The Ten Commandments of Singing: Tips for Vocalists and Aspiring Singers
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 body 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, am not really good at it!)
Questions Fellow Singers Often Ask Me About:
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 make 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 Has 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 on 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.
Lip Trills Rock!
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.
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.
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 in a greater level than in 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 on What He Drinks
Alcoholic beverages, ice cold thirst-quenchers, and caffeine-rich concoctions are the top three things you must avoid drinking regardless whether you have an upcoming performance or none. You might ask, “Why not?” Well here are some pertinent answers for you to ponder on:
- 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.
- 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 much 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 on 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. In 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 deserve.
Before you leave, here's something the author would like to know.
Do you find the above-mentioned tips useful?
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 such 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.