You’ve practiced for months, and you’re ready to share your music with an audience. But before you step on stage… did you know there are other factors that can affect your performance? Here, online voice teacher Tyler J. shares his tips for getting adequate sleep, what to eat before singing, and more…
Being a modern singer can place a lot of demands on the voice. For me, it’s often necessary to sing for two to four hours straight several nights in a row, or even rehearse for long periods of time. Whether you’re a hobbyist who simply loves to sing, a touring artist or band member, a local rocker, a Broadway star, an opera singer, or if you sing in a choir, you know the importance of having a healthy voice that’s ready to deliver an all-star performance every time. In addition to basic vocal health tips such as staying hydrated with at least 64 ounces of water a day, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and properly warming up, here are five things that may have an effect on your voice, for better or worse:
Are you getting a full eight hours every night? If not, you may be risking vocal strain and damage. Every night, our bodies require a certain amount of rest to recharge as well as relax, and by day we have to stay focused and energetic to perform. When your body is tired, your voice is tired too, and will be fatigued much faster. Singing while experiencing vocal fatigue will eventually damage your voice, resulting in a lack of clarity, loss of volume, and diminishing tone quality. So make sure to always get a full, restful night of sleep!
I’m sure you’ve heard it said before that “you are what you eat,” but as a vocalist, you sing what you eat, too! There are certain foods to avoid before singing, ones that seem to impact a singer’s voice more than others, including dairy, spicy foods, fried foods, and anything particularly fatty. Not only can they increase phlegm in your throat, but they can also cause vocal cord inflammation. Vocalists with acid reflux or heartburn should be particularly careful about their diet as well; stomach acid can wreak havoc on your vocal cords. As far as what to eat before singing, stick to fruits and veggies that are rich in nutrients, and lean meats that aren’t fried.
Coffee contains caffeine, and while caffeine has a pleasant way of “perking up” the day, it’s a diuretic, which means it’ll dehydrate you and leave you with dry, irritated vocal cords. I know it might be hard for many of us to give up our coffee habits, so if you can’t quit, you should make sure to drink a big glass of water with every cup to compensate for its dehydrating effect.
Clearing Your Throat
Sometimes when you feel extra phlegm in your throat (maybe from eating dairy or spicy food… see number two above) the natural response is to make an “ahem” sound and clear the throat. Of course it may work temporarily, but the actual action of clearing your throat requires that your vocal cords violently smack together! This will cause your vocal cords to swell and lead to a strained sound and vocal fatigue. If you feel as if you need to clear your throat out, resist the urge to do so and try an alternative such as sipping water or caffeine free warm tea. Personally, I’ve always found that drinking tea with a few drops of lemon juice does the job without causing any damage.
Every time I start working with a voice student, I insist that he or she starts a workout routine that includes full-body aerobic exercise such as running, swimming, or even walking at a brisk pace. Aerobic exercise not only builds a strong heart and healthy blood circulation, but it helps to expand the lungs and keep the airways clear. As singers we need our lungs to work for us, not against us, and you can increase your lung capacity by getting regular exercise. For best results, aim for getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five or six days a week. Your voice will thank you!
Overall if you take anything from this, the key factor is leading a healthy, active lifestyle. If you’re paying attention to what you are putting in your body and getting enough exercise and rest, you will be better prepared to practice, rehearse, and perform. Making healthy choices and getting instruction from a qualified vocal coach will undoubtedly help to keep your voice leaving audiences amazed, night after night.
Tyler J. teaches multiple styles of singing and guitar via online lessons. He recently earned a Master of Music in Commercial Music from California State University Los Angeles and can also help students with composition, music recording, and audio engineering. Learn more about Tyler here!
Photo by Maurice