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.”