The Strain of it ALL

As I mentioned, I’m currently in a show that oppened this weekend and is running 5 performances per week for 3 weeks. Yesterday afternoon, during the last performance of the week and after 5 days of rehearsals, one of my co-stars had her voice crack twice during one the final show numbers – one where she has to belt. She was mortified and was completely at a loss as to how to prevent it in the future. I gave her some tips so this week's blog is about how to prevent vocal strain.

Vocal tension can be caused by numerous issues ranging from poor singing technique, to diet, fatigue or dehydration.

My best advice is the following: WACAW (yes, that's a made-up acronym, try remembering it sounding like a wacky crow cawing). It stands for the following:

Warm: Warm up – ALWAYS. 15 minutes of vocal warm ups can avoid a myriad of singing mistakes and vocal fatigue. Start out humming from your very low to very high range up and down like a roller coaster and then proceed on to various vowel sounds starting with AH, OH and OO, then migrating into AY and EE which are much tighter and more stress inducing to the voice. Don't sing any words for the first 10 minutes, just humming and vowels.

Air: Be sure to get plenty of air into your diaphragm when you breathe. Adequate breath is the fuel on which your voice runs… if you give it poor air quality, it’s the same as putting sugar in your gas tank.

C-Foods: Avoid cold drinks, creamy foods, candy, chocolate, coffee and colas as all of these will create mucus and will cause your voice to be irritated and/or dehydrated.

Activity: Use your whole body when you sing - involve your arms and hands; get your spine to go straighter as though you were being pulled from the top of your head. This doesn’t mean you have to gyrate like a crazy person… just ignite your whole body energy to feed your voice.

Water: Probably the single greatest gift you can give your voice is to HYDRATE! Room temperature water is the best thing to drink and start in the morning of the day you are performing and continue on throughout the entire day. The rule among accomplished singers is “sing wet, pee clear”. Waiting until 30 minutes before you go on and then downing a jug of water is only going to cause you a lot of trips to the biffy.

A good vocal coach will help you learn additional posture and placement techniques to protect your instrument and make the most of what you have.

Our show is on for another two weeks and taking good proactive care of my instrument will ensure that my voice stays in great shape for the duration of the run.