I moved to NYC in ’97 to pursue a second record deal. After having been previously signed, recording and touring out of Nashville for nearly 7 years. Before eventually signing with Sony/Epic in 2001, I joined the Broadway company of RENT in 1997. While I had been touring extensively during the four years that preceded my NYC relocation, I suddenly found myself facing the challenge of singing a daunting 8-show week. The Broadway schedule was intense, demanding and unlike anything I had ever been a part of. While the show was “dark” Monday nights (the only performance-free night of the week), it was hardly enough time to vocally recover and feel fresh enough to start a new week every Tuesday night. Apart from the few youth choirs I was a part of growing up in Albuquerque, NM, I didn’t grow up having any proper vocal training. I knew that if I was going to tackle a Broadway schedule and stay at the top of my game from night tonight, I had to get serious about keeping my voice healthy.
All of that was 18 years ago, and I have since been on an amazing journey, working with brilliant composers, music directors and iconic bands (Green Day and Queen). I never anticipated that my life as a songwriter/recording artist would take such a substantial turn into the world of rock musicals, but I feel very fortunate to have been able to join the amazing group of vocalists that populate the Great White Way. I also feel very blessed to be a recording artist who is able to shed some light on what I do to stay on top of my game vocally with the AMS audience. I hope you find these tips helpful!
There are several things that I do vocally before and after a show that enable me to tackle the kind of schedule that only Broadway requires. Also, there are a few lifestyle things that I have to embrace— whether I like them or not— that are personal mandates. (Keep in mind that every singer is different, everyone’s vocal needs are different— but without a doubt, every singer/vocalist needs to establish an individual vocal regimen.)
One of the most important things you need is to give your body rest. While everyone’s sleep needs are different— get the sleep your individual body requires. If your body is tired, your voice will be one of the first things to show it and you will find singing incredibly taxing.
- Hydration. Water is king— and not just for a great complexion! Up your water intake. Carry a water bottle and drink from it throughout your day. And if you’re a coffee lover, up your water consumption 2-3x. (If you’re even slightly dehydrated, you’ll not be operating on all cylinders and you’ll also be continually fatigued— thus your voice will be one of the first things to suffer.)
- Vocal warm up. Personally, I hate doing “scales”. Frankly, not only do they bore me but most of the time they actually vocally wear me out! That being said, there are a couple of vocal warm-ups that I always do before performing. One exercise is called “vocal sirens”. It’s a way to engage most notes in your register (both chest and head voice) so that you stretch your vocal cords and also get them warm and fluid with a gentle wake-up. (You can push the top end of your register to get a bit of an increased stretch as well— but only do this after you’ve spent a good bit of time warming up the lower and middle range of your voice.) Here is a YouTube video that demonstrates it quite well.
- The second vocal exercise that I do is called “lip trilling”. Lip trills not only help warm up your voice while allowing your throat muscles to completely relax, but they also limber up your lips, mouth, and face. Much of the time I will also give my face a massage with the pads of my thumbs while doing this exercise. I also stretch the back of my neck with my thumb pads starting from the base of my skull down the base of my neck. You want all tension to leave your neck, face and shoulders, otherwise singing will be very taxing early on in your show. Here’s a solid resource. Even though this guy calls what he’s doing “sirens”, they aren’t. But this is a great example of lip trills while utilizing your range while warming up.
- Last, I actually sing along to a mix tape of sorts. I personally warm up by singing much more than by doing specific vocal warm-up exercises. Sometimes I will have a favorite record that I will sing 4-7 songs of. Sometimes I will have a playlist of songs that warm me up without tiring me out. One thing I DON’T want to do while warming up is exhausting myself. I keep these “mixtape” songs in the middle of my range so that I become vocally limber without becoming vocally fatigued. (One of the biggest mistakes a singer can make is OVER-singing before the gig actually begins. Don’t burn through your fuel before you hit the stage. If you do, there is no coming back.)
- AFTER performances, I always do a short version of this list. It’s important to have a period of “ vocal cool-down” time. You want your voice to settle and be cradled back to a place of calmness.
As I mentioned, everyone will have their own regimen of how best to warm up their voice. Everything I listed here would be great to start out with if you’ve never created a warm-up program for yourself. If you’re a singer, your voice is your most valuable instrument. Treat it with respect and give it what it needs.
Written by: Tony Vincent
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