Backing up my blog post regarding vocal health… vocal endurance and longevity is another topic entirely. Keep in mind these are all things I’ve learned over the past 18 years. Now, how do you build up endurance and longevity? Sing! The vocal chords are a muscle and you have to workout those muscles. Obviously, don’t over sing… but you need to continue to strengthen your vocal cords. The only way to build up endurance is to strengthen them: Sing for longer periods of time, pace yourself as you increase the time of vocal use, and always remember to stop when you feel like you’re getting vocally tired. That’s when you’ve reached your max.
I have found “amazing light bulb moments” in my vocal technique and endurance by doing shows. Being in a long run of a show, whether it be a 9 week run, 12 week run, 6 months, or 1 year… you have to learn to pace yourself. And you learn what you need to do to be able to maintain a show vocally 8 shows a week. How? Body awareness. Every show is unique and requires something different of you physically. The best way I can explain this is through an example:
A year ago this week, I was in rehearsals for Newsies at The Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Not only is Newsies an extremely demanding show physically… but it is also very demanding vocally. As a tenor, I am usually always on the tenor 1 line when I’m in a show. Learning to navigate the score of Newsies vocally, on top of dancing, was definitely a challenge. But it taught me a lot. I learned how to pace myself during the week, and show by show, so that I could continue to sing high As and Bs and always hit that high C at the end of “Once and For All” without fail every performance. What did I do? The following: A lot of sleep, vocal rest when I wasn’t performing, eating healthy, a lot of water, setting up two humidifiers in my room (my hotel room was a rainforest y’all… no joke), and making sure I warmed up smartly before every show. The wonderful thing about this process was that by the end of the run… I felt like my voice was stronger and I was able to find a great placement for singing up in the stratosphere that made singing high As, Bs, and Cs, so much easier. They were effortless and just escaped my body with ease and strength. After the run, I later went to my voice teacher and she immediately noticed the new placement and loved it. She gave me a few more tips to help with the new discovery and vocal strength… but she was so proud of where my voice was at.
That’s improvement. Training and studying, going and doing a show, and coming back to your training and having your teacher immediately notice the difference in your voice… that’s improvement, that’s achievement. What if you don’t have a voice teacher? Well, I would recommend getting one. But for now, record yourself on your phone… listen to what you’re hearing (Does your voice sound nasal and stuck in your nose? Does your voice sound like it’s in the back of your throat? Does your voice feel or sound closed off? Are you using your air? Are you feeling tension anywhere? If you’re singing in front of a mirror… are you turning red? Do you see tension in your neck? Are you breathing from you ribs/diaphragm and not your shoulders? etc.) What you should be hearing and feeling is: resonance in your mask, airflow, no tension in the neck or shoulders, no tickles in your throat, a present sound vs. nasal sound, relaxed/natural vibrato, pure tone, expansive ribs… feeling your lungs fill up like 2 footballs, and abdominal activation.
However, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a voice teacher. It’s the only way you are going to improve. And take from many different people over time. I always recommend changing your voice teacher every 5-6 years. Or whenever you feel like you’ve hit a plateau. It’s natural and happens all the time. Never feel bad about switching to a different voice teacher. (If you need help finding a voice teacher in your area, or want to know what makes a good voice teacher, DM me.)
Vocal and body awareness is so important. And from my 18 years of vocal training, I am able to map out exactly how I am going to sing every song in my book, every song in a show that I’m in, and/or every song asked of me. Keeping up with your vocal technique is so important. I cannot stress it enough. It’s an investment you will never, ever, regret.
Lastly, understand that everyone’s voice is different (tone, range, texture, where you feel resonance, etc). Where you feel resonance or what visual helps you with your technique might be completely different from someone else. And that’s ok. Our bodies are uniquely made. So play around. See what feels comfortable. However, if something hurts or feels uncomfortable… stop. You should never feel uncomfortable or feel pain when you sing. But learning from your mistakes and your failures… (with the help of your trusty vocal coach) will only make you a better singer.
Finally, rest. Rest is so important. It allows your vocal chords to replenish themselves (like any other muscle). Resting your voice ensures vocal longevity. It’s not healthy to be talking and talking and talking all day until your voice becomes hoarse. Always have an awareness of where you’re at vocally today and never push. Never scream or yell at the top of your lungs. Be cautious when you are at football games, amusement parks, concerts, etc. Awareness is key. Trust me. Continue to play, build strength, strive for endurance, and listen to other singers, but always be smart. Keep those vocal cords strong and keep singing, friends.