1. If it hurts to sing, don’t. You can try humming if singing is uncomfortable, but never do anything that causes pain in your voice.
2. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water, especially on days you will be practicing or performing. Urine should optimally run close to clear.
3. Don’t take cold or allergy remedies that contain antihistamines. They dry out the mucus membranes of the throat and nasal passages, and can create hoarseness when you sing. Look for simple expectorant syrups and take Tylenol instead.
4. Keep up on healthcare. If you get sick and believe it’s more than a simple cold, consult a good physician/throat specialist for advice and treatment. If your voice isn’t working for a prolonged amount of time and you can’t figure out why, go see a doctor. A hoarse voice is a symptom for deeper health issues, such as reflux disorders.
5. Choose repertoire carefully. If you must sing music that’s unusually tiring in either range or intensity, take your time warming up with easier pieces first, and stop singing when you feel tired. Work your way up to more difficult pieces, and always go with what you feel.
6. Don’t try to sound like someone else. Develop your own unique voice by singing pieces that feel good to you in the key that suits you best. Let your face, throat, and body relax, allowing your own voice to take shape by doing what makes it shine. Forcing yourself to sound like other singers is bad for your self-confidence as well as your voice.
7. Treat your speaking voice as carefully as you would your singing voice. Don’t abuse it. Support it as though you were singing. Keep the vocal cords adducted, as breathiness causes vocal damage at higher volumes. Avoid prolonged talking in environments with noise, dust, and smoke. Screaming or talking loudly is vocal abuse and can cause long-term damage.
8. Avoid throat clearing and coughing. If you are having a problem with excessive mucus, try drinking a lot of water as you do tongue exercises instead. Exercises will break up the mucus in your sinus passages and the water will wash the crud away without causing stress to the larynx.
9. Create good rehearsal habits. Be sure to warm up before singing. Be careful not to sight read difficult music in full voice; uncertainty about intervals can lead to vocal strain. Maintain your energy level and concentration, so you won’t be as likely to strain your voice.
10. Get and stay physically fit. In addition to the usual aerobic exercise and muscle development, start your day with stretching, breathing, and vocal exercises to prepare the voice and body for normal daytime activity.
11. Stay away from alcoholic and caffeinated beverages before singing. They are both drying to the voice and body. If you find yourself in a situation where you have consumed a significant amount of alcohol or caffeine, and realize you will need to sing soon, be sure to rehydrate immediately, and go easy on the high or loud notes where you are most likely to get hoarse.
12. Eat well-balanced meals, but eat lightly before a concert, and well in advance of going on stage. Food and liquids in large amounts take up space and interfere with deep breathing. Also, watch what you’re eating. Milk products seem to bother some singers because of excessive mucus production. Food allergies are also important to be aware of, as they can affect the voice.
13. Get lots of good rest. In combination with drinking water, sleep can make a huge difference in the quality of your vocal performance. Needs vary, but at least eight hours (especially on the night before a performance) is best.
14. Continue to do breathing exercises regularly as part of your daily practicing. A strong diaphragm and set of abdominal and intercostal muscles, as well as a developed singing breath will greatly relieve the larynx of stress and strain.
15. Be aware of your body. Study anatomy pictures to identify where your larynx, diaphragm, intercostal muscles, hyoid, mandibular joint, and root of the tongue actually are. Being aware of the location and role your body parts play in the process of producing sound will greatly decrease the amount of effort needed to sing.
16. Relax. Include time for recreation, artistic endeavors, time with nature, and/or mind-body activities like yoga or meditation. Anything that makes you feel calm and peaceful, aware of your body and breathing, or that reduces your stress level will greatly enhance your vocal production.
17. It’s important to be able to hear yourself. If practicing with a recording, use speakers rather than earbuds. If you sing in an amplified band, always use a monitor.
18. Just say no. Avoid taking any drugs on the advice of anyone other than a physician.