There is only one thing I remember learning my first year as an opera major back in the day.
A professor swept into the room whose name now escapes me. He was an elegant gentleman who was knowledgable and well-respected and wore scarves. I am certain that this learned man would cringe to know that the only thing I remember learning as an 18-year-old freshman at his top-ranked college of music is this:
“Sing wet, pee pale!”
Words to live by.
Words that have been my motto ever since.
I have actually thought of making them into a huge sign for my studio, but let’s be real. Who’s got time for that? I’m too busy drinking water and running to the bathroom.
Yes, dearies, I’m speaking once again about my love affair with pure water and how to drink lots more of it this year.
It is so incredibly good for you, whether you use your voice on stage or not. Water needs to be a MAJOR part of your life as a human being every single day. No exceptions.
Look, your body is 70% water. Making sure that you are staying properly hydrated will affect every cell in your entire body positively.
Water and Your Voice
As vocalists, we need to make EXTRA sure that we are hydrated to the optimal level. If you run your tongue along the inside of your cheek, what you feel is the mucous membrane. This is what covers the vocal folds as well. Just as your mouth gets dry when you are dehydrated, so too do the vocal folds, especially if you are singing or speaking a lot. That mucus membrane needs to remain in a constant state of hydration to allow the vocal folds to vibrate properly.
But did you know that the water itself never touches the vocal folds?
The vocal folds sit at the top of the windpipe and below the epiglottis inside the larynx. The epiglottis acts as a trap door over the windpipe to keep us from choking on water or food. Even though water never touches the folds themselves, taking enough water into your body, keeps that mucous membrane hydrated. It also provides hydration to keep the natural mucus that coats the vocal folds flowing. This mucus buffers the natural friction that occurs when the vocal folds are vibrating up to 1000+ times a second.
If you don’t drink enough water, your voice is going to pay the price. Dehydration can actually cause damage to these delicate tissues, especially if you couple it with poor vocal technique.
Am I Dehydrated?
Most vocalists do not drink enough water and some drink none at all. Do you know the signs and causes of a dehydrated voice?
•Your urine is dark yellow. Yes, this what the ‘pee pale’ in my motto is referring to. It is the easiest indicator of your hydration level. Urine should be light yellow to almost clear.
•You are thirsty. It is said that if you feel thirsty, you are already headed toward extreme dehydration. You cannot judge proper hydration by your thirst. You must drink enough water to stay ahead of it.
•Your throat feels dry, scratchy or froggy, which leads you to…
•Throat clearing. (It pains me to write these words.) Also…
•Singing or speaking requires vocal effort. (Again, ouch. Please, no.)
•Dry climates can cause you to lose water vapor just by breathing in and out. Humid climates cause you to lose hydration through your sweat.
•Heating and air conditioning can be extremely dehydrating.
•Medications like antihistamines and blood pressure medicines dry you out.
•Drinks like coffee and alcohol dehydrate the body. Foods like dairy products can cause normal mucus in the body to thicken and dry you out as well.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
Chugging a bunch of water just before you hit the stage is not going to cut it. You must hydrate throughout the day every day to get the greatest benefit when it comes time to perform. This needs to be part of your vocal hygiene.
How much water you drink is dependent on how much you weigh. The old adage of drinking 8, 8oz glasses of water a day is not enough water unless you are a smaller person. You see, you need to be drinking half your body weight in ounces every single day. How much do you weigh? Half that number is your number in ounces down the hatch daily.
For some of us, that’s a lot of ounces. More than the 64oz recommended by experts. So, how do you get them all in?
How to Drink More Water
Drink early! Set a goal to drink at least half of your total ounces before 10:00 am. When you wake up, you are the most thirsty. Take advantage of that by downing a large bottle first thing. You will find it actually helps you feel more awake as you head into your day. The rest of the day, keep on sipping.
Bottle it! Use a water bottle that you enjoy drinking out of that can help you keep track of your ounces. Like to drink out of a straw? Prefer a glass bottle? Want a bottle that is pretty to carry around? Get your ideal water bottle and set a goal to refill it the number of times each day that it takes to get all your ounces in.
Tap out! Change the quality of your water. I find it very difficult to choke down our city water from the tap. It tastes and smells terrible. I encourage you to look for a Free Water store (not an ad) in your area that shares Kangen water. The water really is free and it tastes amazing. You can also drink a lot more of it in one sitting without it making you feel sloshy and bloated. Because of the way it is filtered, this water has a molecular structure that allows it to absorb into the body almost immediately, making drinking all those ounces a lot easier. Higher quality water can be a game changer in getting more water into your body. Consider finding alternatives to the tap.
Lemon Squeezy! Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime into your water for flavor. Infusing your water with flavors like fresh cucumber and mint can help the water go down, but also have health benefits like maintaining the PH balance in your body and even reduce joint and muscle pain.
You are going to have to pee a lot more drinking this much water. That’s a fact. Get over it. It’s good for you! It is how your body is eliminating toxins. Frequent bathroom breaks will be a side effect, but so will clearer skin, fewer headaches, less constipation, greater articulation when you speak or sing and more consistent voice quality. Just be sure that you empty your bladder right before you go on stage (experience talking here).
You will find that the more you make drinking water a habit, the more your body will crave it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. If you have any other tips for how you get your water in each day, leave a comment below!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a tiny commission if you click through and make a purchase.
I recently met a business owner who trains people to be insurance adjusters. He speaks for a minimum of 8 hours a day, but when I asked him what sort of warm-ups he did, he shrugged.
“I just drink a lot of water all day,” he told me.
When I asked him how that is working for him, he said.
“My voice is still pretty thrashed at the end of each day. I go back to the hotel room and hope that a good night’s sleep will do the trick before I start all over the next day.”
Drinking water is excellent, and I’m never going to say otherwise. Getting a good night’s sleep can be helpful as well. However, those only meet a small part of what your voice really needs.
Speakers, Warm Up! Please?
Some of my toughest clients are my public speakers. They are delightful humans, of course, and I love working with them. They are just some of the most difficult to convince that they need to warm up their voices before they get up to speak. I often hear protests of: “Why would I do singing warm-ups? I’m not a singer!” “I don’t have time!” or “It doesn’t even enter my mind that this is a thing! I just get up and go.”
I cannot stress it enough: Speakers, you need to do vocal warm-ups. In fact, if you want to preserve your instrument for the long haul, you must do them! Be sure to check out the freebie audio mp3 Warm-Ups for Speakers below!
Why Warm Up My Voice?
Like the muscles you would use in your body to run a marathon, the muscles in and around the larynx would appreciate some gentle stretching prior to being put through your speaking marathon. If your speaking style is shouty or gravelly, it is even more important to warm up…gently. To just go up on the platform with your voice ‘cold’ and start to yell is going to cause your voice to get tired quickly. It can cause straining of the muscles in the larynx. As with any muscle strain, you get swelling. Straining like that causes fluid to rush to the site to try and cushion the blow.
All of that extra fluid keeps your vocal folds from closing correctly. This is why you develop a raspy sound and may even find you lose your ability to make a sound at all. The swelling from using your voice incorrectly over and over can permanently change the tone quality of your voice. I won’t delve into all the reasons for this today, but let me assure you, you don’t want that to happen. Consistent warm-ups done regularly, even and most especially on days you are not speaking, will strengthen your voice and give it the endurance it needs to finish your presentation well when you are speaking.
What if you want to make speaking your career? Could you, with the way you use your voice today, see yourself doing multiple week-long conferences each month twenty years from now?
I happened to watch two documentaries by two different motivational speakers in the span of one week. I was delighted to find that they both do warm-ups prior to speaking!
Yes, I am a geek about this stuff. Thanks for noticing.
I have followed the work of Tony Robbins for many years, first checking out his cassette tapes from the library as a college student. Being tuned into voices, it has made me sad to hear how much his voice has degraded over the decades. Yet, I’m not surprised. He uses an incredible amount of force when he speaks and yells down in the ‘vocal fry’ area. Tony does everything he can to remain at what he calls peak state in his body, his mind and his spirit. He employs experts in science and medicine and more to keep himself in top condition. This guy takes excellent care of himself.
You guys, in this documentary Tony Robbins was shown doing singing exercises! That’s right: Tony Robbins sings!
He admits in the film ‘I Am Not Your Guru’, that he often speaks 11 hours a day during his 6-day conferences. Whoa. Nevertheless, he actually does vocal warm-ups in addition to a lot of other preparation of his mind and body daily which are preserving the voice he’s got left.
The other speaker I saw warming up their voice by singing is Rachel Hollis in the documentary ‘Made for More’. Rachel is a New York Times bestselling author of the book, Girl, Wash Your Face. She is at the beginning of her public speaking career. It was so encouraging to me as a voice coach to see her actively using warm-ups in the car as her husband drove her to speak at their 3-day Rise conference in L.A. Below is free audio mp3 resource Warm-Ups for Speakers, so YOU can warm up in your car, too, just like Rach!
Tony Robbins and Rachel Hollis Warm Up
Guys, my point is that these are both speakers who make serious bank using their voices. Success leaves clues. If it is good enough for Tony and Rachel, then to be successful you need to do it, too. You want a voice that lasts for years, so make warming up an activity you see as a money maker. Changing how you look at the time you spend on your voice every day will give it value. Warming up will preserve your voice so you can continue to speak, not just today, but for years and years and years to come.
Warming up is only going to help your presentation.
“Preparation time is never wasted time,” so the saying goes, and it is true with your voice.
Putting in the hours to strengthen your voice will repay you multiple times over in being able to relax when it is time to get on stage. It will give you one less thing to worry about.
Not having to worry about your voice will make you feel more prepared so your brain can relax into delivering your excellent content. Especially if you may be feeling nervous that your voice won’t last the first keynote speech, much less the entire length of the conference. This translates into greater confidence in your ability.
Doing the voice work ahead of time will also help you connect to your body, which will only translate to a more engaging performance for your audience. Speakers who are more in tune with their bodies and the space around them are more fully present and able to hold an audience’s attention.
So, there you have it. Warming up is where it’s at! Start making it part of your daily routine, speakers. You won’t regret it!
Get My Free Warm-Ups For Speakers Audio Download Now
Put these proven vocal warm-ups on your phone. Then do them. Daily. Your voice will repay you by being ready at a moment’s notice for any speaking gig that comes up. You got this!
Would you like to see any other free resources offered here at The Voice Love Co? Leave a comment below to let me know!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
You are going about living your best life, excited about an upcoming gig, crushing fear like nobody’s business and BAM! You wake up the morning of gig day feeling not quite right. Maybe you feel a little sore spot in your throat, your nose is stuffy, or even a full-blown allergy attack has left your voice ragged. You sound like crap and fear leans on you hard.
How will you ever make it through this gig?
7 Things to Do When Your Voice Sounds Like Crap
•Rest your voice as much as possible prior to your gig. Total. Vocal. Rest. No talking. No singing. And certainly, no whispering (ever, ever, EVER). If your voice is feeling puny, you must save it for gig time. No exceptions.
•Drink water like it is your job. I’ve said this before, but I will say it, again and again, to remind you of how important it is: Drink half your body weight in ounces. That should be your norm in a 24 hour period (ie. if you are 100 lbs, you drink 50 ounces). While this should be your daily practice, if you wake up and your voice is worrying you, you really need to push the hydration and be sure you are getting all of your water intake and then some.
•Sip warm Throat Coat tea before, during and after your warm up to give extra assistance in warming the voice and keeping the throat moisturized in a way that plain water doesn’t.
•Warm up should consist of mainly gentle humming a couple of hours before the gig. Rule of thumb: When your voice is like this, you need to do MORE humming, rather than other vocalization exercises. Let the humming help you diagnose where your voice is today. Is there a catch in a certain part of your chest voice? Your mix voice? Your head voice? Note that and keep humming. Easy does it, now. Do not hum loudly or vigorously. Just gentle humming from low to high and back down. It is quite possible, that gentle humming might work out the kinks in your voice.
•Sing or speak at full voice ONLY when necessary during your sound check. When you do start to sing or speak about an hour before ‘go time’, warm up with some light buzzing. Then start to sing some gentle scales with open vowels at only half voice. (Speakers, I’m talking to you, too!) Again, gently does it here. Really pay attention to your body and what it is telling you.
•Delegate as much as you can vocally during your gig to take some of the load off of your voice. Are there any places in your presentation where you can rely on somebody else to help you? Can someone else do the merch pitch? Sing unisons with you? Emcee the event for you so you can save what you have for your keynote? Strategize as best you can in order to preserve what you’ve got.
•Sip warm Throat Coat tea and gently hum throughout the performance (off mic, of course, ha!) and whenever possible, to keep the voice flexible and loose.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
Waking up on the day of a speaking, singing or acting gig with a voice that is not in prime shape is stressful, to say the least. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath. Stay calm and give these tips a try to hold on to the voice you’ve got. If you know of other things that have helped you preserve your voice, leave a comment below for The Voice Love community so everyone can benefit.