Real World Vocal Health for the Studio

Posted by on Aug 20, 2012 in How To's, Recording, Studio Advice | 0 comments

I’ve been singing for over 18 years.  How well is a matter of subjectivity.  I’ve also never had a professional vocal lesson. While I whole-heartedly encourage every aspiring singer out there to consider finding a vocal coach to guide and challenge you, coaches are not for everyone.  So much GOOD information is available on the internet that anyone could achieve acceptable results ‘teaching’ themselves.  However…

… as with everything on the web, there is so much BAD info that can be misinterpreted or misused that your singing career could very easily be ruined before it begins.  For those of you serious about careers in singing, stop reading right now and go find a vocal coach.  The rest of you, I’m going to lay out a guide on getting the most out of your voice, at least for your next studio visit.

Diets for Better Vocal Health

This is one area you can research and trust most of the information and advice you find on the net.

  • stay away from salty/fatty foods
  • stay away from caffeine
  • don’t over eat
  • don’t let yourself go hungry

While this is good advice, what you CAN do is a little less clear.  While it’s ideal to follow a strict athlete’s diet, is that really realistic?  Not likely.  Chances are you’ll have coffee in the morning, fries for lunch, or an extra slice of pizza for dinner.  That’s what I’d do at least.  And that’s okay.  The best rule of thumb is moderation.

Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind while you’re exercising moderation AT the studio…

  • stay well hydrated with room temperature fluids.  Hot or cold makes singing harder.
  • eat juicy fruits and vegetables. They give you energy and hydration all at the same time.
  • try grazing or eating small bits all day long.  Almonds, apples, baby cucumbers.
  • avoid creams, cheeses, soy milks, or any of that other good stuff.

To get you READY for the studio, try these out…

  • the brits have it right… a balanced, bland meal is the best thing.  Meat proteins, whole grains, veggies and dairy.  Fish and chicken is best.  You vegans and vegetarians know your substitutes, but everyone should avoid too many servings of dark greens…  gassy in the studio does nothing good for ANYONE!
  • if you’re eating out anyway, try fresh food places instead of deep fried or exotic foods.  The fat and salt content can really kill a voice in the long term and spices play all sorts of havoc.  The burn is for a reason, as good as it is.

When it comes to dieting for the studio, that’s really it.  Moderation is the key.  Your body is a wonderful thing and really can recover from almost anything if you don’t abuse it… much.

Exercise, Exercise, Yeah Right!

For best vocal performance, treat your body like a temple.  Or better yet, treat your body like a pro athlete.  Or if you’re like me, imitating Mark Miller (Sawyer Brown) on stage was never a high priority.

The truth is, some really gifted singers never exercised a day in their lives.  Still, good vocal stamina has to come from somewhere right?  Here are a couple of simple things to help build and maintain vocal stamina…

  • learn to do vocal warmups.  Grab an instrument and sing along, quietly at first getting louder as you warm up.  Don’t have or play an instrument?  Download an app on your phone or computer.
  • practice breathing deeply and slowly.  Try to push yourself to breath deeper, just don’t over do it and pass out.  Try to breath deeply AND quietly.  Singing is all about breath control, so controlling the noise you make while you breath is great practice.
  • sing while you move around.  This will vary the strain you put on your breathing and force you to control it.  Again, this is all about breathing control.

Smoking & other Inhalants

There are a lot of overblown myths about smoking and the effects it has on the voice.  The truth is every person reacts to it differently.  Of course, being a non smoker (of anything) is a better lifestyle choice for personal health, but some of you smoke.  Ok.  Smoke.

My advice is don’t stop smoking for the studio.  Keep doing it.  That is, unless you actually WANT to stop smoking and can give yourself enough time (i.e. at least 3 months) BEFORE the studio to do it.  If you’ve ever tried to quit, you know the physical and mental hardships you’re getting into and a studio is NOT the place to go through withdrawal. I’ve seen alcoholics try to go dry the day they hit the studio and I’ve seen smokers quit the week of.  It doesn’t work.  It’s not worth the pain, the suffering, the phlegm.

Besides, the studio is already a weird and awkward place for so many people. We don’t need to make it worse.

Final Thoughts

I’m not here to tell you how to do this magical singing thing.  These ideas won’t help you win the next Canadian Idol styled singing competition. They WILL help you get prepared for your next trip to the studio.  …or last longer on your next tour.  …or at least give you something to think about when it comes to your voice.  ’Cause you’re the best judge and only you can get you to where you want to be.

James