Look, I get it.
You’re busy. You’ve got songs to write and shows to play. You want to be a better singer, but you’re really not trying to practice for hours a day. Your voice already sounds fine, and doesn’t everybody like a little rasp?
This is not an article for the high-caliber opera singers of the world. I’m not here to tell you to do an hour of warmups, completely cut dairy from your diet, or stop smoking. Below you’ll find simple, low-impact ways to become a better singer that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle. You may not want to sing opera, but you do want to sing past the age of 35, right?
So read on—it’s literally the least you can do!
Warmups: a necessary evil
Hear me out. Yes, vocal warmups can be cringey and embarrassing, especially those of the dramatic, Glee-esque show choir variety. But they really are important.
Your voice is a muscle. And like any muscle, it needs to be warmed up before extensive use. Otherwise, you’re more likely to hurt it. It would be crazy for an athlete to run a mile without stretching first, right? It’s the same with your voice. Warming it up before practice helps get the blood flowing through your vocal folds. This can help protect your voice from unnecessary damage—you won’t be sending it into shock every time you try to belt that high E out of nowhere.
Find some simple warmups that you’re comfortable with. Sing them on your drive to band practice, or when the rest of your bandmates are getting set up. You don’t need to warm up for a whole hour; even 10 or 15 minutes can work wonders!
Are you sure you’re drinking enough water?
Because your voice is part of your body, your physical health is important. If this was more of an over-achieving newsletter, I’d recommend you get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly to promote good vocal health.
But we’re here for the bare minimum! So, just stay hydrated. This might sound like vague health advice, but it does have a direct impact on your voice. Your vocal folds are covered in a layer of mucus (read: water). When you’re adequately hydrated, that mucosal layer is too. This helps prevent your voice from drying out, which (you guessed it!) can cause damage when you sing.
Start your day with a tall glass of water, carry a water bottle with you, eat lots of soup—whatever works for you and that you’ll actually do. When you see athletes carrying those milk jugs full of water? Yeah, they’re actually all singers. All of them. And their voices are more hydrated than yours.
If you’re sick, get healthy. But, like, in the right way
Getting sick sucks, especially if you’re a singer. The solution for a runny nose, head cold, or cough is often some kind of decongestant. Depending on the type though, these medications can dry out that mucosal layer of your voice.
Many singers prefer Mucinex or its generic version because of this. Rather than dry your system, Mucinex helps generate more fluids to flush your cold out. This helps you heal up without drying out your voice!
With these changes, you can start to incorporate vocal health practices that can help with the longevity of your voice. This post was written after consulting with Dr. Melissa Schiel, Professor of Voice at Central Washington University. If you’re interested in learning more about how to prevent vocal damage, expand your range, and generally sing better, subscribe to our newsletter to read our upcoming Q&A with Dr. Schiel about vocal health for pop, rock, and indie singers!