10 Tips to Keep You (and your Voice) Warm and Toasty
By Jaime Babbitt
I’m writing this on November 5, the day of the New York City Marathon, and the temperature is a (relatively) balmy 57 degrees. I hope my fellow carolers will be so lucky when the holiday season comes; ha, those of you in the South may be! However, many of us will be singing in the rain, snow, wind and cold. Here are some timely tips to keep the inner fires burning:
Get a good night’s sleep, preferably in a humidified environment: Sleep is the best thing for anyone’s voice, so the day before caroling, have an early night and don’t yap a lot with friends. Regarding sleep, remember: eight is great, seven is almost heaven, six can play tricks, five, hey, you’re alive! But adrenaline is a wonderful thing and will kick in just when you need it.
Warm up your voice beforehand: Steam up in the shower and then do a full vocal warm-up before caroling. (Always warm up before singing!) If you’re caroling for hours, or have a break, do light humming, lip trills, ‘r’ rolls (if you can – some can’t!) and dog panting to refresh your muscles.
Arrive a bit early to acclimate to the weather: Guitarists, string and woodwind players do this, in order to create less of a shock for their instruments. Runners do it, too, for their muscles. So, your voice will need to adjust as well; consider getting there ahead of time, especially if you have somewhere warm for shelter, like someone’s home, or your car.
Keep head, face, feet, hands and neck properly insulated: Apologies to moms worldwide, but 50% of your body heat doesn’t escape from your head. However, heat does escape from exposed skin. Caroling in a ski mask is probably not the look you’re going for, but cover yourself as much as possible. If you’re playing guitar, use fingerless gloves (but definitely rehearse with them beforehand!)
Dress for the day and/or night: Pay attention to the weather forecast and wear rain/snow gear if needed. Layering is the trick, especially if you’re in period costumes; just be sure that the layer of clothing against your skin is made from fabrics that keep you warm and wick moisture away from your body. Stay away from cotton and think running clothes, wool, down, polyester, etc. I love Smartwool socks for outdoor gigs, and warm, comfy shoes are a must.
Stay hydrated: Remember, nothing you swallow ever touches your vocal cords—you’d choke. Your throat is what gets dry in the cold. Drink non-caffeinated herbal teas (like Throat Coat) or hot or room temperature water. Avoid coffee, regular teas and lemon; caffeine and citrus can be astringents. However, do consider room temperature, fresh squeezed pineapple juice (especially when made from the core), or eat room temperature pineapple on breaks. Fresh pineapple has bromelain, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Keep gum and herbal lozenges handy (like Slippery Elm Bark), too.
Breath in through the nose, out through the mouth: This is perhaps the most important tip for cold-weather singing. Breathing through your mouth will grab your voice and take it somewhere far away. Before your caroling program, I recommend that you practice inhaling through your nose while singing…if you don’t already breathe that way. After losing my voice in Colorado singing outdoors during a snowstorm, I can say I walked the walk!
Go indoors for breaks: I know this isn’t always part of the deal but if you’re caroling at firehouses, or friends’ neighborhoods, take advantage and come from the cold when it’s feasible. FYI: Remove layers of clothing when you’re indoors for a stretch of time so you don’t overheat.
Pace yourself: We all want to give our best. However, if you’re not in tip-top shape, remember that your friends and fellow carolers will have your back. If you’re really under the weather, consider sitting it out. Not only do you not want to become sicker than before, your cooties will be on full display for all to come in contact with, so it may not be the best day to be exhaling forcefully and potentially infecting your fellow singers.
Bring a warm change of clothes for afterward (if caroling all day, or for hours at night): This may not apply to everyone, but for those in the more frigid climates, after singing for a long while, get out of all your clothes (undies, too) and get warm and dry. You’ll be happy to be out of your caroling garb and in some comfy sweats, leggings, turtlenecks and wool socks when you’re enjoying a meal, drink and recap of the day…Happy Holidays, everyone! Sing pretty for the people!
Jaime Babbitt coached voice/performance for Disney and wrote Working with Your Voice: The Career Guide to Becoming a Professional Singer (Alfred Publishing). As a session singer, she’s “jingled” for Coke, Pillsbury, Chevrolet and hundreds more. She’s sung thousands of gigs and toured with Leon Russell and Sam Moore. Jaime sang BGVs with George Strait, Courtney Love, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Webb, Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus, Johnny Mathis and more, performed off-Broadway and coaches voice in NYC, LA and Connecticut. For info, workingwithyourvoice.com