Since I was very young I have wanted to be a worship leader. I grew up in the church and I was starting to get involved within the music ministry was I was around 12 years old. I had no idea until college how to maintain a healthy voice. I am an extrovert and I love to be with people and I never thought that talking was almost just as bad as screaming on your voice. Now, I am not saying if you are a singer to become and introvert and delete all your relationships, however I want to help you succeed at maintaining your talent that God has given you for years to come. All my knowledge in knowing how to treat my voice has come from my voice teacher, Pastor Rachel, my husband being a vocal major, and my choir director. It is crucial not only in music ministry, but any sort of displaying of your talent to PROTECT your voice. Here are some very important details that you should concentrate on while using your voice on a day to day basis. I will highly encourage any singer to start lessons with a professional so you develop good breathing habits as well. These are just the practical things I do to stay on track because of the training I have had.
Hydration is not only good for the body in general, but especially important for your vocal chords. When you are dehydrated, you are also physically dehydrating you vocal chords. Then when you decide to sing you are stretching a muscle that hasn’t been given any room to hydrate. You see in sports all the time when you have not hydrated for that game that you get a excruciating muscle cramp that stops you in your tracks…same thing with your vocal chords. One of the best things for your body and voice is……ORGANIC APPLE CIDER VINGAR. Listen, we can go on and on about how gross it is and the taste is awful, but I am going to give you some tough love…you need to get over it. I did not like it at first and then I found out how amazing it was for my vocal chords and how it HEALS a sore throat and I got over it and now I love it. Any type of throat coat tea is something I would personally not trust because it does exactly that…coats your throat. It does not HEAL your throat and that is what Organic apple cider vinegar does. If you want to drink any sort of tea, make sure it is caffeine-free tea. If not, the caffeine will dehydrate you. Herbal teas are great, but I would not rely on that to help your voice when you are about to sing. The best thing before you sing is room temperature water, NOT cold water. When you are out in the cold what do you think your muscles do? Tighten up! Same thing when you put ice cold water on your vocal chords…they will constrict! Room temperature water actually hydrates you quicker because it is already about the same degree as your body temperature. The last drink you want to be VERY careful of is coffee. I loose everybody when I ask how much coffee verses water they have had that day or before they go on stage. Even though it is hard when I wake up early on Sundays, I do not drink coffee. If you have to drink coffee (like my husband) a small black cup of coffee along with a good amount of water in the morning would be ok. Dairy dehydrates you along with produces mucus that adds extra coating of the vocal chords and not in a good way. It. might seem like a ton of boundaries, but it has saved me more times than I can count in prepping ahead for when I am going to sing. Just like a sports game, you don’t start hydrating that day, but three days before so your muscles are ready.
2. Prepare/vocal warm ups
Waking up at 4:30 on Sundays is never easy, however getting in the shower and slowly doing warm ups helps set me up for success for the day of singing for three services. Talking is actually very hard on your voice and I would know because my vocal teacher would tell it to me constantly. She would tell me to talk like a disney princess and be “off” your voice. This doesn’t mean to stop talking all together, however talking for a long period of time can be strenuous on your vocal chords. Starting the day in the shower and warming up with just light humming really helps your vocal chords warm up for the day even when you are just talking. Before I had spotify, I went on youtube and looked up videos on vocal warm-ups to help me. On spotify, there are so many playlists of vocal warm ups to help you start your day and your voice out right. Warming up 20 to 30 minutes before you start singing is good, but warming up right when you wake up to talk is even better. Vocal warms-ups are a must if you want to have the endurance to succeed in singing 3 to 4 times a week. You might think you don’t need it because you sing perfectly fine now, but this will catch up with you and you need to start getting into this habit now before you are 5 years in and you have to have someone look at your vocal chords because they are damaged.
Sleep is the MOST important thing you can do before you sing. When you are tired and you sing, you tend to sing very wrong and can cause damage to your vocal chords. You tend to have bad poster and your breathing is way off because you are exhausted and more worried about when the song is going to be over then how you are breathing with your diaphragm. Most likely if you are tired, you will skip the warm ups and have that cup of coffee and then you will sing from your throat and not have any support throughout your singing. My husband and I on Saturday nights typically go to bed around 8:30 or 9:00pm. I understand if you are a student as well as singer and you have school and responsibilities, but staying hydrated and alert without downing 3 or maybe 4 cups of coffee will set you up to succeed. When I was in high school, I was leading worship three times a week along with soccer practice and school. It is very tough, but thank God I had soccer because I learned to constantly be hydrated and I didn’t know it but it was setting me up for success when I was singing. Care about your body because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are also human flesh that get weaker as time goes on and we need to take care of it now so that doesn’t fast track it.
There are so many more tips and tools to help you along the way, but I have found that these three are crucial in me staying healthy. Sometimes we are the only ones that will understand that it is not just “singing a song”, we have prepared our heart and bodies to sing every week and people might not see that. If you are a worship leader right now or want to be, know that many people will not see the preparation you will do to succeed. They might not understand that it does take time and development to sound the way you sound and that you have worked very hard to get where your voice is at now. Even if no one sees you prepare, that should never stop you in doing what you need to do to maintain your health spiritually and physically. You might have to say no to some things to make sure your voice stays healthy and that might be hard to do. However, God sees your heart and your desire to keep your talent that He gave you strong and that is all that matters. I hope this helps you and encourages you to make good choices with your voice. Stay healthy, hydrate, sleep, sing for Jesus, and lay off the coffee…sometimes we can do life without it.