How to Build Vocal Stamina as a Singer-Songwriter
As a singer-songwriter your voice is your instrument and building vocal stamina is a vital element of your success. You need to be able to sing for long periods at a time and ensure that your vocal range, power and clarity is not compromised. But it is not always easy. In this article we’ll explore some tips and techniques to help you build and sustain your vocal stamina.
Understanding Vocal Stamina
Vocal stamina refers to the ability to be able to sing for long periods of time without becoming fatigued or straining your voice. Singing requires a lot of energy from your body. Like any other muscles you need to train and strengthen your vocal cords so that you can endure the demands of singing for lengthy periods.
Importance of Building Vocal Stamina
Without your voice you can’t perform. Unlike other instruments, if something gets broken or damaged you can’t fix your voice on the spot or replace it. With good vocal stamina you can sing with more power, better clarity and range and you can perform night after night without straining or fatiguing your voice.
Tips For Building Vocal Stamina
1. Proper Vocal Warm Up
It is crucial to prepare your voice for singing every time you perform - even to your friends at a party or sitting around the fire at home. An effective vocal warm up helps to warm up your vocal cords, relax your throat muscles and increase the flow of blood to your larynx. It can also help to avoid straining your voice or developing vocal fatigue.
2. Breath Control
Good breath control is a must for serious singers. Correct breathing will enable you to sing for longer, with more power and control. With training, you will learn how to breathe the way we were designed to breathe rather than the shallow breathing most of us have become accustomed to using in our daily lives.
My favourite topic when it comes to vocal health, proper hydration is essential for building vocal stamina. You need to drink plenty of water and avoid drinks with caffeine, like tea, coffee, energy drinks, cola and alcohol. Sufficient hydration helps to lubricate your vocal cords and prevents them from becoming dry, irritated or croaky.
4. Vocal Exercises
It is essential to practice vocal exercises to build and maintain your vocal strength. Scales, arpeggios, lip and tongue trills and sirens will help to improve your vocal range and control.
By using these types of exercises regularly you will develop longevity and prevent vocal fatigue.
5. Rest and Recovery
Rest and recovery are crucial for developing and maintaining vocal stamina. Give your voice time to rest and recover after a performance or a long rehearsal by avoiding speaking loudly and taking breaks when you’re tired.
Building vocal stamina is essential for a singer-songwriter. It takes time and effort but it when you cultivate good habits you can build and maintain your vocal stamina and develop a strong singing voice with outstanding power, clarity and range.
1. How long does it take to build good vocal stamina?
It depends on how much effort you put into developing good habits, how much you exercise your voice and how often. It can take a few weeks or a few months, depending on where you’re at when you start and how serious you are about developing your vocal stamina.
2. How often should I do vocal exercises?
I recommend warming up and exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes per day. You should aim for a full vocal workout at least 3 days a week, consisting of a warm up, technical vocal exercises and focussed song rehearsal.
3. Can vocal fatigue lead to vocal damage?
The short answer is Yes. Singing or Speaking for extended periods without proper techniques, rest and recovery can lead to vocal fatigue and ultimately, vocal damage.
4. What should I do if my voice becomes fatigued, hoarse or croaky?
Stop singing or speaking immediately! Rest is the only way to recover your voice. If your voice remains hoarse for a few days or gets worse you should seek medical help without delay. Long term fatigue or hoarseness can be a sign of long term vocal damage or worse, serious medical conditions.
5. How can I tell if I’m overusing my voice?
If you’re overexerting your voice you may notice symptoms like hoarseness or croakiness or find it difficult to sing notes you usually don’t find struggle with, particularly at the top and bottom end of your range. Listen to your body and take regular breaks so that you avoid vocal strain.
6. Can diet affect your voice?
Yes. Avoid eating spicy or fried foods and eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients to avoid acid reflux or inflammation of the gullet and throat.
7. How can I improve my breath control?
Improving posture, focusing on relaxation and practice breathing exercises to develop better breath control. Here’s a link to a breathing exercise I use with my students:
8. Why do I feel nervous before performing?
While it’s normal to feel nervous before performing and can actually be a good sign, excessive nervousness can impede your vocal control. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation or visualisation to minimise performance anxiety.
9. How can I avoid vocal Strain when recording in the studio?
Like all performances and singing sessions it it vital that you warm up - especially when you are planning to sing for extended periods, such as a recording session. Alongside good vocal health and using proper vocal technique, good microphone technique will also help to reduce fatigue as you will optimise the microphone rather than trying to disguise poor technique or a lack of experience. Avoid extended periods of shouting and never shout at the top of your range.
10. Can smoking affect vocal stamina?
Absolutely. IN fact, smoking of any kind is one of the quickest ways to induce vocal fatigue and strain. Smoking can dry out and irritate your vocal cords. The result of this dehydration and irritation can be hoarseness and croakiness, fatigue, reduced vocal stamina and a significant reduction in range.
While a “smoky” voice can at first seem seductive and unique, it can quickly become a serious problem with very serious consequences.
Now that you have the low-down on building vocal stamina, let’s get going! Click the image below and follow the video tutorial to develop your vocal control…