpy break area, or notes cutting out on you can all be caused by eating the wrong foods. I’ve developed what I call the “3 Day Rule.” For 3 days prior to performance stay away from these foods to keep your voice strong and resilient. For tour, stay away from these foods the whole tour and your fans will be singing your praises.
8. Performance Anxiety.
A little anxiety pre-performance is normal. Debilitating stage fright is not. A little anxiety is usually the reaction to the increased adrenalin pumping through your body preparing you for performance. Learning to breathe and slow down your breath helps, but you should just roll with it as fighting it just makes it build. For those of you who have more anxiety and struggle with stage fright, don’t be embarrassed, it happens to big stars. Usually, those people have a more sensitive nervous system and there are several techniques to help. One of them is performing a lot, and another is using homeopathic remedies to help combat the nervousness. Thinking positive is the best advice as usually stage fright-ers focus too much on what could go wrong and actually manifesting a negative mindset and experience.
Your state of mind can easily affect how well you perform. Again, use the athlete scenario. Athletes are hip to how much your mental outlook affects performance that they study this stuff. Think of the Olympic Skating competitions. Notice how once one skater falls, they all are rattled and fall like dominoes? That has nothing to do with their talent, it’s all mindset. Henry Ford said it best “Whether you think you can or think you can, you’re right.” The best advice I can give in a nutshell is this: See yourself performing well. Visualization is a powerful tool to direct your mind to optimum performance. Spend time every day (20 min) visualizing yourself performing well. See the crowd responding, visualize yourself singing your butt off and hitting those high notes with ease and freedom! It makes a difference – something the difference.
10. Extreme core vocal technique system.
If you really want the ultimate preparation, something that makes your voice ROCK SOLID, then you’re a candidate for our Extreme Core Vocal Technique System that builds strong, resilient and powerful voices that don’t wear out and even excel over time (instead of losing quality.) It’s our Core Voice Building Technique developed from Bel Canto (classical Italian singing) that I have tweaked for the contemporary Pop, Rock R & B contemporary singer. If you want to have an amazing voice, you’ve got to train right and with the right system. It’s not just about warming up. It’s about building an instrument that will go the distance. So many artists come to me after singing professionally for a long time that never had this kind of training and what’s so exciting is that in a few short months, their voices are glowing! Previously only available in my private 1-on-1 sessions, this system is now accessible in my very popular Vocal Freedom Circle (lucky for you we’re just about to start up our next run!). Click here for a phone consult.