In reading this Ten Commandments of Singing article, please bear in mind that I am neither a vocal coach nor an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT physician). The succeeding methodologies were merely lessons and hacks I developed for myself throughout my years of singing. Please proceed with caution and make sure to consult a physician to have your vocal health checked first.
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. These are the things that impelled me to write this blog post on the Ten Commandments of Singing: Tips for Vocalists and Aspiring Singers.
Before you know the top tips for vocalists and aspiring singers, read these:
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.
Hence, 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 resilience and brilliance in singing.
The coolest thing about singers is their ability to make music without actually needing a musical instrument. Such capacity should be honed and fortified through time. Consequently, maintaining their “instruments” is not as daunting as you would if, let’s say, you have a saxophone or cello.
But, here’s the catch: when singers neglect taking care of their “built-in instrument”, they might lose it for good.
In order to help singers, particularly the new ones, to preserve the integrity of their vocal cords — their bread and butter — I will answer the following questions, which I often get from my fellow singers.
Where exactly is your 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.
Every singer should know these basics so they can preserve their voices, hopefully, for the rest of their lives. And the ultimate way to do it is by abstaining from abusive and stressful vocal activities.
What does your body have to do with your 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 your voice box, the larynx, which you use to sing beautiful notes, you will also need your body to do the rest of the work.
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 physique strong enough to resist sicknesses that affect the way you sing, making you fit to perform anytime and in any condition.
Do I have to be picky with the stuff I eat and drink?
There are some food products and beverages which are not good for singers. 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.
Top Tips for Vocalists and Aspiring Singers
To make it easier for singers, like you, to remember what to do, I came up with my top tips for singers, like you! Feel free to jot them down as you read on:
1. Follow a vocal warm-up routine and abstain from abusive vocal activities
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.
Prevention of vocal abuse is the rule of the thumb. Accordingly, singers should vocalize at least ten (10) minutes before singing.
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. Eat healthy and maintain proper nutrition (one of the underrated tips for vocalists and aspiring singers)
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 any stressful situations. And as a singer, you would need that kind of body — one that’s always in great shape 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 level is able to keep the body resistant to common ailments that can ruin your performance such as common colds, fever, or flu.
3. Get enough sleep (Yes, among the underrated tips for vocalists and aspiring singers!)
One of the most important tips for vocalists and aspiring singers is to get enough sleep. Most experts say that we should get at least eight hours of sleep for better performance. 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 can possibly get.
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 much greater degree than speaking. When you sing, they vibrate and exert more.
Sleeping adequately will replenish your energy and allow your body and vocal cords to rest. Now, if you are sleep deprived, 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. Be careful on what you drink
Part of these tips for vocalists and aspiring singers is a discussion on nutrition. With this, it couldn’t be emphasized more that alcoholic beverages, ice cold drinks, and caffeine-rich concoctions are the top three things avoid.
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 a myth. It even makes your throat dry which might initiate vigorous coughing and pressure that can cause more trauma to your vocal cords. So, if you’re serious with singing, get rid of these now!
Meanwhile, drinking ice cold drink is like torturing your vocal cords. Too much cold will cause the blood vessels in your vocal cords to constrict, preventing the much needed blow to flow on it. Also, cold beverages can stiffen your vocal folds, consequently decreasing the elasticity they need to vibrate properly.
Finally, 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. Accordingly, vocal coaches strongly encourage singers to stop drinking caffeinated drinks.
5. Avoid 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. These are all mucous-forming delights, my darlings. And you wouldn’t want too much mucous in your throat and vocal cords as it would surely prevent you from singing at your best. But more importantly, mucous secretions can accumulating in your throat and might cause irritation that can lead to throat inflammation.
6. Exercise regularly (one of the underrated tips for vocalists and aspiring singers as well)
Okay here’s what most singers don’t know about: once you go onstage, you don’t just sing — you perform your heart out and communicate with your audience. A singer is an entertainer as well.
You should give every song number, especially the upbeat ones, your very best. Consequently, there will be times when you have to dance and move a lot.
No matter how long or short your song numbers are, it is important to develop stamina to stay energetic on stage. And you can only do that by keeping your body physically fit and healthy. So, exercise!
7. 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 a lot of vocalization routines available on the internet. Or better, consult a professional vocal coach for guidance.
8. Use proper breathing techniques
Learning proper breathing techniques is one of the top tips for vocalists and aspiring singers that will help you boost your singing or vocal power even more.
Basically, singing involves good airflow control. Airflow to and fro your lungs is maintained at a steady pace. With this, you will sound stronger and more consistent.
You can always browse Youtube for pertinent information. There are tons of video tutorials there on proper breathing techniques utilized by popular singers and vocal coaches.
9. Avoid singing and performing during sickness
“The show must go on!”
No, not really.
Yes, all singers and performers know that by heart.
However, this should not be the case when they are overly sick.
Performing onstage during a period of illness will take its toll on your health. It will make it more difficult for you to produce your usual singing voice.
In occasions when you have colds or severe flu, you tend to exert more in order in singing. This is dangerous as it will surely strain your vocal cords. Inevitably, you will have to cancel your gig or performance.
Cancel?! Yes, dear. If you have taken care of yourself in the first place, these will not have happened. Oops…
10. Always give your 100%
You will not be able to give your fans or audience a good show if you lack self confidence. Make sure you give your EVERYTHING in each performance, as if it is your last. Give the best show your audience deserve with this mindset!
Follow these tips for vocalists and aspiring singers and you’re good to go
These practical tips are sure to aid you in your singing journey. Share this using the social media buttons found above and below this post.