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Singers’ Secrets: How Professionals Keep & Improve Their Voices

Professional voice artists have tougher lives than the average person understands. It’s often said that people who sing or speak for a living carry their “instrument” around with them in the space between their mouths and their midsections, but the more apt comparison may well be to professional athletes — whose “instruments,” such as they are, are contiguous and coterminous with their bodies.

Except voice artists have it even harder than that. Most athletes hang up their cleats or bats or clubs by the time they enter their fifth decade or so, low-impact sports (fore!) notwithstanding. Singers have the potential to last a whole lot longer than that — their entire natural lives, fingers crossed.

Given their potential (and, for those not blessed with early fame and riches beyond their wildest dreams, expectation) that they’ll remain in this line of work for the long haul, it’s imperative that singers do their utmost to protect their voices. Here’s how top singing professionals get it done.

Work With a Vocal Coach You Trust

If you’re going to work with a vocal coach — and you should — then make sure it’s someone in whom you have the utmost trust.

“What I value most is the confidence he inspires,” says model and vocalist Elena Matei, about her coach and mentor Bill Riley. One reason for Matei’s confidence in Riley may be his pedigree — he works with Celine Dion, among other luminaries.

Don’t Sing More Than You Have to (And Keep Your Voice Low)

In a word, save it up. Just as professional athletes stay away from pickup games to avoid injury, professional singers have no business giving impromptu performances between scheduled shows. The same applies to speaking engagements, as well — if you don’t have to project your voice, don’t.

Don’t Eat Late at Night

If you’ve ever suffered from indigestion, this bit of advice is sure to ring true. “Eating late at night…can produce problems with acid reflux,” notes singer-broadcaster Mary King. Reflux, in turn, may damage the esophagus and sap vocal strength.

Avoid Caffeine

A cup of coffee now and then isn’t verboten, but singers should largely avoid caffeine and other potentially dehydrating drinks. “Any caffeinated beverage is going to cause your vocal cords to dry out eventually,” says Jennifer Wilson, an American opera singer.

That goes even for mild drinks, like green tea. Stick to water, and plenty of it.

Take Time to Rest After a Big Performance

Mary King has another tip for sensitive voices: total rest for up to 48 hours following a big performance. To be clear, “rest” means rest: no talking beyond what’s absolutely necessary to get through your day.

Your Voice Is Your Gift

Don’t let anyone lead you to believe that your voice isn’t a gift straight from whatever higher power you happen to believe in. Even those who’ve never sung a note in their lives know that their voices, coupled with their powers of persuasion and reason, can shift hearts and change minds.

Treat your voice like the gift you know it to be. Follow the tips outlined above, along with whatever advice your voice coach deems fit to deliver. You owe it to yourself — and those who sing along with you.

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