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The Rigors of the Road

The secrets to being in top vocal shape on the road are revealed by Rachel Lebon.

I’ve watched many of my former students endure incredibly busy performance schedules – including tons of travel.

What is their secret to being in top vocal shape on the road?

This is a critical area for aspiring vocalists as cancelled performances translate to lost revenue for investors and lost opportunities for performers.

I’ve identified three key habits to vocal longevity…

The Punishing Tour Schedule

I recall Grammy award-winning Jon Secada, flying into Miami from NYC for an afternoon dress rehearsal, flying out to another city for a concert that night, interviewing the next morning, then dashing back in time for an evening concert…. demonstrating the rigors of a world class artist’s career.

Such up-tempo, punishing tour schedules feature constantly switching time zones, dry, stale air during extended flights, sleep deprivation, unfamiliar or fast food, dehydration, and little to no time recouping from fatigue or sickness.

Often, artists are “vetted” as back-up singers early in their careers to determine if they possess the vocal and physical stamina, mental discipline, and good humor to cope with the pressures on the road, on microphone and before the cameras.

Though not having the show “on their shoulders”, they must be ready for that sudden phone call to:

• Travel across the country or across the oceans,
• Be in shape physically and vocally
• Present a high-energy, choreographed concert… with a smile.

The Three Key Habits

Actually, the secrets to success for vocalists who travel are the same secrets that help maintain vocal health at home.

Ultimately, professional vocalists with longevity:

1. Maintain stamina and appearance through an exercise regimen (running, walking, the gym…) wherever they are.

2. Maintain a healthy diet, incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables, which have high water content in addition to valuable nutrients and are also portable, combating the need for fast food.

3. Maintain their instrument by warming up, monitoring their speech pattern and voice use, and limiting post-concert partying

Incorporating good vocal hygiene habits NOW prepares you for when that big opportunity arrives, inevitably, when least expected.

-Rachel Lebon

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Richard Ellers – Please Leave Me Behind (Original)

Richard – great guitar chops, nice job in delivering the lyrics and overall effective performance of a clever song. I actually listened to you both on computer and smartphone -over the phone, I wished you were singing on mic, since the guitar was slightly overpowering. You might practice straightening up more when you’re singing self-accompanied – this will help project the text and access the lower notes of your range as well. Ensure that you delineate the distinct ideas in your bridge. Think of each idea as a separate inner phrase and add some gravity to important lyrics (“deal” “real” “sealed” “gorgeous” “gonna reappear”) by using a slight stress as your singing them. I plan to check out your album (clever title) as well.

Sabrina Lynn – Beat It (Cover)

Sabrina – like your fresh approach to the tune. Nice! I think you have much potential. I want you to develop your dynamism. For instance, you could consider percussion alone at times (on your guitar) to add some variation to your performance, have a softer approach to your second verse and incorporate a different attitude for each part of the ending – reflecting this in your facial expressions. Have a reason to repeat “Just Beat It”, displaying a different attitude (perhaps more hushed, then angry, then sassy…) to justify each repetition.

Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. has been a professional vocalist and studio singer in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Nashville and Miami. She was on the faculty at Belmont College and is currently at the University of Miami, has toured toured world-wide with “Tops in Blue” and on a State Department tour of the Soviet Union and Portugal. Rachel is the author of two published books and conducts lectures, symposia and adjudication worldwide on vocal pedagogy and voice disorders.

  • Cher22

    I sing in chords of D, G, A and some minors. Often, I find that I lose my voice power to sing in the chord of D after singing a couple of songs. I can’t figure out why I get breathless and lose the power or ability to sing the D chord.  Do other people have this problem too and what can I do about it?

    I warm up before singing and I drink plenty of water between songs.

    I appreciate the things you have shared in this blog and find them helpful. Thank You

  • RLLebon

    Hi Cher,


    Thanks for your comments and questions.


    Regarding the chord (Key?) of D:


    You might be trying to accommodate a comfortable
    key on instrument at the expense of the comfortablel key for your voice.  It is very possible that the chord (Key?) of
    D for certain songs taps into a part of your vocal range that is
    underdeveloped or hovers too long in the break or in the upper part of your
    range, causing vocal strain.


    The result you work even harder, since higher
    notes entail increased breath support and coordination.  As a result of
    becoming “breathless,” you become vocally fatigued, which results in a loss of


    Don’t be afraid to use a capo if you’re using a
    guitar.  Eventually, over time, you may
    be able to incorporate more keys to your accompanying repertoire.


    If you’re doing cover tunes, do them in a more comfortable key for you, rather than automatically in the original artist’s key if it is uncomfortable   That will bring out all the interesting
    qualities and projective abilities of YOUR voice. 


    Plus it will place the lyrics of the song closer
    to your optimal speaking range, making it easier for your audience to understand
    the all-important lyrics to your songs.


  • Cher22

    Thank You for your reply.  I do use the capo a lot and sing in my own vocal range. I can’t figure out why the Key of D gives me so much trouble when my voice get tired after singing for an hour or so. 

    I will refer to your points to help me with this.  I just thought of something else, I am getting older and wonder if some age related changes are happening. I have been singing publicly since I was about 5 years old so I have been singing for over 40 years.

    Also, I have heard people are sipping olive oil before they perform. Is this something that might help keep my voice limber through all my songs with the Key of D?

    Thank You.