Singers – How to Prepare For the Road
February 7, 2016 | Brad Chapman
So, you’ve been doing a couple of shows a month and you’re voice recovers easily (even if you are yelling for high notes); you’ve got your record done and you have become very popular.
People want to see you as often as possible. They’re your fans. If you did any yelling during the recording, it is going to be hard to repeat that over and over again during the multitude of weekly shows. With recording sessions (sometimes … if you have the money), you can rest and go back and do it again. Live performing doesn't allow that. A lot of people are involved in your show and they need their income.
Care And Feeding Of Your Voice:
1. Replace Yelling - Take great care of your voice and again ... do not yell to get your
high notes (rarely do they carry the right emotion for the lyric anyway).
2. Learn Belted Head Voice - Find a way to learn ‘belted head voice’ from a Vocal Pre-
Producer for your emotionally charged high notes, so that you can give your audience
what they want at the time; and then the next audience what they want.
What you have to keep in mind, is that there is always another audience that is
hungry for your performance and expects to hear your magic … Might be tomorrow,
might be in two days. We don't know how tight your schedule is (two/four/or more
performances per week), but, if you lose your voice; it’s very frustrating for everyone
3. Use In Ear Monitors - In ear monitors are the best for keeping you from yelling and
straining as much. They make it so that you can hear yourself so well, that you tend
not to do the straining that is still a major problem. (If you can’t hear yourself, you
sound tone deaf to your audience and no one will tell you. Quite often, the band
can’t hear you either.)
When I was in my first loud rock bands in the 60’s, we didn’t even know what
monitors were for…I turn red with embarrassment every time I think of what the
audience was hearing. In this case, ignorance can kill your career before it even gets
One of my touring clients, Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon, no longer yells, and he's
been singing for over 40 years of touring. He never loses his voice and he never has
to call me for any vocal therapy, neither does Anita Baker. This is also true for all my
touring clients because they trained their voices over time, before touring.
4. Become Independent - Become as independent, as a vocalist, as your musicians are.
They know their instruments and how to take care of them. They know that they
may need extra picks, extra strings, extra drum heads, etc. Obviously, we can't
replace broken vocal cords, but we can treat our voices in a way that we can make
the next show.
Be careful not to talk too much during the day. I know you may have interviews and
so forth, but try to stay quiet. Do your warm-ups every day whether you're going to
be performing or not. Cooling down exercises are valuable to do after the show (just
as is done with race-horses). Your vocal cords won’t be as stiff the next day.
5. Monitor Speaker Placement - If you don't have in ear monitors, then work with (may
be even bribe) your engineer on placing the monitor cabinets in the best way
possible for the way you move around the stage. Rod Stewart used to have monitor
speakers in the front and on the side of the stage; so no matter where he went, he
could hear himself very well.
Remember that feedback is a big problem for you. You must take care of it or no
one likely will. So, again ... I recommend in ear monitors, even if they're inexpensive
ones. They work a lot better than stage monitors ever will and they don’t have to be
6. Cardio and Steam, Daily - Do cardiovascular exercise every day; and if there are steam
rooms in the city that you’re in, take advantage and use them. This reduces some of
the swelling. Learn a tongue-roll exercise that you can do, while the other musicians
are doing instrumentals. It’s to your advantage for your career to do these things in
order to help keep the swelling down and the stiffness out of your vocal cords.
Remember when you're yelling that you’re closing your wind pipe almost all the way (that’s where the sound/frequencies come from), and then, pushing air as hard as you can to get sound out. The vocal cords are being blasted by this air pressure that your vocal cords are resisting, and is obviously going to wear and tear on your vocal cords very quickly.
What we all need from you as a singer is to have stamina, and stamina doesn't come from muscle. It comes from taking good care of your vocal cords (which are mucous membranes). They can't take tough pressure over and over and over again without you losing your voice.
My mantra is: “If you fight with your voice you'll always lose”. Have fun on the road. It's for making relationships with your fans; but, save some of your energy and your voice for the next show, and the next show after that, and the next show after that. Otherwise, you could be one of those singers in an extremely expensive ENT doctor’s office in the middle of a tour and having to cancel shows (not cool).
I can't say enough about how awful that is for everyone involved, so … really take to heart what I'm saying. It is an ugly situation. Be prepared for the road, and you’ll love every minute of it. I know from many years as a touring vocalist, and now as a Vocal Pre-Producer/voice therapist that you’ll enjoy your shows, and you’ll exponentially grow your fan base.
Brad Chapman Vocal Pre-Producer