Whispering Is Bad For Singers. And Other Tips For New Vocalists

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When music students ask how to prepare for a show I always tell them the same things, practice your material right before you go to bed and get plenty of sleep. When a vocal student asks the same question the list gets a little bit longer. For those who have not studied the voice as an instrument it may come as a shock how careful one must be with it. Here are a few guidelines for new vocalists, courtesy of Mark Erwin from the School of Rock Music, St. Paul, MN.

One of the most important things to remember is that we don’t ever want to over stress our instrument. We all know that the fastest way to lose our voice is to yell or scream- as we often do when we go see our rock heroes. There is a time to be a fan and there is a time to be a vocalist. The day before your show is not the time to be a screaming fan!

But there are many less obvious ways to strain your instrument that vocalists need to remember. When we get a tickle or feel phlegm in our throat our first thought is to clear it. The classic “eh hem” is one of the most damaging things you can do to your voice and yet it is the most common reaction. Instead, vocalists should drink water and swallow a couple of times to clear the irritation. Another common misperception is that we should protect our voice by whispering. Did you know that our vocal chords work twice as hard when we whisper? This brings me to my last point on common ways we strain our voice without knowing it- voice placement. Many of us speak in a vocal range far lower than we are meant to, causing continual strain on our vocal chords. Yawn out loud for a moment. Notice how high your voice is. Well my friend- that is your natural vocal range!

There are also certain foods and beverages that should not be consumed the day of a show. Though you may not think you have any food allergies, it is very common to have an extremely mild allergy to dairy products, wheat products and nuts. Your body’s natural reaction to the allergen is to create phlegm in the throat. Not only can phlegm alter the tone of your voice, it will make you want to clear it- bringing us back to my earlier point. Vocalists also want to stay away from food and beverage products that contain caffeine or high levels of acidity. Both caffeine and citric acid will dry out your vocal chords, again causing unneeded strain on your instrument. In addition, products with a high level of acidity like fruits and some vegetables can cause acid reflux- which in some cases may result in the loss of your voice all together.

Being aware of your voice and the things that can damage it are the first step. We may not have to plug into a tuner, change broken strings, or cart around heavy kick drums, but we do have an instrument to care for.

About the Author

Rock Mamma (Stacey Marmolejo) owns 2 after school music programs in the Twin Cities, MN. The School of Rock Music specializes in teaching kids 8-18 years old how to play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals in the rock genre. The year round program includes individual lessons, group rehearsals and live concert performances in real rock venues. The school also offers summer camps. http://www.schoolofrock.com

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