How to Avoid Losing Your Voice While Leading Worship

How to Avoid Losing Your Voice While Leading Worship by Libby Lewis

Leading worship 2, 3, or even 4 services in a row can be really tough on your voice, especially when it’s combined with early morning rehearsal.

A lot of worship singers deal with vocal fatigue and cross their fingers every time that the last service comes around, just hoping to hit all the notes!

Singing that much is a lot of work, and it’s normal for your voice to need a break, but a lot of reasons why singers lose their voice is from lack of care. They have developed bad habits that render their voice weak.

My wish for every vocalist, especially those who lead worship, is to step on stage with confidence in their vocal endurance EVERY SINGLE TIME they sing.

I used to lead worship ten times a week on top of other gigs, and although it was a lot of work, I never lost my voice, and it’s because I followed these four critical tips.

Keep reading and more importantly, apply these tips to your lifestyle, and you will see your voice improve.

1. You Are What You Eat! 

Smart vocal prep needs to begin 24 hours before you sing. Everything you eat and drink before affects your voice. BIG TIME.

Did you know that the water you drink right before you go on stage has no immediate effect on your voice? It actually takes your body about 4 hours for the water you drink to reach your vocal cords, so begin hydrating the day before.

Staying hydrated helps your body produce the mucus your vocal cords need to vibrate efficiently. Your vocal cords vibrate between 100-1000 times a second, and they need that mucus to help them stay lubricated.

Of course, having water around while you’re on stage is great, but all you need are small sips throughout your set. Also, be sure to keep that water room temperature! Too hot and your vocal cords may be too relaxed, too cold and they’ll tighten up.

There are of course lots of foods/drinks to avoid before you sing. Here are things to avoid 12 hours before you sing: 

  • Dairy (too much mucous build-up, no thanks!)
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Processed Sugar
  • Soda
  • Fried Foods

On a more positive note, there are some foods that do help your voice. But I still recommend avoiding eating 30 minutes to an hour before you perform.

Here’s what you CAN eat and drink!

  • Fresh Fruits (apples are my absolute favorite thing to eat to help me sing!)
  • Lean Protein such as Chicken/Fish/Turkey (helps sustain energy)
  • Vitamin A (keep your mucous membranes nice and healthy)
  • Decaf Tea (avoid that caffeine!)
  • Honey (helps soothe a sore throat)
  • Potato chips (this may be a surprise, but it actually helps a lot! If your voice is dry or phlegmy, potato chips can help clear your throat while coating it with oils making your voice feel smooth and lubricated. Try it and thank me later!)

2. Your Voice is a Muscle 

Your vocal cords are muscles, and just like any muscle in your body, it needs regular exercise. Have you noticed how even after just a few days of no singing, your voice already feels weaker?

On off days, I do my best to sing at least 20-30 minutes a day. Whether that’s in the car, in the shower, or at the piano, it’s important to stay consistent.

One of my favorite vocal strengthening exercises to avoid vocal strain is the straw technique. The more strained your voice is, the further apart your vocal folds are. By singing through a straw, you alieve strain by gently bringing your vocal folds together.

Especially when it comes to singing high notes, this exercise is an absolute game-changer. Try humming a song you usually have a hard time singing through the straw for a while, then switch back to your normal singing voice. You’ll instantly see how much more relaxed your voice is and how much easier it is to sing higher notes.

Check out this video to learn how to master the straw technique!

3. Proper Warm-Ups 

Before rehearsal, while the guitarists are riffing like crazy, and the drummers are tuning their snare for what feels like an eternity, what are the vocalists doing? I really hope they’re warming up their voice and memorizing lyrics, but that’s not always the case.

Worship singers, I challenge you to utilize this time to your advantage! Even though it’s not a great space to practice, you can still hum, practice lips trills, and review your parts to get your voice warmed up.

Singing in the morning is even more of a challenge, so begin warming up your voice as soon as you wake up to get a head start. Your voice will thank you.

4. Trust Your Team & Trust the Holy Spirit 

For a while, I sang with a small worship team in a tiny 30 person church with a weak mix and not a lot of instrumentalists to carry the energy. I always felt that when I stopped singing, the congregation stopped worshipping, and so I did my best to fill the instrumental breaks with my voice.

It took me a while to realize that what I was doing wasn’t helping anyone, especially my own voice. I wasn’t trusting my team, and I wasn’t trusting the Holy Spirit. I thought the congregation needed me to sing more and add riffs and exhortation as often as possible.

The truth was, I was over-leading out of fear. 

Your church needs your heart more than your voice, and your team needs your trust in order to grow. Know when to sing and when not to sing. Know ahead of time what your voice can and cannot handle and delegate sections to other singers or instrumentals to help you carry the set.

Not only will you keep your voice healthy and strong, but you will empower those around you.

How do you avoid losing your voice? And what questions do you have about worship vocals? Tell us in the comments below!

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