By Cari Cole
Mama’s got a new vocal exercise series. And it is all about how to save your voice. Yep, that’s right. Save it, heal it, fix it, clean it, clear it, rescue it and get it baaaaaaack! No more losing your voice when you need it most. No more canceled concert, canceled tours, canceled rehearsals, canceled recording sessions or your voice punking out on you!
It’s a pretty constant challenge as a singer to stay in good vocal shape. Amidst touring, recording, promoting, it’s actually kinda easy to burn out. Especially when you don’t know the inside secrets on how to keep your voice healthy. Your vocal cords are pretty susceptible to inflammation and issues that stem from incorrect technique, dietary or lifestyle choices. Your voice is an instrument inside your body and it doesn’t take too much to mess it up.
Here are my top 7 Secrets of Vocal Rescue: How to Restore Your Voice and Say Goodbye to Vocal Problems Forever
1. Don’t Skip Your Warmups
Singers are like athletes or dancers. Except they are athletes of the small muscles of the voice and breathing. Which means, those muscles must be warmed up to get the most benefit in performance. Once your singing muscles are warm, they can function at their full potential.
And remember, warming up does not mean rehearsing your song. Warmups are a specific group of exercises performed in a certain order that opens and frees the instrument preparing you for singing.
Not trying to sell ya anything for real yo! Just letting you know if and when you’re looking for a killer warmup, that Mama’s got a great one for you.
“I have most all of the best vocal practice programs out there. Cari’s “Singer’s Gift“ is my go-to program every day – particularly before concerts. No other program gets my voice into its best shape so fast. In about 40 minutes, I have great power, dexterity, tone, and dynamic. I’ve used it hundreds of times, and I still love it!” Thank you, Cari!
Alyse Black www.alyseblack.com
2. Mark Your Voice At Rehearsal
One of my students recently danced with Lady Gaga. She said she was so blown away by her work ethic. How she warmed up religiously before her rehearsals right there on the spot while everyone waited for her. Then when the rehearsal started she exclaimed that she was going to “mark” her performance instead of sing full out. A vocal health technique, marking allows the singer to mark the notes without using their big performance voice, which is better to save for the actual performance.
Especially handy the night or day before performance, marking is a technique used by smart singers who want to sound great at their performances. Try it at your next rehearsal and watch your voice fly at your next show!
3. Condition Your Voice Post Performance
A little known secret used by celebrities and vocal legends is a technique called “Cool Downs.” Just like warmups open your voice for performance, cool downs condition your voice post performance. Singing an hour or two causes a bit to a lot of inflammation (depending on how good or bad your technique is), and swells your cords making it hard to sing the next day (or that night.) Cool downs are a series of exercises that reduce inflammation and condition your instrument keeping your voice healthy. It’s one of the most important things to do during tours to avoid vocal problems or issues. Cool downs can also magically be used to warm up if you struggle with general hoarseness or to thin your cords before warming up! My warmups actually have a little cool down in the warm up section for that reason, and they come with a cool down scale as a bonus. But realizing singers need a little more than one cool down scale to actually cool down, I added them as a 25 min set in my Vocal Rescue Kit so singers could benefit from them. More info here.
4. Stop Banging Your Cords Together
The most common debilitating habit singers do that damages their vocal cords is banging the edges of your vocal folds together. Typically called a “glottal” or “glottal stroke”, it’s when the singer squeezes their cords together (like a cough) usually on the onset of a phrase — and more so a word that begins with a vowel.
Listen to Adele’s “All I Ask”. On the first note listen to “I” in “I will leave, my heart at the door”… Do you hear the glottal stroke on the “I”? When that happens, the vocal folds rub together causing inflammation and irritation. While her technique has improved since her surgery she still rubs her cords together. You hear it again on the first note of the 2nd verse on the “I” … “I don’t need, your honesty.” It may sound good and kind of cool – but sometimes it sounds awful. She glottals well lol. However, if you have vocal issues, or even if you don’t, you don’t want to overuse them as they will cause vocal blisters which turn to nodule and will increase swelling at the folds which overtime makes a raspy or hoarse voice that is hard to control.
5. Stop Eating Damaging Foods
One of the toughest things about being a singer is that your voice sounds like what you eat (and drink.) Because your voice is housed inside your body, what you eat, drink and levels of health (or lack of) affect your vocal health.
Here’s my short list of foods to stay away from at least 3 days prior to performing. For important performances extend that to 3 weeks prior.
- Fried foods are a big no no. They immediately cause reflux which damages your vocal cords. Stay away from it at least 3 days prior to performance, and ditch fries on your next tour. Makes a big difference. I had a singer who always lost her voice on tour. She would treat herself to french fries and a beer post performance. All we did was take those 2 things away and she never had another vocal problem ever. Boom.
- Carbonated beverages. As I said above re: beer, extend that to sparkling water or any sparkling beverage. Nix them to keep your cords reflux free.
- Alcohol, especially hard liquor — kills your voice immediately. Best to steer clear. However a little white wine won’t kill ya, however it if you can nix it do. I just saw Adele at Madison Square Garden on the last night of her 6 night run. She sounded great but had been heeding that advice as she victoriously proclaimed she was going to enjoy a glass of wine that night after being wine free during her run. Smart girl.
- Acidic foods like marinara sauce, vinegar, orange juice,and fried foods as I mentioned above are super acidic and also cause reflux which burns the vocal cords. Best to stay away 3 days to 3 weeks prior to performance to avoid problems. Also avoid peppermint gum and chocolate (sorry!)
6. Quick Tricks to Better Hydration
Besides 8 glasses of H20 per day which is the obvious way to hydrate your voice, try chunks of melon in your water, a salad & a veggie juice a day, and steam a LOT. These are additional ways to get hydrated and keep your vocal tract moist.
More about that coming up in my Vocal Health book coming up in 2017 ;). Can’t wait to get all of this goodness out to you! Mama’s stoked! Try those tricks above — they WORK!
7. Quick Ways to Raise Your Immune System and Avoid Getting Sick
So if you’re one of those singers who gets sick a lot, you’ve got a problem with your immune system. And the good news is, you can boost it! No one should be frequenting antibiotics which kill all of your good defenses in your gut – there are alternatives and I talk all about that in my free Vocal Road Warrior 3-part series which you can grab here <link>. But truth be told, the sooner you raise your immune system, the sooner you stop canceling your shows and recording sessions. Yes?!!
Try these quick tips and see if you notice a difference.
- Take a liquid Vitamin D sublingually every day (best way for your body to absorb it quickly and if your stomach is messed up you might not absorb vitamins well.)
- B12 is a vitamin that performers go through quickly. A daily dose will relieve the stress and anxiety that accompany a performance career and keep your immune system functioning better. Also take a liquid B12 that can be taken sublingual for the best results. Be sure it’s made with methylcobalamin which is a plant source (not synthetic) and is much better absorbed and retained in higher amounts within your tissues.
- Organic Elderberry Syrup from Honeygardens is my go to immune booster. Super effective to help support the immune system, especially during the winter season or when experiencing stress. Combines organic elderberries with raw honey, propolis, and organic echinacea
Keeping your voice healthy is an art and Mama’s got it down to a science. From 30+ years of coaching singers and vocalists in New York City and helping them stay healthy on and off tour, if you’ve got issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Team for help.
Here’s to your big, beautiful healthy voice now or in the near future! You’ve got this!
For free stuff: Vocal Road Warrior: 3 part audio series on How to Stop Shredding Your Vocal Cords and Keep Your Voice Healthy While You’re Out Conquering Your Tour!
Or grab yourself Cari’s brand new Vocal Rescue Kit: A Complete Guide to Vocal Health & Wellness. Restore Your Voice and Say Goodbye to Vocal Problems Forever.