Have you ever had the dream (or nightmare) that you receive a call from a well-known conductor to sing your dream piece of music with mere hours of notice? Should that call come, would you be ready? Are you prepared to sing your best on a daily basis? The answer for most of us is no.
The Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared, influences millions of individuals the world over. You may have noticed, I’m not male, but the lessons Scouting teaches are applicable to the daily lives of singing musicians.
Here are a few ways to stay in best voice every day, not just for the Big Day.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! A fully, fluid, filled singer will not need to pull water from the most delicate tissues for vital body processes. The adequate water supply keeps mucus thinly flowing over vocal folds, pharyngeal surfaces, and nasal passages. How much water you need varies with the season, humidity, activity level & physiology. A good place to start is 4 quarts/ liters per day for an adult. Yes, you will need to use the facilities more often for the first few days, then your body adjusts to the new normal. Caffeine caution: as much as I adore my morning coffee – it does NOT count toward my water intake for the day. Some pedagogues will instruct that all caffeine is anathema to professional singing.
2. Warm-up every day! Play with your voice! Discover and appreciate the changes you hear & feel. Remember to start with moving your entire body to release muscles & joints and remind your system of what it needs to do to sing efficiently. Breathe! Breathe! And Breathe! Then add sound to breath. Rhythmic unvoiced consonants are great for connecting abdominal control to articulators. Add descending, imprecise pitch exercises to the mix in hums or sighs or open vowels. When things feel and sound good – start specific patterns in similar arc to what you did immediately before exploring the entire range. If more practicing is on your agenda, go for it. If it is not a rehearsal day, your warm up session is a great self-diagnostic tool. If something isn’t working as well as usual, evaluate the situation & make your adjustments.
3. Practice – or not – that’s another day’s discussion!
4. Cool down! A good physical trainer at your gym will encourage you to relax and stretch the muscles you used. The minuscule muscles of the larynx deserve the same treatment! Humming and sliding coming back to center. Breathe! Hydrate!
5. Rest! Recover! Shut-up! 🙂 Allow the vocal folds that you have worked out extensively need time to release residual swelling resulting from both impact and sheering forces on edges as the vocal folds come together during phonation. For every hour of athletic rehearsal, you may need 2 hours of silence to recover. Healthy, flexible, well hydrated vocal folds bounce back more quickly!
Of the tips on this list, the Cool-down and Recovery time are the most often skipped by singers of all ages. If you want to sing your whole life long, these few things can help you sing better & longer.
Be Prepared to say YES!