Whether you’re going to be singing in a live performance or a recording situation, proper vocal preparation is essential. Warm up exercises not only improve the quality of your singing, they also help protect your vocal instrument from damage.
But it’s not just the singing that can cause damage. Screaming, too much talking, or talking in noisy surroundings can also stress your vocal chords.
The lead singer in a band I was in had to stop singing for three months due to damage to her vocal chords. We were playing every weekend in a local bar, and, in between songs, people would come up and talk or request songs.
The damage was caused not by her singing (her singing technique was excellent), but by having to lean over her keyboard and talk over the crowd noise.
Some other good suggestions for vocal performance preparation come from an article on a discmakers blog:
When preparing for a vocal performance or studio date, “the obvious thing to do is rest,” recommends Ebbers. “But there are environmental things you might not be aware of or consider an issue, like being in a place where the decibel level is much higher than you think it is. In order to compete with the sound, you have to strain your voice to speak louder to be heard or understood. Many times, people are unaware that they’re in such an environment, because there are so many noisy places in our world, and we’ve come to accept them and adjust. But when you’re a singer, you have to be more aware of these environmental conditions.”
If you’re playing club dates, bars, or parties, the quality of your performance and your vocal health can be severely impacted in the hours leading up to your set by talking and socializing before you get on stage. “Don’t go screaming at a football game or tax your voice before a performance or session, even if it’s two weeks before a session,” says vocalist, studio owner, and producer Jon Marc Weiss. “That can take its toll on your throat and vocal chords and can really mess you up. Keep in mind that you need to keep your voice in tip-top shape so that when you’re called on, you can perform.”
Read more: Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance
How do you determine the right volume for practice and gigging?
This can be a difficult, and sometimes contentious, problem. Different band members may have different opinions (desires, requests, demands), and audience members are no different.
Some solutions that can be attempted are:
- talking to the other band members (Hey! it could work … or not)
- individual monitors and monitor mixes
- in-ear monitors or headphones
Some of these solutions will work for problems with the audience as well. However, in any audience you are always going to have some who want it louder and some who think you’re already too loud!
… and we all know how annoying that can be.
Here is a question and answer webpage with some more comments and ideas: Musical Practice and Performing.
When you are starting out as a musician, or even when you’ve been at it for a long time, there are questions that are specific to independent musicians.
Some of these questions may be related to making a living as a musician, or they may be about how to become a better or more successful musician.
You may be wondering how much money you might eventually make, or what your lifestyle will be like. Do you need a back-up plan? How do you make the connections to get the gigs you want?
If you already an established musician, whether locally, regionally, or nationally, you may find yourself being interviewed and asked questions about what it’s like to be a musician.
Here, from an article on grassrootsy.com, are a few of the questions and answers.
What skills/personal attributes are most important to being successful?
Most importantly, you need to be a good business person. There are so many talented artists out there, but not very many of them know how to make a living off of their talent.
So the most important aspect of being an musician – an independent one – is knowing how to book shows, capitalize on opportunities, be assertive, and ascribe value to your work, so much so that people want to invest in what you have to offer.
You also need to be extremely flexible and have an easy time engaging with different groups and types of people.
It’s common for musicians to be out of work for long periods of time. How can you supplement this time without work? How can you transition out of this period as quickly as possible?
I think when you’re first starting out, you might not have as many performances. It will take a while for people to get to know who you are. But eventually it shouldn’t be hard too find work. People are always in need of entertainment for their events.
The real question is, are these good jobs that can help you pay your bills? Sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re not. When you’re out of music work, it’s extremely important to fall back on your other skills.
This is why I highly recommend going to college and having another skill. I have many friends who are graphic designers, photographers, and videographers. They do other flexible types of jobs to help them subsidize their music career. And these are all great skills for a musician to have.
What are typical mistakes people make when trying to pursue this career?
They are selfish. They only look out for themselves and what they want. The more you get to meet, share, and collaborate with others, the better your experience will be.
For the person who just wants to “get ahead”, they can often feel threatened when others come into the picture as “competition”. But I think if we could operate off of a framework where one artist helps another, then everyone would succeed.
They compare: I strongly feel like more artists need to spend less time looking at what others are doing.
Stop acting like we’re in a competition. If you set your own trajectory then you will be right on schedule. Stop comparing and just do what you do.
For more questions and answers on being an independent musician, check out the original article.
Is the new model for success in the music business leading to artist burnout?
At least in for some artists, this may be the case. The money isn’t in the albums anymore, it’s in the performances and merchandise. Instead of going out on tour in support of a new album, artists are finding it necessary to always be in the public eye.
The strenuous nature of this type of exposure can lead to physical problems such as vocal nodes, hip surgeries, and cancelled tours due to exhaustion. In other words – artist burnout.
CD sales no longer are not what they used to be and many live shows are physically exhausting dance extravaganzas.
If artists burn out at an early stage in their careers, how will they continue to perform (and make a lucrative income) in their later years?
In an article on digitalmusicnews.com, Paul Resnikoff writes:
So what’s going on? Meat Loaf thinks this is what the modern music industry is doing to artists. Instead of embarking on grand tours to support lucrative album releases, the collapse of the recording is forcing artists to be ‘always on,’ constantly gigging, recording, and making appearances.
Add the intense demands of digital, and artists are frying themselves. “That’s the problem with a new artist,” Meat Loaf recently observed. “They don’t sell records like they used to.”
“So they’re forced to do a lot more than just tour. TV shows, interviews, all that talking and doing extra stuff between shows, that’s when you rupture your vocal cords. Overwork, over-tired and then bam.”
Toya Glasgow, an R&B-focused blogger, pointed to an appallingly overworked Rihanna. Back in 2011, the non-stop, never-take-a-break rush included a full tour and upcoming album. “Rihanna has been overworking herself like mad. She’s been touring excessively with not much of a gap in between so-called breaks. When she does get a day or two off, she uses it in the studio to finish recording her upcoming new album.”
“It just seems like she’s working herself into the ground just to meet the deadline… Is all this excessive workload causing Rihanna to become ill?”
And remember, these are the wealthiest, best-supported, most mainstream artists around. So what about everyone else? For developing and less-lucrative acts, touring now seems closer to a survival exercise than a good time. And part of the reason is that selling recordings (ie, pressed CDs) on tour is no longer a viable option. “That kept a tour going,” one source with experience in the van told us, while pointing to newfound pressure on less-lucrative items like specialty vinyl, hats, and yes, t-shirts.
Check out the original article for more on this topic.
A large percentage of musicians experience stage fright, before or during almost every performance. Is this necessarily a bad thing?
If you can use the nervous energy to get that extra “edge” to your performance, it can be a good thing.
In fact, a certain amount of anxiety may be necessary for you to get into “the zone” where everything just clicks for you and your performance. Without that extra kick, your performance may just be flat and uninspired.
If, on the other hand, stage fright overwhelms you and causes you to freeze up, it can be devastating for your performance.
Here are some more tips for overcoming performance anxiety.
The 9 Keys to Becoming the Best That You Can Be
Nine different ways, to be specific:
Preparation: Learn how to practice the right way
Manage energy: Learn how to control your body’s response to adrenaline
Confidence: Learn how to build confidence
Courage: Learn how to play courageously (vs. playing tentatively and worrying about mistakes)
Concentration: Learn how to slow down and regain control of your mind – even under pressure
Focus: Learn how to quiet the mind, focus past distractions, and stay in the moment
Resilience: Learn how to recover quickly from mistakes (so you don’t make even more mistakes)
Determination: Learn how to keep yourself motivated and relentlessly pursue your goals
X-Factor Learn to unlock that something special, that je ne sais quois that makes all the difference in the world
Check out the original article for more on the causes and cures for stage fright.