Singing is simple. Everyone with a voice has the ability to sing. Some of us are natural singers and for others it takes a little longer. But what separates great singers from the best singers? Like everything else, great habits create outstanding achievements. In this article I’ll be sharing the seven habits that successful singers have in place. And these are some of the habits I developed, that resulted in me performing in more than thirty countries and selling three Top Ten albums.
Not every single singer does every single one of these but you will find that the most successful singers will be implementing all of these. If you want to go from being a good singer, to a great singer to an outstanding singer, I would recommend that you implement every single one of these within the next few months.
The best way is to start with one, implement it into your routine for a few weeks, then add the next. Eventually you'll have all of these seven daily habits and you'll become one of the best singers that you and everyone around you know.
Watch the video:
The Seven Habits
1. Warm up every single time you sing.
Now this isn't news to anyone. All singers know that you need to warm up every time you sing, but not all singers do it. How do I know? Because I used to be one of those singers. I got complacent. I stopped warming up before gigs and I stopped warming up before practising and it definitely made a difference to my voice. When I started warming up again before before practice and before gigging it definitely opened up my voice, enabled me to do more with my voice and it kept my voice a lot healthier. I've seen this in other singers too, particularly singers who are touring who are gigging a lot. Warming up every single time you sing will make huge difference to your vocal range, your ability to project, to the sound of your voice and to your ability to do to or perform night after night.
2. Eat healthily.
Again, this isn't news. Everyone who's performing or touring a lot knows that it's really important to eat healthily. You need to keep your strength up and you need to keep your vocal cords clean. There are a lot of foods that produce mucus, particularly fatty and sugary foods, and foods with dairy. It's really difficult to eat healthily when you're on tour. I’ve found that the best thing to do is plan your food as much as you can in advance and take as much of it as you can with you. If you can, figure out where you're going to have stops and where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables. And if you're ever offered raw food like salad, fruit or vegetables, eat it, even if you don't like it! Do whatever you can to keep your body healthy to keep your energy up and to keep your vocal cords healthy.
3. Get plenty of sleep. But don’t oversleep.
I've I have had bouts of insomnia for about 18 years, which can be caused by a number of different things. As a result, I’ve done a lot of research insomnia and sleep.
Sleep experts say we don't we don't need eight or nine hours sleep - we actually need somewhere between six and seven hours of good restful sleep, in cycles of 90 mins. That doesn't mean falling into bed after a night out drinking after an or after a night gigging.
I find that when I get around seven hours of sleep, I wake up feeling energised. I don't feel groggy, I can go through the whole of the day without feeling like I need a pick me up like a piece of chocolate or a banana or a biscuit (I don’t drink caffeine).
As creative people, singers and singer songwriters often stay up late because we’re “in the flow” of inspiration or motivation. We want to get lots of things done while we're in that creative headspace. But it's really important to keep a good sleep routine. When you develop a routine at night where your body and your brain start to know that it's time to shut down, it’s easier to fall asleep when it’s time to go to bed. That could mean:
turning the lights down
switching to low key lighting
putting your devices away
playing low-level music
a warm drink
having a bath
Once you’ve established a good sleeping routine, you can even carry that through - to an extent - when you're performing or when you're on tour. This will just help you to stay healthy and energised and maintain good vocal health so that you can build a long, fulfilling career.
4. Exercise regularly.
Exercising regularly builds your stamina for performing and touring. There's lots going on and you have to be alert, fit and healthy so that you can perform with gusto, every night, for weeks or even months on end. I once had a college student who was so unfit that she wasn’t able to sing an entire song, she had to perform as a duet or in a group and still struggled immensely. It’s important to look after yourself.
"Regular Exercise" doesn’t have to mean going to the gym every day. It doesn't even necessarily going to the gym two or three times a week, if that's not for you. What I mean is movement. Most of us live sedentary lifestyles and we need to actively move daily. Intentional movement releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormones into your body. This creates the domino effect of a positive association with exercise, making you want to move and exercise even more.
I’m not a personal trainer, but I love exercising. Having been a dancer when I was younger, it makes sense that I would enjoy exercising.
Daily exercise might be as little as taking 10 minutes out of your day and going for a walk around your local open space. It might mean that you take your dog out for a lot slightly longer walk twice each day. Perhaps you join the gym and that you walk on the treadmill, listening to your favourite music or podcasts, for 30 minutes. If you prefer to be around people maybe you find a dance group or join a boxercise class. Choose something that you enjoy - a lot - and that you’re likely to stick to.
5. My favourite: stay hydrated!
Just mean drinking lots of water isn't the only answer. While water alone won’t save you, I’ve made “stay hydrated” my catchphrase because it reminds people to, well, stay hydrated. I love plain water, but if you can’t stomach the blandness of still, plain water. Or even sparkling water, you can pop some fruit into it to infuse it or try drinking coconut water.
If water really gives you the ick, herbal teas with honey are extremely beneficial for your voice, particularly lemon and ginger tea. But it doesn't have to be just lemon and ginger tea it could be any flavour of decaffeinated herbal tea. If you like green tea, go for the decaffeinated green tea that's really going to help you to stay healthy to stay fresh again stay energised and to keep your vocal health up.
6. Practise regularly.
If you want to improve your singing, it;s imperitive that you practise on a regular basis.
Historically, I've worked with people who take a lesson every week, do almost nothing between lessons then do two hours practice the day before, or on the day of, their lessons This doesn't get you anywhere. Along with everything, you need to practice your singing regularly.
What does regular practice mean?
If you're really serious about singing, I would recommend practising at least five times a week.
What does an effective practie session look like?
This would include a good warm up, a valuable technical workout and active rehearsal of any songs that you're writing, learning or that you're performing. If you can, practice every day. When I first started learning, back in 1999, I practised at four o'clock every single day, for years. This meant that my family and friends and me all knew that four o'clock was my practice time and I didn’t plan anything else at that time, because I didn’t want anything else to get in the way of my progress. Now that's quite extreme and II'm not saying that everyone should should practice every single day at a given time. That was MY strategy. And it worked for me.
Maybe you’ll decide to set aside a regular time to rehearse. Maybe it's sometime between 12 and two every day, if you don't work during the day. If you are at work all day, perhaps it's somewhere between six and eight, three evenings a week.
If you're if you're living in a place where you don't feel comfortable practising, you could book an hour at a local rehearsal space. When you've booked it and you've paid for it, you're more likely to commit to going and using that time to really focus on yourself and your progress.
7. This is an unusual one: Self reflection.
Honest self-reflection could be the catalyst in your routine.
Ask yourself “Am I doing what it takes to get me from where I am now to where I want to be? If I'm not, what could I be doing?” It doesn't have to be anything huge. It could be as small as going to bed a little earlier or even drinking one less coffee each day. Self reflection is key to your progress and your development as a serious singer. Highly successful people evaluate their progress each day, but you don’t need to put that much pressure on yourself. You could set aside some time each week to reflect on your activity and your progress through the week. Check-in with your goals and your values and evaluate whether they are in line with your overarching goal.
BONUS HABIT: Check in with a trained, professional vocal coach.
If you're a professional singer, I would recommend that you check in with a trained professional experienced vocal coach at least every every few months. I do this I just every few months to check my habits and to take a different approach to my own practice. Less experienced singers should aim to take lessons every fortnight or, even better, every week.
Ultimately, you will integrate as many of these habits as are in line with your goals as a singer. Take it step-by-step and create the habits that help you to progress and build momentum. Pick one and stick with it until it’s a habit.
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