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Vocal Health

Vocal health is very important when it comes to singing professionally but especially when it comes to practicing. Part of practicing good singing technique is practicing good vocal health. 

Like any other instrument, your voice will have wear and tear over time from extraneous use so one of my main pieces of advice is to listen to your body and listen to your voice. Does your voice sound tired? Does it hurt when you sing? Can you not easily sing notes that were easy the day before? All of these are important questions to ask if you find yourself struggling practicing at home. If the answer to any of those questions was yes, then you need to alter the way you are practicing that day so your voice will have a chance to recover. Now some people will say that you need to immediately stop sing and stop talking all together in order for your voice to recover. While there is merit to this thought process, it’s not always necessary to push it to that extreme. This idea of “vocal rest” is for extreme cases but for most cases there is a way for singers to modify their approach to singing in order to sing in a healthier way. 

A couple tips I have to sing in a “healthier” way include;

Check your posture

Posture makes up more of a singers instruments than most people believe. I try to stray away from the word “straight”. There is no such thing as perfectly straight posture because your spine and your body is not perfectly straight. There is a slight “S” curve in your spine that you can align to have good posture. Always check that your shoulders are not too far forward or too far back as that will throw your posture out of alignment. My go to saying is “feet are about shoulder width apart, shoulders are back and relaxed (saying “back” because most people tend to have their shoulders too far forward so they have to bring their shoulders back farther than they think), arms should fall naturally to your sides, head should naturally be able to roll around with little to no tension”. Another phrase I will throw out is “think tall, think proud”. If you imagine yourself the worlds best singer standing on a stage getting ready to sing, how are they standing? Elevate your body to that level and you will be surprised at how much your posture will change!

Breathe, breathe, BREATHE

Breath, I believe, is another underrated thought when it comes to singing. You need a nice, well supported, energized breath in order for your voice, or any instrument for that matter, to thrive. Your breath comes from the diaphragm, a muscle that sits sort of in the middle of your torso right above your belly. It controls your breathing and because its in your “belly”, that is where your breath should be coming from. It’s common for people to take a big breath to lift up their shoulders and suck air through their nose or mouth but doing this while singing will create way too much tension and throw your posture off. A well supported breath will generate from the diaphragm and you will see your stomach move out as you breathe in, and because your diaphragm is a muscle, you should feel it contract and your stomach should almost flex with it (like you’re flexing your abs). Once you learn “diaphragmatic breathing” the rest should be a by-product of good posture. If you have an aligned body then none of your airways will have tension so you are able to take a better breath. It is also very important to use that breath to “energize” your sound. You should never sing anything without taking in enough air, It’s like driving a car that doesn’t have enough gas to get to your destination. Learning to control that breath energy is a vital part of any practice session. 

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

An important part of healthy singing is pacing yourself. You don’t want to go all out and sing as loud as possible especially if you’re vocally compromised. I always tell students to think of singing from 1-10 (1 being not singing at all and 10 being literal screaming). Performance singing should always be around a 7 while rehearsal singing should be around a 5 or 6. If you are vocally compromised or vocally unhealthy, your singing should be no higher than a 4. This is where the technique of good posture and good breathing come to play. By focusing more on the tips above instead of trying to out-sing those around your voice will be able to repair existing damage while still being used in a healthy manner. I compare it to nursing a broken leg. You won’t be able to run a marathon on a broken leg. You have to take care of it and put your weight on it little by little until it’s healed. The same can be said for singing. You cannot sing a vocal marathon with a compromised voice. 

Hydrate and SLEEP

Like any illness or injury, it’s very important to get enough sleep. Sleeping allows your body to physically shut down so it can repair itself from the previous day. By robbing yourself of sleep, you’re robbing your body a chance to fix itself. Hydrating is also very important when it comes to singing. Water is, without a doubt, the best way to hydrate your body for singing. Anything with caffeine or too much sugar will dry out your vocal cords and leave you to work that much harder to produce a good sound. It’s also important to take water in little by little throughout the day instead all in at once. That cause you to be fatigued and bloated which is never fun when you are singing. 

Basic Tips

These are 4 basic tips for vocal health but it is always an ongoing discussion so I always suggest asking your teacher for advice or input if you think something is not going well! Communication is also vital when it comes to vocal health. Let your teacher or a director know you’re vocally compromised and they will work with you to find a solution! -Stephen Ball