Vocal health and fitness are two incredibly important things to pay attention to when you begin your vocal journey. There are many rules you’ll need to follow if you want to stay fit for performance.
If it hurts don’t do it! This may seem simple and obvious but many people develop habits that can be very harmful to their voice especially when attempting high pop music. Many famous singers such as Sam Smith, Adele, Meghan Trainor, and Justin Timberlake have developed problems that were serious enough to need surgery (source). This is from improper technique and overuse. Now if you’re famous then you can afford to fix these issues though I’m sure it is still an unpleasant experience. Avoid anything straining and stop singing when your voice gets tired or hurts.
Drink a lot of water! The vocal folds need proper moisture to be able to work without causing injury. Drinking water as you’re singing or right before isn’t enough. You need to stay hydrated throughout the whole day. Authority Nutrition recommends using the 8×8 rule, which is 8 glasses of 8 ounce glasses per day. Others recommend halving your weight and drinking that many ounces. You also want to avoid things like soda, acidic or sugary juices, alcoholic drinks, tomatoes, spicy food, and some people say milk. Acidic food and drink cause acid re-flux and heartburn issues while singing, and dairy can cause extra phlegm to build up in the throat. If you are drinking while singing drink room temperature water so that your voice stays warm and loose. Try not to drink too much though because it can wash away important mucus that your vocal chords need to protect themselves.
Be mindful of your speaking voice. Believe it or not but speaking can actually be more strenuous on your voice than singing. A lot of singing habits are built while you talk. Something called vocal fry is common in many people. Vocal fry is that low crackly part of your voice that you feel in the top of your throat and happens to most people in the morning or when your sick. It is one of the most damaging things you can do to your vocal folds and will make all singing really tough on you. Try doing high sighs and yawns in the morning if you start to feel that fry creeping in. Or just try speaking in a high part of your voice and it should start to mitigate. Avoid shouting and raising your voice for extended periods of time. Parties and concerts are the worst times to talk to people. If you are in a job that requires a lot of talking make sure you’re breathing well because it will help you stay in good vocal placement and save those chords!
Take a break from vocal activity. Many singers will take a vocal rest period for a day or so where they avoid talking or singing all day as best they can and just let the vocal folds recover. That way they can rebuild themselves and be in perfect singing shape.
Practice makes permanent! When you practice make sure you are practicing every thing with good healthy technique because if you have practiced one part over and over in an unhealthy way then you will be singing that part unhealthily over and over. I’ve never liked the phrase practice makes perfect. Instead it should be perfect practice makes perfect.
Breathe! Practice breathing. Focus on good posture and breathing in a way that expands your rib-cage. Nothing too high so that your shoulders move or too low so that your belly looks pregnant. If you’re having trouble with a part of your music and it feels stressed or pained then try adding more breath you’ll be amazed at how many things it can help.
Exercise! This one might seem unnecessary but singing requires a lot of fitness. You need to develop lung capacity so that you’re not getting out of breath while on stage or wherever you are performing. Having your body in shape will help you keep your stamina while you’re performing so that you can do those long performances.
Practice, practice, practice. Make it a habit to sing every day at least 30 minutes each day and you’ll start feeling all those benefits quickly and maintain all your good vocal habits that you are working on. It is okay to take a day off every so often of course but if you stop for too long then you’ll break the habit.
Use these rules and I promise you that you will start to notice a big difference in your voice and even your overall health. Singing is not just about impressing your friends or becoming famous but it is a way of life! Singing leads to happiness, healthiness, and spreading joy and emotion to all those around you.