Top 10 Ways to Keep a Good Voice from Going Bad

Top 10 Ways to Keep a Good Voice from Going Bad

 

When is the last time you saw your favorite singers live?  If you’re like most of us, it’s been awhile.  Maybe that’s why what you’ll hear can shock you.

You get tickets, jam into the venue and cheer as the drums start.

But then they sing.  And as they go along you start to realize  they don’t sound at all like you expected them to.  In fact, sometimes they’re just… really, really bad.

It seems to be happening more often than ever before.  Voices who don’t sound as great as they used to.  Like Mariah Carey, Steven Tyler, Julie Andrews, Kelly Clarkson, John Mayer, Meghan Trainor, Sam Smith…and thousands of singers who you haven’t even heard yet.  Singers who haven’t even started the fun part of their career yet.  Singers like you.

Maybe you haven’t had to cancel a tour and miss out of tens of thousands of dollars in lost income. But the problems you hear in those live performances are just an exaggeration of the basic problems all singers face.

 

How Good Singers Go Bad

Every singer has (or has had) some pretty bad habits that they don’t think are a big deal. But what you see in the headlines is not about singers that suddenly got worse.  Just like the rest of us. they didn’t see it coming either.

Every little bad habit we ignore grows as we use our voices more.  I have students who gig more than I did but even when I was doing sessions, gigs and voiceovers full time none of that talent I worked with ever worried about vocal damage.  Having to ‘rest your voice’ was almost like the proof that a singer was working a lot or rehearsed more than other talent.  Wow.  What a lie.

 

How do you know you’re getting vocal damage?

Worried my voice has a problemHonestly, unless your voice gets the heavy and regular use that a touring or up and coming singers voice does, you probably won’t.  Busy singers feel it sooner because they have a better idea of how their voice performs under different stresses.  But because their voice is their money maker it’s even harder not to do what the rest of us do: ignore it.

Ignoring the signs of vocal problems that can lead to damage is easier when you sing less often.  That’s because it never really hurts bad enough or lasts long enough for us to get worried enough about it.

Even those who get to the point where they’re ready to ask for help, finding the right professional to get the right diagnosis can be very daunting, expensive and time consuming.  And you may not even get any advice that you can really do anything with.

But wouldn’t it just be easier to know the top ten things you can change today so you don’t have to go down that road?

Then let’s do it!

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Escape Vocal Problems Later

 

10.  Get Some Rest Already

Physical fatigue has a really bad effect on the voice.  If you feel exhausted and almost not yourself you’re may not be getting enough REM sleep to spark the cellular repair we need from sleep.

You’ve probably heard the result of this before.  If you were to follow an actual live singer on a tour from beginning to end, you’d actually start to hear when their fatigue starts dragging down their voice.  In addition to regular sleep, if your life becomes more demanding (vocally or even just stress) you actually need more sleep to keep your vocal cords from fighting off irritation or damage.

So “Yay YOU!”  You just got a great excuse to take more naps!   Nighty night.

 

9.  Watch Those Burritos

**Important ‘common sense no one thinks about’ alert! **

Nothing you eat or drink affects your vocal cord or voice directly.  And don’t believe anyone who tells you that Lays Crinkle Cut Potato Chips can ‘grease your cords’.  Your vocal cords are in your windpipe.  Any food or drink gets diverted down the other pipe when the Epiglottis (the flap at the junction of the pipes) reroutes it.

So all that chip grease does is build a layer of grease glop onto the Epiglottis, making it even harder for it to open the door to your beautiful voice.

But while food and drink don’t directly affect your voice, singing involves your whole body.  And science, studies and everyone in the front row after a singer has just binged on bean burritos say that your singing brain can’t be at it’s best if another part of your body is suffering.

That’s why spicy, greasy, milky or heavy foods (farewell Mr. Cheesecake; I knew you well) are big no-no’s  in that 24-48hr window before you sing.  (That goes for food sensitivities and allergies too, so no cheating.)

The best advice is the simplest: just eat a healthy, well balanced diet all the time.  But….. if you don’t…. just commit to backing off the junk food 2-7 days before you sing.  It helps.  It really does.

 

8.  Make H20 Your Favorite Element

Your vocal cords are teeny tiny, slippery little suckers.  They vibrate so fast during speech (or singing) that it wasn’t even until the last year or so before they developed a camera that could slow down enough to even see that they flutter.  But without adequate hydration, they can’t perform those incredible rolling waves of vibration nearly as well.

Keep them slippery. Make 80 ounces of water your daily minimum.  If your kind of singing involves walking around or running the stage and lots of body movement, try to double it at least two weeks before your show.

Not in the habit of drinking that much?  Me neither.  So I’m as bummed as you that the single bottle of spring water I grab during the show doesn’t even start to cut it.  That’s because it can take up to TWO WEEKS to re hydrate your body when you don’t drink enough daily.

We’ll wait while you go get a glass.

 

7.  Get in Shape

Even if you don’t have to serve as your own backup dancer, the better shape you’re in, the more energy you have (and give) in your performance.  And that little edge could mean turning those people who would rather play on their iPhones than really listen to you into your loyal fans instead.

Not that in shape?  Don’t even use that as an excuse not to sing!  We may all want to fit into those size 2 leather pants (you too,right?  Tell me I’m not alone) but that’s not what we’re talking about.

Just start thinking about how you’d like to move around the platform or interact when you sing.  Then consider all the time on your feet from setup to tear down and saying thank you to all your adoring fans.  Then add an activity that will give you twice as much energy as you need to do that without getting winded.  It’s so much easier not to have to fake energy when you could’ve had enough to enjoy every bit of the night.

 

6. Don’t Rock ’till You See the Doc

When was the last time you saw an Ear, Nose and Throat doc?      Really?  ….well then, time to get out your calendar.

Singers of all levels should get to know a good Ear, Nose and Throat doc.  **My secret tip to getting better medical care for your voice is in the free download of this article.  Don’t miss it!**

Having a baseline for how you sound and what your anatomy looks like provide a hugely beneficial tool that can make it easier for your doc to help you head off dangerous damage you might not see coming down the pike. (Have you heard my story about my first appointment that almost costed me my voice?)

 

5. Let’s Clear the Air

Smoke = bad.  Secondhand smoke = worse.

If you tend to sing in smokey venues, start booking more outdoor gigs or places that have a no smoking rule for the room where performances take place (some casino’s do this).

You breathe in much more when you’re singing than when your not.  And unlike food and drink, smoke DOES go right down that windpipe where you vocal cords live.  Serious singers have this one in their performance riders because it so greatly impacts your ability to keep your instrument healthy.

You don’t need to be ‘big enough’ to have a performance rider to start protecting your voice from smoke.  Just make it a non-negotiable when you access requests to sing. It should be just next to requesting that you have access to a bathroom.  it’s that important.

 

4. Don’t Play with Pain

If you have pain while singing or after a show, somethings amiss in Singersville.  Pain is NOT a part of being a singer, regardless of what style you sing.  Danger, Will Robinson.  Danger.

Remember that ENT doc you’ve got in your contacts?  This is why.   But that’s not all you’ll need. 

While your doctor is going to look for physical signs of trouble in your mouth, throat and maybe vocal cords, don’t be surprised if your doc says it all looks fine even when it feels anything BUT fine!

This is why you need the second half of your vocal care team: a vocal coach who specializes in vocal repair.  We don’t have to see damage to hear the effect it has on your voice.  A good vocal repair coach (not a speech therapist) can help you pinpoint what’s caused the problem and give you an action plan to start to repair the problem and fix the bad habit that caused it in the first place.

And a good vocal repair coaches can also show you how get through a ‘can’t-miss’ singing opportunity and sound healthy even when you’re on vocal rest awaiting vocal surgery.

 

3. Save it for the Show

 

I give Celine Dion five gold stars for the level of commitment she makes to vocal care.  Because of the demands on her voice in an arid desert, she goes to the extent of using sign language instead of speaking on the day of a show.  Now THAT’s commitment!

That little sign language bit is the reason Celine Dion sounds as good or better today than she has been in the past, when all the other singers whose stars rose at the same time as hers have either had to quit singing, sing rarely or just sing horribly.

Because your singing opportunity is probably not as time consuming as Celine’s you don’t need to download that Sign Language App just yet.  But you should make a habit of finishing all prep work on your song(s) in time to allow you to keep quiet as least 24hrs. before you sing. (more if it’s outdoors).

Skip the screaming for your favorite team (GO HAWKS!).  No long gab sessions with your friends.  And definitely no long verbal arguments when you have a demanding show coming up.  Give you voice at least 24hrs. of rest (until soundcheck, then rest again until it’s your time).  You’ll be glad you did.  And just think of how many people will love this pleasantly quite new you!

 

2. Step Up Your Style

Many times bad vocal habits that get huge start with a styling trick we copied to sing fancier.  A good vocal styling coach can help you take out the harmful approach and give you healthy ways to spice things up.

A good vocal coach will also teach you some new styling options that keep you from defaulting to potential damaging ones.  For instance, there’s a way to do a healthy ‘growl’ and a really damaging way.  There’s a way to add that ‘edge’ to a line without scraping the edges of your vocal cords.

 

1. The RIGHT Teacher Knows Best

A qualified vocal technique instructor who understands how the anatomy of your voice works should be able to assess how your lifestyle and bad little habits affect your vocal potential. Even better, they can show you how to sound great (even when you feel like crap.)

Regular vocal training is not just about improving your skill level. Your vocal coach should also give you usable specific tips that take into consideration your unique voice, style and singing demands.

 

 

Good singers who don’t ask for help are the ones that stand to lose the most ground when a habit becomes a real problem.   But taking the time to build a stronger, healthier voice will make the journey even more incredible!

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The Answer – Was Lady Gaga lip syncing at the Superbowl AND how YOU can work the stage like a pro

The Answer – Was Lady Gaga lip syncing at the Superbowl AND how YOU can work the stage like a pro

 

In the last post, I gave you some tips to assess the video of Lady Gag at the Superbowl with new eyes.

Now that you’ve had a chance to learn how to spot a lip syncing singer and put your new skills to work, it’s time to answer the question: was she actually lipsyncing?

(If you haven’t, click here to read the previous post so you can see how much you know!)

 

Those of you who said she was NOT lip syncing are…….CORRECT!

 

All of the tips from you used to tell if a singer is faking it usually give you pretty solid results.

But the one reason people call out singers for lip syncing when they’re really NOT is because we think this:

“They HAVE to be lip syncing!  

How can anyone run around that much and still hit all the notes?!”

Good question.

 

 

Where do singers learn to look so great on stage?

 

There’s a reason singers improve so fast on shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent and the now debunked XFactor.  And it ain’t the vocal coaching (which btw, is worth it’s own post since it has damaged more voices than it has helped.  Don’t get me started).

The real answer is live show producers.

Just like record labels or tour management, TV shows employ a live show producer (sometimes under other titles, but the purpose is the same).  They are the ones who create the vision that the choreographers, vocal coaches, the wardrobe department, and the singer(s) will use to bring that incredible performance to life.

Live show producers know exactly how to look at what a singer can and can’t do and move them quickly through what they should master next to look incredible, inviting, and much more marketable on stage.

The longer a singers career involves a live show producer (& depending on the level of commitment of the singer), they can be transformed to the level where they can do amazing things like you Lady Gaga do.

 

How do I try things on stage as a singer without looking stupid?

 

It’s one thing to have the vision of what you want your live performance to look like and quite another to know how to make it happen.

Most singers don’t get a lot of experience ‘filling a large stage’ until until they’re performing on one. And that’s not the best time to try to figure it out,

But long before then you WILL have opportunities to sing on a platform that’s big enough that you really should be moving on it. 

How do you know how MUCH to move?

The more energy a song has, the more movement there needs to be on the platform.  The type of music you sing will determine what that movement should look like.  Look at videos of the top five artist in your niche (no one lower – you may just pick up the same mistakes they’re making). Below I’ll show you how to go from watching their show to designing yours.

Now it’s time to ask that question again: how can I sing that incredibly demanding song AND move all over the place without having a heart attack on stage?

 

Here is the ‘trick’ to what Lady Gaga did on stage live

 

There is only one way to sing your very best while really ‘working’ the stage without faking it: Exercise.

Stick with me here.

We’re not talking bench pressing 250lbs. or looking like some of the borderline anorexic singers you’ve seen.  What we ARE talking about is being at a physical level that allows you to sing full out without the activity affecting your voice.

As far back as singers have been their own dancers, managers and show producers have put singers through as much physical exercise as vocal exercise.

The Back Street Boys once complained that their manager made them jog in a line while singing their entire set during tour training.

 

Do you really need to jog for two hours while singing or sing while descending from a wire in a harness?  Proooooobably not.

Here’s a good starter guide for working up your physical fitness to meet your performing demands.

 

Infographic-How to Work the Stage Like a Pro

Determine what level of movement works for what you’re doing.

  1. Watch any videos of the top 3-5 singers who do the kind of music you do.  Skip other singers,  We’re hoping the top three have been coached out of their bad habits so you don’t pick them up. Pick songs with the same kind of energy as the songs you sing.
  2. Identify the ‘attention grabbers’: dancers, pyrotechnics, video backgrounds, etc.  Ignore any that you won’t have in your performance.
  3. Ignore any movements the lead singer uses that utilizes props or stage items you won’t have on stage (like jumping off an 8 foot speaker stack)
  4. Taking those items out, how much does the lead singer move?  What kind of things do they do?
  5. Pick the 2-3 you feel most comfortable doing and work them into your song.

 

Build the muscle memory & the mojo.

  1. Do any of the movements you’re adding require more physical stamina than you currently have?  Up your cardio workout.(anything you enjoy doing that makes you sweat.)
  2. After you’ve up’d your cardio for at least two weeks (preferably), start singing your song(s) during your cardio workout at tempo. Expect your singing to suffer at first.  This will become a gage for how well you can really move comfortably on stage.
  3. Take out your lyric chart and note where you’re going to add movement and what kind of movement it is.  It makes learning the new pattern of movement much faster..
  4. Every time you sing the song, add the movements (make them as big as your practice space allows).  Prioritize your weakness!  You can’t focus on singing and moving the exact same amount.  Get one down well.  Then only focus on the other.
  5. PRACTICE!  Every time you sing the song the muscle memory for movement needs to be attached. This makes it look like second nature even if you feel weird doing it.

3 Foolproof Steps for Looking Like a Pro On Stage

  • Stage movement always LOOKS smaller than it FEELS.  Plan to go over the top.
  • It’s NORMAL (even for pro’s) to feel weird, nervous or stupid when adding something new.  Expect it.  Embrace it.  Do it anyway.
  • Your FACE will tell your audience if they should love it or judge it.  Your face must say “Heck YEAH I meant to do that!”, never “oh…crap.  you didn’t see that did you???” regardless of what you think about how you look or sound.

 

You’ll be amazed how much more revved up your audience will be when you make the choice to give them a better show.  Two artists or bands can do the same song just as well and the audience will chose the one that moves every time.  That’s because it gives THEM permission to move and enjoy what you’re bringing them.  And that’s what they wanted all the time.

Note for worship musicians: Don’t think this doesn’t apply to you.   It’s probably more important for you. What you do or don’t do on the platform will determine your audience’s focus.  If you’re not comfortable moving during worship music, look for artists videos that don’t come off as ‘me-me!’  Try those, then let your authenticity drive you on from there.

But for heaven’s sake, please don’t just close your eyes and stand there!  That says. ‘hey I’ve got a really cool thing going on here….butt out.”

 

Looking like you’re having a great time on stage is more important than you think.  We’re a very visual generation with short attention span.  If your music, your message, your identity as an artist is important to you, take it seriously and grab their attention.

If you don’t, something else will.

Was Lady Gaga Lip Syncing at the 2017 Superbowl?

Was Lady Gaga Lip Syncing at the 2017 Superbowl?

Ok, Gaga haters. Stick with me because I live in your camp.   Gaga lovers – don’t judge… just yet.

I’m not a Gaga fan and I honestly wasn’t planning to watch Lady Gaga’s performance at the 2017 Superbowl Half Time Show live.  I just happened to walk in as she descended from the heavens and struck a pose.

I rolled my eyes and almost left but the vocal coach in me made me stay for the game.  Not football.  I mean a little game I play while watching live performances where I spot the non-singing ‘singers’ who are paid to not sing.

 

Let’s face it, many singers are not signed because they can (or can’t….Madonna..shhhhhh) sing.  The lable just fixes it in the mix and runs the ‘fixed’ version over the live vocal on tour so that the ‘singer’ can sing as much, but usually as little as they want.

It’s been done that way longer than most people know.  And now that you’re onto them, producers have gotten better at hiding the lip syning in live shows. But there are still ways to know if you’re really getting a ‘live’ show.

Maybe you’re ok with paying premium ticket fees for a not-really-live show.  That’s ok too.  It’s a bit tougher for the hundreds of genuinely good live singers out there.  Singers who have spent years honing their skills, learning how to keep their pipes in shape on the road and doing the work of developing their own sound.  Singers who are really worth hearing live.

For them, watching a sometimes 100% lip synced concert is like watching a robot take your job and do things not possible for a human.   It’s kind of buzz kill.

 

Whether you relate or not, it’s handy to have a way to know if you’re getting what you thought you paid for.

Wanna learn how?

 

 

How to Spot a Fake Singer

 

Since I know a few of the tricks commonly used to fake a live show I like to look for the signs of a cover up.  Educated guesses, let’s call them.  If I can spot three or more incidents of any of them, it’s proooooobably not a real live vocal.

Here’s how you can spot a ‘faux’ singer (which appropriately means ‘fake’) next time you see a live show.  Look for ‘faker flags’ like these:

  • The singer is very physical on stage (lots of dancing, running, etc.) but you never hear breathing when you would expect to
  • You don’t hear the singer breathe between phrases of the songs, only when speaking (or at the beginning and/or ending of songs for the sneaky ones)
  • The singers mouth doesn’t line up exactly to the vocal you hear (there’s a reason there’s not a close up shot sometimes)
  • You see 3 backup singers (and those dancers really are just lip syncing so they don’t count) but it sounds like there’s 10.
  • There is any volume change when the singer moves between singing and talking.  This one is harder to detect because live show arrangements are generally produced so this there’s more time to make the switch. But if the singer is talking to the crowd, starts to sing and they’re suddenly louder, you get the bonus point.

 

Keep in mind sometimes only parts of a song or just certain songs are not 100% live.  This is usually due to a singer recovering from surgery or damage or because the singer can’t dance and sing at the same time without breathing like a creeper on a prank call.

I just call ’em like I see ’em.

So are you saying Lady Gaga did NOT sing LIVE at the SuperBowl?

 

 

 

 

As if I’m just going to give it away.  Come on.  I just told you how to find out.

So you tell  me!  Click the video above to watch it again.

Look for Faker Flags. 

Tell me what you see in the comments below.


Next time, I’ll tell you exactly what I saw. AND I’ll spill an ‘industry insider tip’ that you can use to sound so good live, your audience may think you’re lip syncing.

(Join the mailing list so you don’t miss it!)

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