Learning to take care of your voice is not always easy. Like most things in life, it requires patience and practice.
However, if you want to become a professional singer, you need to learn how to do it. You can lose your voice, and it can be devastating.
It can take months to make a full recovery, and during those months you may not be able to sing… at all.
The hard part is not so much the exercises themselves. It's taking the time to do them. For example, warming up before sets and cooling down after sets is not necessarily what you want to be doing, but it helps in both the short term and the long term.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with a few basic guidelines that will keep you from losing your voice while singing.
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Take Time To Warm Up & Cool Down Your Voice
Taking the time to warm up makes a huge difference. My band started doing this a couple years ago, and we all noticed. Our voices felt more comfortable, we sang with better pitch, and beyond that, it felt good to be all in the same room hanging out before a show.
It’s recommended that you take 20 to 30 minutes to warm up before a show, but realistically, if you can fit in a 10-minute vocal warmup, you’ll feel great.
On Spotify, type in “Vocal Warmups” and you’ll find a bunch of great options. Just try a few, and you’ll probably find a playlist of warmups that works for you.
Do these warmups standing up, with good technique.
Once you’re done vocal warmups, practice singing a song to a cello drone.
Figure out the key of the first song you’ll be singing, then type “cello drone” into Spotify. You’ll find cello drones for every key.
Sing through the whole song. You’ll find yourself singing with better pitch right off the bat.
After you’re done singing for the night, try not to strain your voice any further. Refrain from yelling or whispering. Try your best to speak at a normal volume, and if possible, speak less than you normally would.
You can even do a few cool down exercises:
- Go up and down a comfortable scale while trilling your lips.
- Move from your highest comfortable note on an “ahh” sound, down an octave and back up again.
Avoid Coughing, Whispering & Yelling
Coughing and whispering are very hard on your vocal cords.
Coughing makes your vocal folds squeeze and rub together. Whispering is more traumatic to the larynx than normal speech or even yelling.
If you’re sick, it can be hard to avoid coughing, and depending how your throat feels, it may be tempting to whisper, but the better move is silence.
If you are feeling unwell or your voice seems hoarse, just don’t talk until you do vocal warmups before the show.
Try swallowing instead of coughing. This can help suppress the tickle in your throat and potentially remove some mucus buildup.
You can also try coughing with your mouth in an “oooo” shape – this is supposed to be a less damaging way to cough.
Yelling can be hard to avoid in loud clubs. You need to talk to friends, fans, and people buying your merch. If possible, set up your merch in a quieter spot.
You can also request that the post-show music be turned down.
At the end of the day, just try to speak at a normal volume as much as you can, even if it means having to repeat yourself a few times.
Avoid Cigarettes & Alcohol To Minimize The Chance Of Losing Your Voice
Cigarettes and alcohol tend to go hand in hand with music, which is too bad, because they are both bad for your voice.
Smoking damages your lung capacity and your vocal cords. Particularly, it damages your high register. After a few years of smoking and singing, you can do irreparable damage to your voice.
It seems like a no-brainer, but it can be a hard habit to kick.
Same goes for alcohol. I think it’s probably fine to have a beer or two on stage with you, but I always think it’s better to refrain from drinking before shows.
If you must smoke or drink, try to wait until after you are done, and even then, be sure to have your voice in mind.
Don’t Drink Tea, Coffee, Or Cold Water Before Singing
Let’s start with coffee. It seems like a good idea – a little pick me up before a show – but it’s not. Coffee dries your voice right out. It makes it harder to sing and increases your risk of damage.
Many people think tea is a good alternative, but like coffee, tea contains caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, which is why it dries out your vocal cords.
Similarly, in a hot club, a cold cup of water feels great, but again, it should be avoided. Cold water increases tension which will reverse the effect of all those vocal warmups.
However, it is important to stay hydrated. You just need to hydrate with the right beverage.
A glass of room temperature water is ideal.
If you need something else or your voice is feeling rough, try a cup of warm (not hot) water with lemon and honey.
Both feel wonderful on your vocal chords, and it’s very tasty to boot.
Don’t Over-Sing – Get A Good Monitor Mix
If you have a bad monitor mix and can’t hear yourself, you’ll end up over singing. After a few nights of over-singing, you will notice it.
This was the primary reason my band moved to an in-ear monitoring set up in rehearsals and at shows. We all do our own monitors, so we can always hear ourselves.
When you can hear yourself properly, you will sing with better pitch, better technique, and you won’t be yelling.
Even without in-ears, just push the monitor tech to get a good mix. It just takes patience and a little negotiation.
Voice Losing Tips: Don’t Strain For High Notes
Hitting high notes consistently with good technique is hard.
Many singers develop very bad habits – straining their neck to hit high notes, yelling a bit, making their voice growl in an unhealthy way, etc. This is bad for your voice and can result in vocal nodes.
Try your best to sing from your abs (diaphragm) instead of your throat. Or, consider changing the key of the song.
Take Care Of Your Voice
It’s easy to forget that your voice is an instrument, because you use it for so many other things. However, like all instruments, it requires maintenance.
Following these guidelines is a great place to start.
Also consider taking complete vocal rest occasionally – literally not talking at all for a few days can do wonders for your vocal health.