How to Care For and Discipline Your Voice

28 January 2015

Chelsea La Rosa is one of the most talented and disciplined singers in our team, and has years of experience and training as a professional vocalists. She sings and leads worship at our City Campus in Sydney, and is a vocal trainer at Hillsong College.

She’s got some great insights to share that we hope will help you as a vocalist, and as a bonus we thought we’d include a video of her singing at her best 🙂

SEE ALSO: TIPS FOR RECORDING VOCALS

This is her singing a breathtaking version of Noël at our Christmas Spectacular a few weeks ago.

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These days, all you need to do is type this headline into Google, and you will get a million and one quick fixes, how to’s, what not to do’s, and everything else to become a better singer.

I hate to break it to you, but there really are NO quick fixes when it comes to caring for and disciplining your voice… but hopefully these 10 tips will guide you in the right direction 🙂

10. Eat well

Your diet is actually really important, as many foods we eat give us reflux. Reflux can act like a cold and not just give you heartburn, but can clog you up with phlegm and give you a scratchy voice. I am not staunchly against consuming caffeine or dairy before singing (unless you know that you have an intolerance or allergy to both). An ENT (ear-nose-throat doctor) once told me that there is no scientific evidence of dairy being directly related to excess phlegm production… eating anything will give you phlegm as it is the first point of your body’s digestive system. But stay away from any foods you know are triggers for heartburn or phlegm occurring in your body. If you are caffeine-sensitive and dehydrated, stay away from caffeine for a few days and see how you feel. This will be different for everyone.

9. Get your beauty sleep!

If your mind and body are tired, your voice will be too! On this topic — taking days off for vocal rest is a great way to help preserve your voice, especially if you sing regularly, tour, lead on mission trips, preach, teach, etc. A day of not speaking and singing can do wonders for your voice. Sometimes saying no to a day now is better than losing 3-6 months because you find you have vocal damage. I have seen it happen too many times to people that are insanely anointed and talented but chose not to rest.

8. RUN!

No seriously, get those legs moving, your heart pumping, and your core strong. A strong body will deal with muscle tension better than one not as used to hard work. A strong core will help you breath properly when singing and help keep your larynx down, so make sure to be doing some ab and core work regularly to get those muscles engaged. Just like dancers will do core exercises right before dancing, I usually stretch and engage my core as part of my warm up. (Disclaimer — this doesn’t mean you need a 6-pack to be a great singer!)

Level of fitness and level of raw talent have nothing to do with each other…

but raw talent + hard work=1 dynamic and out of this world vocalist!

7. Become Sponge Bob.

He lives soaked in H2O, and there is nothing better than drinking water regularly to keep your vocal chords hydrated and lubricated. When you drink water, your entire body gets the hydration in order of which organs need it the most … your vocal chords are usually the last to soak it up. When you swallow, the water actually never touches your vocal chords (because they are in the trachea, not the oesophagus), so chugging heaps of water right before you sing will do nothing for you. Staying hydrated REGULARLY is your best bet!

If you don’t know how much you should drink, a safe guide is to drink your body weight (kilos) in ounces. So if you weigh 60 kilos, that’s 60 ounces or 1.7 litres of water a day. If you weigh yourself in pounds, just halve your weight and there you go!

6. Change it up.

Listen to other music and sing outside your norm. This will stretch you as a vocalist and a musician. Listen to oldies, jazz, classical, rock, and get your ears around different sounds and technique.  Try copying the sounds you hear. This doesn’t mean you need to change your “sound” but it will help make you a more well-rounded singer. If you hear a singer do a run you can’t do, listen to it over and over and break it down until you CAN do it! It takes time, but if you love to sing it sure is fun!

5. Practice performing!

You will discipline yourself as a singer and a worship leader if you have practiced in front of the mirror, at open mic nights, small functions or parties, and in front of people who don’t know you and won’t lie to you 😉 The only way to know if your stage presence needs work is to practice it and get some feedback. Singing in front of a mirror helps you see if you are straining your larynx and neck when singing and illuminates any posture issues, if you hold your guitar or sing from the piano correctly, etc. If you’re able to watch back videos of services or performances, you can see for yourself the way you present yourself while singing in front of others.

ALSO, the more you sing in front of people, the easier nerves will get. Nerves have gotten in the way of so many potentially awesome services, celebrations, parties and performances. Nerves will generally dissipate with experience.

4. Learn an instrument.

You don’t have to become a master by next month, but learning piano or guitar will help your ear training and pitch development. You may be able to accompany yourself when needed, teach, write music, and become a much better musician as a result. A vocalist can be a great muso with her voice too, so learning more about music and theory will take you so much further in honing your skill as a singer.

3. Sing with other really good singers.

They will challenge you to be better, and sharpen your ear for harmonies and blending. We won’t always be in solo environments, so learning to blend with others will help make you a GREAT asset to your team. Getting together with other singers regularly (or whenever you can) is a great opportunity to grow and is also so refreshing to the soul. Harmony is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.

2. WARM UP!

(My good friend Tarryn has recently done a video with some vocal warm-ups you can try!)  Read Tarryn’s blog.

10-20 minutes should be enough time; a few simple exercises to warm up and stretch the chords is all you need to be ready to sing.

Start with simple and closed sounds and work up to more open sounds. We don’t want to hammer our chords out of bed, but wake them up with a light nudge 🙂

Some people’s voices take a bit longer to be fully warmed up than others, so it is good to know how much you need so as not to overdo it and waste your voice. Your vocal trainer can give you a great warm-up routine that is fine-tuned for your voice.

Which brings me to the MOST important, undeniable, unquestionable, un-ignorable truth…

1. TRAIN!

If you want big muscles you can rely on, you need to train them. If you want to paint like Monet, chances are you need to study. If you want to win gold in track and field, you need to spend countless hours with a trained professional who can push you to be the very best runner you can be. The same goes with singing.

A while back, my oversight asked me to calculate how many hours I have practiced in the 30 years I have been alive. The number was just over 100,000 hours. That is almost half my entire life…AND I still have so much to learn! We never stop learning or growing.

So while drinking lots of water, getting plenty of rest, and staying healthy all matter, NOTHING is better than training with an experienced Vocal Trainer/Teacher/Expert regularly. If you are already an advanced singer, make sure the teacher has a good sized studio, and that you are happy with the voices coming out of their tutelage. You can simply ask to hear samples of students, or trial a couple teachers until you find a right fit. But make sure, make sure, make sure that you train with someone you trust to tell you the bad with the good.

Happy singing! Love,

Chelsea La Rosa
Hillsong College City Campus Vocal Oversight