We all know there’s no such thing as a vocal “cure all” that will instantly make you a great singer. Learning some vocal technique and theory can help you get better with practice, but these sorts of skills take time to master. Let’s say you wanted to help make yourself sound as good as possible as quickly as possible– what would you do?
Here’s three suggestions that are easy to tackle and yield clear results fast.
Drinking water is one of the easiest things you can do to make your voice feel and sound best!
When you sing (and talk, and produce any vocal sound at all), the “flaps” of your vocal folds come together and vibrate. (Here’s a video model!) Though most people with a basic singing background are familiar with this concept, they don’t realize that the tissue of the folds themselves isn’t what does most of the vibrating. The vocal folds are covered in a thick mucous membrane. Being a liquidy substance rather than a solid wall of muscle, this layer of mucosa is able to vibrate more freely than the folds, assuming it is properly hydrated and equipped.
Drinking more water helps produce adequate mucous, literally making phonation easier! It can also clear phlegm out of the throat for a clearer, freer sound, and help you cope with sore throats and illness. Just drink water!
Lack of sleep can have full-body consequences, especially when it comes to the brain. Singing is a full-body activity that requires a lot of concentration, alertness, and attention– all of which sleep deprivation impairs. You see the problem.
Singing is difficult. Singing is active, and requires active thought about a lot of different factors at once. Am I hitting the right notes? Am I singing the right rhythm? Am I supporting the sound with enough air? Is my posture supporting good singing? Am I projecting well enough? When you’re not actively thinking while you sing, chances are, you’re not singing all that well. When you don’t have enough sleep, your ability to be attentive to and juggle all the different considerations of sound production is severely compromised. No matter how well you think you function on minimal sleep, your brain is biologically impaired without it– and you just can’t concentrate on singing that way.
Singers also tend to run into sleep deprivation problems during production week, which is especially troublesome. Rest is when the body repairs itself. If you’re using your voice strenuously at rehearsals and then not sleeping enough to recover properly, then you’re putting undue strain on your voice. This can make phonation feel physically difficult, or like singing is requiring a lot more effort than you’re used to. This is a sign that your vocal folds are fatigued and need a good rest!
If you were looking for an excuse to sleep in before all of your shows, there you go!
3. Warm up consistently
Many performers warm up in some form, but far fewer think about warming up as actively and productively as they should.
Think of warming up like getting ready for the day– you need to go through a proper series of steps before you leave the house. Get out of bed, put on your clothes, handle your basic hygiene. You can stretch this process out with makeup or a morning workout or whatever you choose, or you can minimize it if you’re in a hurry. But no matter what, there’s a few things you absolutely just have to do before you can get out that door.
Warming up should take the same form: a daily, repeatable routine, that you can alter flexibly according to your needs and mood. Emphasis on daily. Instead of “cramming” your warmup in the hour before you perform like you’re studying for a test last-minute, work your voice a little every day no matter what your plans are so you’re totally ready when it comes time to perform.
Incidentally, your morning routine is a great time to warm up, because speaking can actually be somewhat traumatic on your vocal folds first thing in the morning. This goes double if you need to wake up and go to a job that requires being heard, like teaching.
Everyone has different warm-up needs, so find the routine that works for you. What’s important is that you stick with it and do it as close to every day as possible. You’ll hear and feel a difference very quickly!
Pssst! Wondering how to warm up best? Lucky you, I wrote a whoooole article to be your new favorite guide!