Are You a Diva or a Smart Singer?
Divas. Their ridiculous requests to have a certain colour of M&Ms and water shipped in from the highest peak of a certain Swiss mountain have really given us singers a bad name.
Have you ever lamented to a guitarist about your scratchy throat and seen them roll their eyes at you?
Or asked a drummer to turn off the air-conditioning and received a death stare?
In university, the instrumentalists used to whisper about the vocalists being “precious” and “high maintenance,” creating a bitter rivalry similar to that of West Side Story (minus the clicking and high kicks).
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I love instrumentalists but they don’t understand #singerstruggles.
It’s not their fault, they usually don't panic as soon as they get a sniffle or a cough (they tend to worry about losing their fingers in a car door accident or hope their lips don’t fall off).
They don't understand our pain just in the same way we don't understand the pain of the calluses and RSI they often have to cope with.
We have a few more things we need to be careful of and if that makes us seem like princesses, so be it.
Your whole body is your instrument my dear.
- When you feel run down, it impacts your voice.
- If you go out one night and try to talk over a cacophony of sounds for hours, you may not be able to make a peep the next day.
- The second you get bronchitis, laryngitis, a chest infection etc – you’re out for the count.
I used to feel jealous of instrumentalists who could sound pretty much just as good whether they were sick or not.
So, we need to be careful AND sensible.
I’m telling you this as a former wild child that laughed at the “serious singers” with their scarves and their copious amounts of tea. I thought I was above all that. The reality? I was just not as committed and also a little scared that people would think I was a snob.
Not anymore. My voice has to be my priority.
So, how do you look after yourself without seeming like a brat?
If you don’t already have a practice journal, nab one! Or you can download my practice worksheet as part of my Kickstarter Pack here.
Because your energy levels and state of mind will impact your sound, it’s important that you note it down.
- If you’re just recovering from a head cold, don’t be angry that your head voice notes are taking their sweet time to return.
- If you didn’t sleep much last night, you might not have the get-up-and-go to smash out a song that requires serious power.
- If you’re feeling fatigued or not 100% but aren’t sick or recovering, what else could be having an effect?
- What have you been eating lately? How much water have you been drinking?
- Sleep? Exercise? Stress? Lack of fun?
FIGURE OUT YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES
Once you’ve been tracking how you feel for a few weeks, you’ll probably start to notice patterns.
Hmm, my voice flows best after I meditate or do a yoga class.
If I eat dairy too soon before I sing, my throat feels like it’s been taken over by a mucus monster.
I have much more energy on stage when I've had a morning workout.
What benefits your voice and what has more of a negative impact?
I'm not saying give up your coffee and go to the gym every day, I'm just saying to take note of what helps and what hinders. You may limit your caffeine intake and up your movement (for example) a few days before an important audition or concert.
Your non-negotiables are your boundaries. Putting boundaries in place will make sure you're confident that you're bringing the best version of yourself to each and every performance.
Boundaries should be about your health not your Ego. You don't need 12 straps of liquorice tied in bows to perform at your best. If you want them, you get them.
It is not your band's job to ensure that you can hear your voice in the foldback.
It's not your roadie's job to fetch you a hot lemon and honey.
The rest of the cast shouldn't suffer when you haven't had enough sleep.
All of this is YOUR responsibility babe. Take some ownership of yourself, your health and your body.
Your voice is a gift and not something that you can afford to take for granted. I've seen too many singers ignore the warning signs of their voice and their body do some real damage to their instrument.
It's the only voice you have, take care of it!
Sure, this whole singing thing can have its own challenges, but there are always solutions. Make more good choices than bad ones.
- Say no to that party the night before a gig.
- Say yes to smashing a big bowl of vegetables.
- Warm up your voice.
- Mark to save your voice during long rehearsals (this means singing lighter or softer or even changing octave to conserve your voice).
As long as you don't throw it back on the people around you to ensure you perform at your best, you should be able to save yourself the diva comments and cat fight battles.