Tips from the Teacher
The day of a big performance is coming up. You've been working so hard.... aaaaand when the performance comes, you don't sing your best because your voice is just so tired! This is the worst! If this happens to you, don't fret. I'm about to give you some tips to avoid vocal fatigue and keep your voice in tip-top shape.
1. Use Good Technique!!!
Maybe this goes without saying, maybe it needs to be said more often. Using good technique is essential for avoiding vocal fatigue! When you use the natural resonating cavities of your head to build your sound, properly raise your soft palate and modify vowels when necessary, and use your breath to create your sound, you have a much better chance of avoiding vocal fatigue than if you don't do these things. Good. Technique. Is. Essential. This cannot be said enough! A soft palate that is not properly raised when necessary and poor breath support are common culprits of vocal fatigue.
2. Don't Over-Sing and Do Take Breaks!
Like any part of your body, you can over-use your vocal folds! So, don't. If you're not accustomed to singing for many hours a day, don't do so suddenly. If you know you have a festival or other event coming up in which you'll be required to sing for much longer than normal, begin early to condition your voice to prepare. If you normally sing for one hour a day, bump it up to an hour and a half, then two, two and a half, etc. Make sure your voice is used to singing for a certain number of hours in the day before increasing the time. Take breaks whenever you need them. Don't sing for three hours straight. Your vocal folds need rest, just like any other part of your body does! Breaks are your friends. When you're taking vocal breaks, rest your voice completely by not talking or talking very little during the breaks, if possible. These breaks could be a ten minute break between two half hours of singing or could be a three hour break between two hours of singing. Find the breaks that work for you and love them!
3. Always Warm Up Your Voice! Always!
Your vocal folds (cords) are like any other part of your body- if you're going to use them a lot you HAVE TO warm them up gently and gradually or else they can get fatigued, sore, or even injured. Lip trills are my favorite way to warm up my voice because they're gentle on the vocal folds and help me connect to my breath.
4. Keep Your Voice Well-Hydrated
Water is a singer's best friend. Actually, it should really be everyone's best friend. Depending on your weight, you should actually be drinking between approximately 64- 100 ounces of water each day (8-12 ish cups). Well-hydrated vocal folds are happy vocal folds. When you sing, your vocal folds come together and apart very quickly- sometimes hundreds of times a second! This can dry them out, so keeping them well-hydrated is super helpful in avoiding vocal fatigue!
5. Sing in a Space that is Big Enough for Your Voice
When we practice in tiny practice rooms our voices tend to work harder than they have to in order to create the amount of sound we're used to hearing ourselves produce. If you have the option, choose to warm up and practice in a bigger rather than smaller space. The ring of the bigger room will help you get the sound you want without having to push your voice.
6. Don't Push Your Voice
Everyone's voice is unique because all of our bodies and personalities are unique! This also means that two people may not necessarily naturally produce the same volume of sound. This is okay and good! If your voice is naturally on the softer side, don't try to make your voice perform like a dramatic voice! This can quickly cause fatigue and over time can cause real damage to the vocal folds. The purpose of singing is not to make the most amount of sound possible, though today, many people believe this and strive for this. There is value and beauty in all sorts of voices. Don't push your voice. Please.
7. Don't Try Too Hard to Blend
Of course, blending in an ensemble is important for overall ensemble sound quality. However, if blending comes at the expense of your voice it is absolutely not worth it! Some singers, especially developing singers, have a hard time blending their voices in the extreme parts of their ranges. Don't force the blending. The director of the ensemble can move your position in the ensemble to change the ensemble blend. You can also mouth the words without singing them if there are certain spots in the music in which you find particular difficulty blending. There is no shame in this. I have done this plenty of times! Trying too hard to blend by sacrificing your technique will absolutely cause vocal fatigue.
Take care of your voice, and your voice will take care of you! As you implement these tips, you will have greater vocal stamina and will be able to perform at your best! Plus, when you sing it will feel good because of the resonance you create and you will hear that you sound so good!