Though I'm somewhat biased on this, I believe singers are quite the special breed of human. With our instruments inside of our bodies, it's no wonder we sometimes get the "diva" reputation. The voice is a precious, delicate, and special instrument, dammit!
And that instrument is unfortunately subject to a number of variables including sickness, weather, overuse, dehydration... the list goes on. For all of my fellow vocalists out there who know the realness of the struggle, here are 20 things every singer should have to survive.
1. Pre-recorded vocal warm-ups
Pre-recorded warm-ups are great to have on the go or to use while you're physically doing other things around the house, in transit, or at work – multitasking, people! Also consider the convenience of hooking up your car stereo to the recordings so you can warm up while on the way to a gig. This way you save time and can also be uber-productive!
If you're looking for pre-recorded warm-ups to try, check out Vocal Workouts for the Contemporary Singer from Berklee Press. It's a useful book and CD combo by Anne Peckham.
Ahhh, the vocal nectar of the gods! Use this to coat your throat if it's feeling sore or overused for some quick relief before a rehearsal or performance.
3. Throat spray
It's always clutch to have one of these on hand when you need it. For sore throats due to excessive use, weather, or dryness, give a few quick sprays periodically throughout your singing period to relieve some of the pain and discomfort. Try Singer's Saving Grace, the brand many singers swear by!
4. A decent gigging microphone
There are a ton of different brands and models out there, so it really depends on your specific style, taste in equipment, and budget. But it's worth spending on a decent, middle-of-the-road mic that's always ready to work when needed in any performance environment. The Shure SM-58 mic is a good starting point!
5. Herbal tea
Always necessary! Herbal tea with some lemon and honey is great for soothing the voice before singing. And make sure to check that it's actually not caffeinated so you can avoid causing dehydration without realizing it!
6. A soundproof rehearsal space
As singers, we need a practice space where we can let it rip. All those impressive belting and high notes don't just happen, people! Find a place with some great acoustics (like a bathroom or basement) that's ideally isolated from the rest of your home. If you live in a smaller apartment-type setting, try a product like BeltBox, a portable vocal dampener for singers that really works.
This is essential for vocal care. Keep one in your bedroom and let it run while you sleep to keep vocal cords moist during your eight-hour slumber, and also so you can avoid that dry, crackly, Barry White tone once you wake up!
8. Large travel water bottle
Buy a good one. Make sure it doesn't leak all over your bag. And make sure it's large enough to keep you hydrated throughout your entire rehearsal/gig period. Nothing worse than being a dehydrated singer!
9. A beverage holder for your mic stand
This is one thing that many singers I know are always "meaning to get." Trust me, it's a convenience and logistical life-saver. Plus, no more spilled drinks on your feet (and the guitarist's pedalboard). Hooray! SwirlyGig makes a variety of products to suit your every beverage need.
10. Lyric organization app
There are a ton of different apps on the market to satisfy this growing need. Technology continues to advance, and musicians are increasingly transferring their once overflowing music binders over to digital format in their tablets. Stop losing pages and scrolling in a feverish panic to find the lyrics for that song request that wasn't in your setlist (for a reason). Try an app like Setlists.
11. In-ear monitors
Definitely a little bit of a splurge, but when you're ready and serious enough about your singing career, this is a stellar investment to make. Sweetwater has a variety to choose from so you can perform like the pro you are!
12. Business cards
Don't be that person! If you want to be a professional singer, you've got to market yourself like one. This is an absolute essential. And with simple websites like OvernightPrints.com that let you self-design and order over 50 business cards online for less than $5, you have no excuse to not get on that!
13. A tablet holder to display your digital music for rehearsals/gigs
Another one for the technologically savvy vocalists out there. Lighten your equipment load and get yourself one of these!
User-friendly, drag-and-drop sites exist all over the internet now. In under an hour, even the least internet-savvy people can throw together a simple website to promote their music. Having a web presence is increasingly important today, so don't lose out on gig opportunities because no one can find you online.
15. A post warm-up singalong playlist
We all have the songs that we jam out to right before a gig to get us pumped up and vocally stretched out. Take 10 minutes to curate your perfect post warm-up playlist to get your vocal cords in tip-top shape before hitting the stage!
Gotta keep those lips moist! This is the thing everyone has a million of that never quite end up in the right place when you need them. Buy a pack and throw them right into your gig bag so they're always there for the occasion.
17. Audio interface
Home recording is all the rage now. So if you're not on the bandwagon already, hop on board, my friend! Get you a good audio interface to suit your specific musical needs. Check out Guitar Center's sweet selection here.
18. Travel mug
Another vocalist essential – everyone needs a quality insulated travel mug for tea to take to and from performances and rehearsals.
As we all know, rehearsals can get awfully loud, especially when you're practicing in a small room directly in front of the drummer (#singerproblems). Purchase a decent pair of earplugs and keep them in your music bag for those occasions when the room gets juuust a little too loud for your liking.
20. Basic recording software
Everyone has their recording software preferences, from the more basic GarageBand and Audacity to more advanced digital audio workstation options like Logic and Pro Tools. You can install these programs right on your home computer, and use your audio interface and mic to put together some passable demos right there in your little home studio!
Christine Occhino is the founder and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy and has experience working at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, in addition to working as a performing artist for over a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in music business & management with a concentration in entrepreneurship and vocal performance from Berklee College of Music, where she was a vocal scholarship recipient and former editor-in-chief of The Berklee Groove. She is also the proud founder and CEO of Hope In Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that brings music to those in need.