A small vocal self care routine can help you get through even the toughest performance schedule in Winter.
How can I look after my voice?
In these Winter months my singing students are always asking me how I manage to keep my singing voice healthy. I have to admit, at first, I was completely stumped! What do I do? Maybe I’m just really lucky, have good stamina and a healthy voice; seems unlikely! The more I thought about it, and the more chatted with my students, I realised that what I consider obvious, or do without even thinking about, are the exact things that my singing students are asking about. So after rattling my brain I came up with this quick and easy list:
Vocal Self care in 7 easy steps:
Drinking water regularly is the most important step in your vocal self care routine. As singers we require our bodies to be healthy and hydration is a big step towards that. Without enough water our voices can become dry, scratchy and a lot more effort to use, which can lead to vocal damage. I’m not talking about glugging down a litre of water before you go on stage! The key here is to drink regularly. It can take hours for your body to rehydrate if you have allowed yourself to get dehydrated. Get into the habit of carrying around a water bottle and sipping it throughout the day. I am lost without mine!!
This takes rehydration to the next level! Inhaling steam works wonders for tired voices. It helps with hydration, but it also helps massively, if you are suffering from a cold, to clear your sinuses. And on top of that it helps to relax the muscles in your face, neck and jaw which you use to sing. Steaming at night before you go to bed is a lovely way to bring your larynx back to neutral, it’s relaxing and hydrating. There’s a variety of steamers available; I use my trusty facial sauna, but you could just as easily steam over a bowl of hot water with a towel over your head. There are many options on the market. It depends on your preferences and of course your budget!
Now this one seems obvious but it is so easy to get swept along in a busy schedule when you’re singing every day and try to save time by not warming up. You’ll be fine for a while but it will catch up with you! Always take time to warm up your voice before a rehearsal or a performance. Unfortunately, some companies see this as a luxury for singers and don’t schedule a daily warm up into the rehearsal schedule. If this happens to you then come in 10 minutes early, even 5 minutes would do it and do your own warm up. It’s your instrument and your livelihood so look after it. When you’re singing every day you don’t need to be warming up and doing scales for 20 minutes a day! Just take time to warm up your body and then your voice. Run on the spot or do some star jumps and then do 5 minutes of sirens (a hum on an ‘ng’ sound up and down your range) and you’re good to go.
Everyone has heard of vocal warmups but not many people talk about “cooling your voice down”. I was never taught this in my training. It’s something I found out the hard way! When you’re singing every day then your muscles get tense. Gradually, your larynx can start to sit too high. This is bad news for your vocal health as everything else around the larynx starts to overcompensate. If left long enough, it can lead to serious vocal problems but can be avoided in one simple step: cool down your voice after a performance or rehearsal. All you need to do is some gentle hums or sirens from the top of your voice to the bottom. Simply put, the opposite to your warmup. It brings everything back down to it’s neutral position and leaves you in a healthy position to do it all again the next day.
Our bodies are our instruments. The better you feel physically the healthier your singing voice will be. I’m not just talking about working out either, a healthy diet goes a long way towards general fitness. I’m not suggesting daily trips to the gym and a diet of carrot sticks, unless that’s your thing! Keep everything in moderation, including your workout. If you’re on a tough show schedule then try something to balance that out like walking or yoga. Equally, if you’re standing and singing and then spending more time on a tour bus then maybe a gym trip is what you need. Everyone is different but a basic level of fitness will really help you maintain those healthy vocals.
Keep up the good habit of regular singing lessons. I know it seems counter intuitive to do even more singing but it’s when you’re at your busiest and tired that we get lazy. Bad singing habits are often formed when we’re really busy because we start to over compensate for our tiredness and that cold we’ve been fending off since last July! Squeezing in a few lessons with your teacher will keep you in good shape and away from bad habits, especially those old habits you’ve spent the past year unlearning. So book a few singing lessons here and there to keep you in check.
There’s nothing worse than trying to sing when you are so pent up and stressed that all your muscles are tight. Whatever works for you to come back down to earth, do it! Snuggle up with a good book and have a quiet hour, get a massage or watch the next episode or four of that Netflix show you can’t get enough of. Make time for you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! Our bodies are our instruments so take time out for you and relax.
So there you have it! 7 really simple steps that you can add into your daily routine to keep your singing voice healthy in Winter and throughout the year. I’d love to know what else you’ve found that works for you! Let me know in the comments.