Whipping Your Voice Into Shape in 6 Easy Steps

By Cari Cole

From 3 decades of coaching singers in New York City, with clients ranging from Grammy winners to rock legends, to tens of thousands of independent and emerging artists, it’s my job to build strong and free voices — and keep them that way!

I love helping singers at all levels free their voices so they can go sing to the world. Quite frankly, I love my job. Especially now. Because after 30 years, I’ve seen it all and all of my students have taught me how to fix pretty much any problem instantaneously. That makes what I do a lot of fun, and incredibly satisfying. Early on in my career, I had to work harder to figure out the right solution. Now I’m there. It gives me great pleasure to help YOU get there better and faster.

So I wanted to put together an easy to follow 6 step system to help you, my beloved readers, whip your voice into shape too. I hope it helps you grab the controls, and find what you are dreaming of!

 

How to Whip Your Voice into Shape in 6 Easy to Follow Steps: 

 

1. Daily Practice & Habits

It starts with your daily practice. This is where you will find the gold you’re looking for. This is where you will develop your voice and find real vocal consistency. Your daily practice should consist of vocal exercises that open and free the voice while warming it up. Try our Singers Gift Warmup Exercises that are designed to do just that. We found that too many warmups on the market wear out the voice instead of warm it up. Our warmups have helped thousands of singers open up their voices resulting in stronger, more powerful performances. Our warmup set also includes post show conditioning exercises (Cool downs) to keep your voice healthy on tour.

EASY-TO-FOLLOW ACTION STEPS:

1 – Vocal Exercises. First find a vocal exercise program that you like (ours is recommended above.)

2 – Vocalize Daily. We recommend to practice vocal exercises 5 x per week for 30-40 minutes to get the full benefit and free your voice. Start with 3 days and move towards 5 ;).

3 – Daily Rehearsal. Besides your daily vocal practice, we recommend a daily practice of 30 – 45 minutes of singing through a set of songs to strengthen your performance endurance. If you are a touring singer there is no need to rehearse outside of your regular rehearsal or show. As a touring singer, you need to rest your voice whenever you can – but warming up and cooling down are the keys to your vocal longevity on tour.  

Tip: Consider getting a “vocalizing buddy” to check in with every day after you finish your vocal exercises. You can also track your practice with a GSheet or on your calendar so you can stay accountable.

 

2. Releasing Tension in Your Instrument

One of the biggest problems singer’s face is mounting tension in their vocal instrument. Almost everyone, given the structure of our alignment, has tension in the neck and shoulder area which constricts the vocal muscles from operating freely. This alone can cause vocal problems. Add to that singing day after day without ever releasing those muscles and you have a problem.

If you are experiencing vocal fatigue or are losing your high notes you have tension in your vocal muscles ~ guaranteed.

The two best ways to tackle this tension build up is by going for regular massage (see action steps below for complete instructions) and doing yoga at least 2 days per week. Some of my students go for massage every week if they can afford it until their voice is better, but every 2 weeks or at least once a month will sometimes do the trick. It depends on how bad the tension is. Here in NY we have a vocal masseuse who specializes in vocal massage and TMJ therapy: www.lifelightmassage.com. For those of you outside of NY, we recommend seeing a masseuse, physical therapist and/or acupuncturist who has experience with singers. Ask them to help you release tensions in the jaw, tongue, neck, throat and diaphragm muscles.

Along with massage to release your muscle tensions, you’ll want to do a few yoga sessions per week which will help to maintain the work of the massages, and work towards a freeing up your voice.

Tension in the muscles of the vocal instrument will severely constrict the vocal instrument and impair your ability to sing. Overtime these tensions can lead to vocal problems.

EASY-TO-FOLLOW ACTION STEPS:

1 – Find a masseuse, physical therapist or acupuncturist that has experience working with singers (or is highly recommended.)

2 – Set up a massage every 2 weeks until you feel vocally better. May take 3-4 sessions to do the trick. Then be sure to go once a month for maintenance and to tackle ensuing tensions that build up.

3 – Find a yoga studio that you like near you, or a yoga class online that you can do at home. If so, get a yoga mat ;).

4 – Go to yoga twice a week for 1 hour. Continue going to yoga as a regular practice. Yoga will keep your body freer of tension and help you avoid vocal injury.

 

 

3. Vocal Conditioning Exercises

Lots of folks don’t realize there is such a thing, but there is. There is a set of exercises we use to help singers condition their voices, reduce inflammation and recover from a night of singing or from hoarseness or loss of voice. We call them “Cool Downs” and they come with our Singers Gift Warm Ups.

EASY-TO-FOLLOW ACTION STEPS:

1 – Practice Cool Downs post show to keep your voice healthy.

Cool downs are Gee-ee-hee-ee-hee in a descending scale i.e:  3-2-2-1-1 or E-D-D-C-C.

Sing them smoothly (not choppy.)

Start at a C below high C and descend in half steps to the bottom of your range.

Then for the next set, start one half step above the C and descend again.

Cool downs are always performed in descending scales and at a light-moderate volume (not loud).

You will notice your voice feels lighter and freer after 10-15 minutes of cool downs.

Note: You can use Cool Downs at the top of your warmup if your voice is raspy or tired to hit refresh.

If you’d like to follow a pre-recorded Cool Down exercise, grab a copy of our Singers Gift Warmups which come with Cool Downs.

 

4. Voice Building Regimen

Besides warmups and cooldowns, in order to free your voice, you want to build a higher level of vocal strength. The stronger your voice, the freer your voice will feel ;).

The best way to do this is to practice voice building exercises.

EASY-TO-FOLLOW ACTION STEPS:

1 – Purchase the Horatio Connell Master Vocal Exercises book. Do #1 – 38. These are the exercises that I’ve used to build some of the greatest voices in the world (and tens of thousands of singers) with.

2 – Practice your voice building exercises every day you

Note: If you want to learn these exercises and get all of Mama’s amazing vocal techniques, consider joining us here.

 

5. Stop Shouting

Did you know that your speaking voice can ruin your singing voice? Well it can. It’s not uncommon to find that singers speaking voices are the root cause of vocal problems (among others.) Talking too loudly puts undue pressure on your vocal cords and can cause hoarseness and other stubborn vocal issues.

Plus, did you know that vocal health is a result of healthy living, healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle? While it may not sound very rock-n-roll to stay hydrated, eat healthy greens and get 8 hours of sleep, sigh… it’s true that the healthier you are, the healthier your voice is.  

EASY-TO-FOLLOW ACTION STEPS:

1 – Speaking Volume: Don’t whisper, but don’t shout. Avoid talking loudly (especially over loud music) as it can ruin your speaking voice. Speak at a light to moderate volume and place your voice higher in your mouth out of your throat to alleviate stress.

2 – Vocal Health Regimen: Eat healthy i.e.: lots of fresh greens, salads, veggie juices, lighter foods (avoid heavy meats and dairy which clog your system); sleep 8 hours; avoid hard alcohol (destroys your voice) and acidic foods; do yoga and workout to keep your body healthy!

 

6. Maintenance Regimen

Now that you have the routine to whip your voice into awesome shape, you want to implement maintenance.

The best way to do that is with the following easy-to-follow action steps.

EASY-TO-FOLLOW ACTION STEPS:

1 – Vocalize 5x per week to keep building your voice.

2 – Get a massage (or physical therapy / acupuncture appointment) once a month to whittle away tension build up in your voice.

3 – Warmup and Cooldown to keep your voice in awesome shape.

4 – Do yoga to keep your body freer of tension build up, at least twice a week on a regular basis will do the trick.

5 – Stop shouting. Monitor your speaking voice, speak at a moderate volume and move your voice placement a little bit higher into your mouth and out of your throat.

6 – Practice self-care. You know by now that tension is the enemy of singing. So add a little self-care into your weekly routine to help you cope. A bath with epsom salts, drop a little lavender essential oil on your pillow at night to sleep better or practice meditation ~ goes a long way to alleviate day-to-day stress that sneaks up on you!

 

I hope this helps you step into your vocal freedom with ease and speed!!

If you’re looking to be guided through this and get some kick-ass accountability… check this out: