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Top 10 Tips for Vocalists and Aspiring Singers

Tina, known as "the singer nurse," is a law student and rule of law advocate hailing from the Philippines.

Singing in one of my band's (AMIHAN) rock gigs. Photo taken at Cafe Arabiscato, SSS Village, Marikina City

Singing in one of my band's (AMIHAN) rock gigs. Photo taken at Cafe Arabiscato, SSS Village, Marikina City

Becoming a vocalist is not as easy as it seems. Behind all the spotlights and cheers from fans comes tons of hard work achieved only with tedious and constant perseverance. A good singing performance is not something acquired just by throwing a coin in a wishing well. It entails a lot of practice, patience, and preparation on the part of the singer/performer.

Just as writers use their pens, papers, or laptops to weave ideas into words, singers use their entire bodies to make music. While their voice and vocal cords are the primary sources of their musical sounds, still, it would be valuable to know that a singer’s performance is highly dependent on overall use and care of his body. That is why it is a must for every professional and aspiring vocalist alike to take great care of their entire physique if they want to acquire the much-needed resistance and brilliance in singing.

The coolest thing about singers is their ability to make music without actually needing a musical instrument (guitar, cello, piano, and the like) right at hand. Such capacity should be honed and fortified through time. Luckily, what a vocalist ought to do in order to improve and preserve his singing power is never expensive and difficult to accomplish. All you need is 99 percent dedication and one percent sticky perspiration. (Sorry about the pun, I am not really good at it!)

Laryngoscopic view of the vocal cords.

Laryngoscopic view of the vocal cords.

Questions Fellow Singers Often Ask Me About

Here are a few common questions I've been asked.

Where Exactly Is the Voice Coming From?

The vocal cords are located within the larynx and considered the primary source of voice production. These vocal folds are joined with each other by an attachment site formed from the union of arytenoid and cricoid cartilages.

Air passing through them makes them vibrate, thus, producing sound. Upon knowing this indispensable role of the vocal cords, every singer should be focused on preserving their integrity. The ultimate way to do it is by abstaining from abusive and stressful vocal activities.

What Does My Body Have to Do With My Voice?

You might think that your voice and your body are not connected, but in reality, they are. As a singer, you have to take care of your physical well-being as well. Aside from specific organs, you use to produce voice, sing and perform, your entire body serves as your ultimate barrier and gear against external entities that can cause diseases.

Illnesses such as colds, flu, cough, and infections can gravely affect your voice production as well as your entire body system as a whole. As you maintain a sound physical health, you’re guaranteed to sustain a body strong enough to resist any disorders and fit to sing anytime and in any condition.

Why Do I Have to Be a Little Picky About What I Eat?

Basically, if you are a singer there are some food products and beverages which are not advisable for your consumption. These foods, which will be mentioned as you read further, can cause dehydration or increased mucous production, which can be very hazardous for you and your singing.

As a Singer, What Do I Have to Do Now?

Here is some practical advice for singers which I acquired from years of experience, research, and learning from my own singing endeavors and other vocal coaches and mentors. I love calling them my very own Ten Commandments of Singing. Feel free to jot them down.

The Ten Commandments of Singing

1. Thou Shall Follow a Vocal Warm-Up Routine and Abstain From Abusive Vocal Activities

Rationale: Singing without warming up, shouting on top of your voice, talking without rest, and other similar deeds are some of the many detrimental practices most singers do with their voices. These will cause too much pressure and strain to your vocal cords which can jeopardize the integrity of their membranes. Periodic exposure to these activities can also lead to inflammation or formation of nodules and polyps, which are common causes of temporary or permanent loss of voice.

Remedy: Prevention of vocal abuse is the rule of the thumb. According to the expert vocal trainer Vocal Coach, singers are required to warm up their voices at least ten to twenty minutes before doing an actual singing performance. Basically, there are a number of vocal warm-ups singers could use to prep up their voices.

Personally, I find doing lip trills the most useful. This technique cuts my warming-up time in half in situations when I have to urgently perform onstage. Also, it is very helpful whenever a piano or pianist is nowhere to be found, which makes it impossible for me to proceed with traditional warm-up exercises. I can also conveniently do it whenever and however I want it to be during my trip to shows and gigs.

On the other hand, you also have to allot some time to allow your voice and vocal cords to "recharge" and regain strength. You can do it by dedicating at least two days of rest in a week to let your vocal cords relax from your week-long singing engagements.

And lastly, avoid talking too loud. Make sure to speak in a properly modulated voice and permit rests in between speeches or conversations.

Singers should eat healthy.

Singers should eat healthy.

2. Thou Shall Eat Healthy and Maintain Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition enables you to acquire the needed energy, vitamins, and minerals to maintain strength, improve immunity, and ward off disease-causing pathogens. A properly nourished body is something that can endure or withstand any stressful situations. And as a singer, you would need that kind of body that’s always in its perfect condition to give every show your best and total performance.

Meanwhile, singers should also consume vitamin C-rich food products. Vitamin C boosts your body’s immunity. An immune system operating in its optimum defense and response mechanisms is able to keep the body resistant to common ailments such as common colds, fever, or flu. The absence of these common illnesses ensures you a great and hassle-free performance all the time.

Singers need enough sleep. Preferably, at least eight hours.

Singers need enough sleep. Preferably, at least eight hours.

3. Thou Shall Get Enough Sleep

Most experts say that getting at least eight hours of sleep is the “universal rule” for everyone. While other studies show that the number of sleeping hours necessary can vary from one person to another, one thing’s for sure—you should have the most meaningful sleep you should be getting. One technique to know if you’ve had complete sleep is when you wake up feeling delighted and energized. It’s like waking up on the right side of the bed.

So the question now is, “why do singers should get enough meaningful sleep”? Remember that when you sing, you use your vocal cords at a greater level than on occasions when you use them just for doing usual talks or conversations. When you sing, they vibrate and exert more. Just as how the body recharges and repairs inconsistencies through rest and sleep, the same mechanism applies to your vocal cords as well.

In addition, you always have to remember that your body functions in conjunction to your singing. If you are deprived of sleep, your body lacks the necessary energy to focus and respond to singing and breathing techniques. The inability to execute proper singing methods due to lack of focus and energy deprivation can jeopardize your overall performance.

Sleeping is free so why not take full advantage of it?

4. Thou Shall Be Careful About What He Drinks

Alcoholic beverages, ice-cold thirst-quenchers, and caffeine-rich concoctions are the top three things you must avoid drinking regardless of whether you have an upcoming performance or none. You might ask, “Why not?” Well here are some pertinent answers for you to ponder:

  • Alcoholic beverages are composed of strong chemicals which can damage the mucosal lining of your internal neck structures, particularly your throat and vocal cords. The belief that having a little “shot” of whiskey before proceeding on a performance makes you perform better is never true. It even makes your throat dry which might initiate vigorous coughing and pressure that can cause potential trauma to your vocal cords.
If you're damn serious with your singing, get rid of those beers and liquors my dearies...

If you're damn serious with your singing, get rid of those beers and liquors my dearies...

  • Drinking ice-cold thirst-quenchers, whether it is water, juice, or any other fluids, is like torturing your ‘vocal instrument’. Too much cold will cause vasoconstriction to the blood vessels of your vocal cords which, in turn, will make them restrained or stiff; thus hampering the innate stretching capacity of your vocal cords. And as you try singing in this condition, you are just putting your voice into grave danger.
  • Too much caffeine is a no-no to every singer because it causes dehydration which pulls off the needed moisture away from your vocal cords. In turn, this would make them viscous and inelastic which limits their vibrating capacity during singing.

5. Thou Shall Not Consume Dairy Products, Milk, Chocolate, or Any Sweets Before an Upcoming Performance

As much as possible, singers should refrain from eating and drinking too many sweets, chocolates, milk, or dairy products. Wanna know the common denominator of all these food? Well, these are all mucous-forming delights my darlings. And you wouldn’t want too much mucous in your throat and vocal cords because it would surely prevent you from singing at your best. Moreover, mucous secretions accumulating in your throat might also cause irritation which can lead to infection or inflammation.

6. Thou Shall Engage to Regular Exercise

Okay here’s what most singers don’t know about: Once you go onstage, you don’t just sing. You communicate and perform. If you’ll be up there just to render some tunes, your audience should have stayed home and listened to a radio instead. If you want to be a singer, you have to be an entertainer as well. On every song number, you should execute everything at the topmost performance level. That means there would be times when you have to dance and move a lot.

No matter how long or short your song numbers are, it is very important to develop stamina to stay energetic on stage. And you can only do that by keeping your body physically fit and healthy. Moreover, physical exercises are good ways to warm up before a performance. You don't necessarily have to be going to the gym. You can simply do some routine brisk walking or jogging every morning or afternoon. Just see to it that you maintain an active lifestyle.

7. Thou Shall Have Constant Singing Practice

Engaging with constant singing exercises and routines not only makes you ready for any short-notice performances. It also keeps your vocal cords healthy by strengthening them with progressive vocal exercises. There are so many voice exercise routines available on youtube and elsewhere on the internet.

However, while they are all proven effective, their efficacy is relative to each individual. If you wish to know what vocal exercise or routine would work best for you, it’s very important to consult a professional vocal coach for lessons or guidance.


8. Thou Shall Use Proper Breathing Techniques

Employing proper breathing techniques and exercises would help you boost your singing or vocal power even more. Primarily, singing is highly dependent on how much control the singer can provide to his airflow. When this flow of air is maintained at a steady pace, the singer’s vocal tone would be stronger, smoother, and more consistent.

To have an idea of how these breathing exercises and methods are done, you can always browse the internet for pertinent information. There are lots of video tutorials on Youtube about proper breathing techniques utilized by renowned voice teachers and singers alike.

9. Thou Shall Not Sing and Perform During Sickness

“The show must go on!” Yes, all singers and performers know that by heart. While it’s admirable for a singer to push himself to the limits, however, it’s not always the case especially if you’re overly sick. Like in my personal experience, I don’t perform when I am sick or have colds. And I advocate such practice to all my fellow vocalists and singers.

Performing onstage during a period of illness will not only jeopardize your performance but your health as well. If you experience even minor disorders which involve your airways or throat, it could be very difficult to produce your usual singing voice. On occasions when you have colds or severe flu, too much pressure would be required in order to fulfill the ‘duties’ of singing. This should not be the case because it would surely put your singing voice or vocal cords at risk.

Moreover, performing while you’re severely ill will greatly affect your level and manner of singing and performance. And your inability to execute your act well on stage will surely disappoint your audience. It could also ruin your reputation as a singer especially if you’re sickness has made you squeak or prevented you from reaching your usual high notes.

Instead, it would be better to just cancel a performance. On the other hand, the best way to prevent all these from happening is to make sure that you maintain a healthy body and lifestyle.

10. Thou Shall Always Give His 100%

While it is important to abide by the former nine “commandments” of singing, a confident and perseverant disposition is still what you need after all. Make sure that you give your EVERYTHING in each performance that you undertake as if it is your last. With that mindset, you’re guaranteed to give the best show your audience deserves.

These Tips Worked for Me; I Hope They'll Work for You, Too!

The aforementioned methodologies were my collection of valuable vocal health tips and lessons I have acquired through some years of experience as a singer. I recognize that I am not an expert in this field and that I still have so many things to learn about. Nonetheless, it won’t hurt to share these ideas with my fellow vocalist or singers. They worked well for me, so I thought it might just do the same for others.


Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on March 08, 2016:

Thanks for reading!

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on March 08, 2016:

Indeed, Rose. Thanks for reading my hub!

Kaeden on February 21, 2015:

You put the lime in the coucnot and drink the article up.

Rose Winebrenner on September 16, 2014:

Thanks for all of the singing tips! It's amazing how much vitality and good health one must have in order to sing well. And I totally agree you in regard to dedication. Singing is something that much be done almost every single day, if any improvement or even maintenance is to be had in the vocal ability.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 30, 2013:

How did I miss this marvelous hub of yours? So pleased to have found it. You have nailed these 10 commandments! Bless you for this gift of knowledge - a gift for all vocalists.

I will be happy to share this with the vocal community and link it to my new website. I've voted up, useful, awesome and interesting and am pinning.

Big hugs to you ~ Audrey

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on March 17, 2012:

Wow! I know you'd carry on becoming the best tenor and singer in town! :) I wish you all the best in your endeavors. Learning proper singing techniques, indeed, takes a lot of time and effort. In my opinion, it would be great to take one sure step at a time. I hope I can hear you sing one of these days. And thank you very much for dropping by this hub. I am very much humbled to know that you find this hub useful. :)

johnnymnemonic on March 16, 2012:

A very useful hub, especially to me, an apprentice tenor for singing musicals, though I have no chance of giving up chocolates. :-) And I can't get my instructor to teach me more than a day weekly; he's got a lot going on all the time.. Just hope I can get all the training I need by divine transference! :D

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on February 29, 2012:

Since you're gonna make use of your voice in speaking in dates, I must say doing lip trills, indeed, is a very good prep. Lol. Thank you very much for taking the time to read. :)

Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on February 29, 2012:

Very fun hub Tina, I look forward to the lip trills. Should be good preparation for dates as well as singing. =:)

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on February 23, 2012:

Hi James! :D

It just goes to show that you take great care of yourself and that you have acquired the stamina singers achieve only through years of discipline. Maybe you can share some advice for your fellow singers and instrumentalists too, in a hub perhaps? :)

Thank you for taking the time to read. I really appreciate it. :D

James A Watkins from Chicago on February 23, 2012:

You give very good advice. A lot of rock singers break every one of these rules. I never once missed a show, whether I was sick or not. I think I performered in front of a paying public perhaps 3,000 times.

Great Hub!

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on February 23, 2012:

I'd definitely check out that video epigramman. Maybe early morning tomorrow as I do my freelance writing work. :D

That was so coincidental! I would love to travel and stay for a while in countries with snow. As you know, all we have here in the Philippines are summer and rainy seasons since ours is a tropical archipelago. :D

epigramman on February 22, 2012:

....yes funny you say that - after going out on my deck just a half hour ago I thought to myself I wonder if Tina has ever seen or walked in snow - it's quite pretty actually but my two cats seem to prefer inside on a night like tonight - I accepted your invite request with much happiness of course and I dedicated a video selection to you by someone called Joan ....... lol - do you know who it is? Hope you like it. lake erie time 9:11am

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on February 22, 2012:

It's half past 9:00 here in the morning. Indeed, what a small world. It's good to hear that she's part of the group as well. Oh, and by the way, I requested to join your circle of wonderful music and cinema enthusiasts. I hope you'd accept me in as soon as possible.

Take care my friend and keep warm amidst the snow. How I wish we had something like that back here. :D

epigramman on February 22, 2012:

....Good Morning my favorite singing nurse and yes what a small world - we are referring to the same person as our vocal coach here at the Hub is Audrey Hunt - it was his birthday just the other day too - and she just joined my FB group that I was referring to in my fan mail to you - have a look at the group - it's link is on my homepage via Facebook and I would love to see you there because I think you could bring a lot to the group with your love and passion for music (and film and art and also of your very own precious culture)

have a great day and keep in touch - it's 8:20pm and there has been quite a bit of snow - I like 100 feet or so away from lake erie (which looks like an ocean and the other side -47 miles away is the U.S.A.)

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on February 22, 2012:

Thank you very much for taking the time to read epigramman! :) It was hard collating all the wonderful ideas and experiences I had over the years, but it was all worth it. I am always happy to share what I know about music to other people.

If you would recall, I have mentioned a VOCAL COACH in this hub as well. I credit her for the knowledge I recently acquired regarding the ideal duration of vocal warm-up exercise employed for singers/vocalists. Maybe we're referring to the same person or hubber. I love Ms. Audrey - everyone does! She's a brilliant voice teacher and expert who has dedicated her life honing the craft of singing while sharing them through her lessons and writings. I have enjoyed and learned a lot from her hubs!

I'll be checking out your fanmail shortly Sir. And thanks for calling me the "renaissance woman", though I'm just an ordinary young lady who loves trying new stuff and enjoying music to the fullest.

Take care! :D

epigramman on February 22, 2012:

...what a wonderful labor of love this is - truly world class in every way because of your passion and dedication to your craft ...... I would highly recommend you to check out another hub buddy of mine - her hub name is VOCAL COACH and she literally is a vocal coach - lol - so I think you will be able to enjoy some of her hubs - I do admire you though for your ambition and drive in following your dreams in modeling and singing while keeping down a steady job as a trained nurse - you truly are a renaissance woman and a very beautiful woman at that - hope you can find our group at FB as I have sent you an invite through your fan mail - so nice to meet with you and warm greetings and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 4:21pm

Tina Siuagan (author) from Rizal, Philippines on February 22, 2012:

Thank you very much for reading healthwriterbob. I am glad you find it useful, Sir. I still have so many things to learn. But for now, I'd be very delighted to share these things to my fellow aspiring singers and vocalists.

Thank you for dropping by! Have a great day!

healthwriterbob from United States on February 22, 2012:

Hi singernurse,

Very entertaining and informative hub. The tips you give for singers are applicable to the rest of us as well. Voted up and useful. Sharing with my followers.