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What Singers Should Do

The School of Music wishes to thank Dr. Diane Coloton, D.M.A., Senior Lecturer in Voice, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

1. Get enough sleep.
Lack of sleep wears you out physically, dulls mental function and compromises your immune system. Getting enough sleep is the best weapon against illness.

2. Stay hydrated.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially on the day before and the day of a performance. This is hydrating at the cellular level, not just wetting your mouth! Drinking lots before and during performances generally washes away saliva, making you feel even thirstier.

Dr. C Tip: Hide a Lifesaver or two in your folder, pocket, or “opera locker” and, when not singing, sneak it into you mouth if really dry. Avoid throat drops with Benzocaine and menthol. Both have numbing effects and do not promote hydration. Simple, hard sugar candy is best.

Dr. C Tip: Cranberry juice is very drying. Avoid it when you’re singing.

3. Stay healthy, stay in shape
Maintain a strong immune system and avoid stress by eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and balancing work and play. Singing is physically demanding, so promote strength and endurance in your workouts.

4. If you get a sore throat as a result of a cold or flu, you can make yourself more comfortable by drinking plenty of fluids, gargling with warm salt water (1 tsp. of salt for each 8 oz. of water), placing a warm cloth on swollen glands, and sucking on lozenges that have Camphor or Benzocaine -- desirable to deaden throat pain. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can reduce fever. A cool mist humidifier in your room can help loosen secretions . . . all this on the advice of your parents and doctors, of course.

5. Practice correctly.
Pace yourself so you don’t sing for long periods of time. “Practicing” involves much more than singing, so learn a phrase or two at a time, notes and rhythm, diction, etc. Don’t strain your voice by guessing at or reaching for notes you’re unsure of. If you don’t know the pitch of high leap for sure, play it first on the piano. Don’t scream your best.

6. Don’t overuse and misuse your voice.
Don’t sing too loudly or softly for your comfort.
Don’t sing for too long at a time.
Don’t sing things that are harmful for your young, developing voice.
Don’t try to talk over noise in loud restaurants.
Don’t yell at sports events.
Don’t cough or clear your throat unnecessarily.
Don’t smoke. Cigarettes are lethal, and smoke dries the vocal folds.
Don’t abuse alcohol. Aside from obvious dangers, alcohol is also very drying.

7. Don’t forget that everything you do affects your voice!
Your voice is your instrument, so treat it with respect.