Voice Acting

6 Ways to Prepare for a Great Vocal Performance

Tara Parachuk | March 21, 2024

Vocal performance tips represented by a chef singing into a whisk that he's pretending is a mic.

When your voice isn’t cooperating, nothing else matters! But there are ways to achieve top vocal performance.

Professional voice over artists know that there are certain things they need to do ahead of a vocal performance. Not only are these tips essential for performing, but they’re also great for ensuring you’re delivering your best audition possible. Here are six great ways to prepare for your next great vocal performance.

In this article

  1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
  2. Get Hydrated and Stay Hydrated
  3. Watch What You Eat and Drink
  4. Protect and Pamper Your Voice
  5. Warm Up Well
  6. Vocal Exercises: Tongue Twisters
  7. Audition Preparation and Expectations
  8. Prep One Hour Before Your Session
  9. Summary

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

When you step into the recording booth, your voice needs to be as refreshed as your mind. The key lies in a solid, undisturbed night’s sleep before a performance, which is imperative. Your body and voice alike need this time to rejuvenate. Even celebrities like Arianna Huffington know you’re only at your best when you’ve invested time and energy into strategic slumber. Huffington recommends that you remove obstacles to sleep, like screens and cell phones, from your bedroom.

Still, relying on your phone for that crucial wake-up call? Consider changing to a battery-powered alarm clock. Establish a sleep-friendly environment by making your bedroom completely dark — consider the investment in blackout curtains a down payment on your vocal success.

Voices Insider Elizabeth Saydah imparted her wisdom about the importance of rest:

“Most of your vocal care is happening during your ‘off-time’ so be mindful of how much sleep and rest you get. Otherwise, no amount of warming up is going to help you.”

Get Hydrated and Stay Hydrated

Step outside the recording booth and you’ll repeatedly hear one piece of advice — hydration is important for a great vocal performance. However, simply carrying a water bottle to the recording studio isn’t enough. By drinking a cup of water at least one hour before you need to use your voice, you’ve taken steps to optimize your vocal folds. When fully hydrated, your vocal folds become more elastic. Hydrated vocal folds allow you to do more with your instrument because they are pliable and ready to respond.

Voices insider Kristy Reed explains that The “hour before” rule is a bare minimum. “Staying hydrated is so important for many reasons but it also improves my vocal quality and reduces mouth noise. Keep fluids going all throughout the day and don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Also, don’t guzzle a bunch of water before a recording as this can actually add to your mouth noise in the moment. And, I drink room temperature water when recording as I find the cold changes how I speak.”

Setting a daily fluid intake goal as part of your planning routine can help you drink more water and ensure your body receives the hydration it needs. There are many ways to track your goal, including setting hourly reminders or alarms on your phone, drinking a set amount during scheduled breaks and using one of the many hydration-tracking apps available in your device’s app store.

If plain water doesn’t appeal to your taste, don’t worry. Enhance your hydration routine with caffeine-free teas or by adding a touch of fruit for a burst of flavor. The temperature of your drink can also contribute to making water intake more enjoyable. Also, eat foods that contain more water, such as cucumber, pineapple, strawberries or melon.

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Watch What You Eat and Drink

Dietary considerations are important. There are foods and beverages that either help or hinder your ability to have a good, clean vocal performance. For instance, dairy can lead to undesirable mouth noises. Many voice artists point to dairy as something they believe impedes their ability to perform as well or as easily. Voices Insider Kim Handysides is one of them:

“I only have one cup of coffee in the morning and I make sure it’s consumed before 8 AM. I begin sipping my first liter (of the five or six I’ll have throughout the day) shortly afterward. On the days I work, I also don’t eat dairy.”

You might not think that having a glass of milk or a chocolate bar in advance of a session is harmful, but just think of all that extra mucus your body will create!

Spicy foods, while a fiesta of flavors, can trigger acid reflux or flatulence — neither welcome when you’re in the spotlight or booth. And let’s not forget the fizz of carbonated drinks, which can disrupt your vocal performance like an untimely cough in a quiet concert auditorium.

Many voice actors recommend avoiding diuretics like coffee, tea or alcohol ahead of a vocal performance. These beverages can dry out your vocal folds and increase your visits to the restroom.

Protect and Pamper Your Voice

Caring for your voice is crucial when it’s the primary tool in your kit. Environmental threats such as pollution, smoke and allergens pose significant risks to vocal health. Know when to remove yourself from situations that irritate your voice or make it difficult to maintain good vocal health.

Opera singers, renowned for their robust vocals, might spend whole days in silence to protect their voice. Even if you’re not a performer getting ready to sing Verdi or another type of music performance, vocal rest is a crucial practice for anyone whose career depends on their voice.

The music industry is rife with tales of vocalists who, in their quest for vocal health, avoid strong scents or resort to ‘fake cheering’ at events to keep their vocal cords unstrained. It’s about understanding your voice and the specific challenges it encounters.

Something else you can do to protect your voice is plan out how to use it. Got a day full of turning around final reads? Plan to complete the projects in your normal vocal range first, and leave the more challenging ones until the end of your day. “Ease your voice into the day. Try to do vocally strenuous work last because it will likely tap you out for the rest of the day,” Voices Insider Elizabeth Saydah recommends.

While you’ll want to avoid yelling, whispering can also lead to vocal strain. Unlike the full resonance of normal speech, whispering in the classic sense (not stage whispering) doesn’t allow the vocal folds to vibrate. The folds need to come together to create resonance. When you whisper, those folds are tight and strained, unable to meet in a way that creates a healthy, resonant sound.

Warm Up Well

Partaking in vocal exercises, similar to pre-run stretching, stimulates the muscles around your vocal cords, providing you with greater flexibility and control. In some ways, your voice is like a car. For the engine to purr, you need to give it time to warm up so it functions optimally. Once your vocal folds are sufficiently hydrated, warming up your voice is so much easier. It’s supple and moves more freely during your vocal warm-up.

Vocal exercises also activate the acid in the muscles surrounding your vocal cords, allowing the tendon in your throat to stretch. This gives you more flexibility and control over your vocal performance.

One vocal technique is to gently transition your voice into the day’s repertoire with soft humming, making sure your jaw is relaxed and there’s room for resonance. Yawn-sighs also enable your voice to smoothly transition from the highest to the lowest points in your range, similar to a pianist sliding across the keys. Remember, your voice is an extension of your body, and every part, from head to toe, plays a role in your vocal performance program too Shoulder rolls, posture adjustments and breathing exercises all contribute to the preparation for your vocal performance.

Adopt this daily ritual of at least 20 minutes of warm-up, beginning with simple tunes and gradually progressing to larger scales. Start gently, and increase the complexity of your exercises as your voice adjusts. This approach leads to vocal mastery, facilitating a smooth transition from practice to performance.

It’s also important to note that physical tension can live anywhere. If you hold tension in a certain place (be it your neck, in your fingers, clenched toes, etc.), be aware of it and find ways to release it. Here’s a great video recommended by Voices Insider Craig Williams. He says, “I try to follow Jeannette Nelson’s vocal warm-up YouTube video for the National Theatre.”

Craig adds, “I also like to stretch my face and mouth muscles. I try to pull really funny faces and move my tongue all over the place. If someone saw what I was doing they would think I was absolutely crazy!”

Vocal Exercises: Tongue Twisters

Because language is central to a voice artist’s performance, you also need to think about other parts of your body that should be warmed up like your resonators and articulators. Tongue twisters, facial exercises and sung scales are helpful strategies for any voice artist or vocalist. These exercises stretch and strengthen the tongue — a crucial component of your speech — ensuring a smooth flow of words.

Tongue twisters aren’t just fun to say, they’re also an excellent vocal exercise for voice actors of all levels. By regularly practicing these quick and complicated phrases, you’ll learn to articulate and enunciate clearly and stretch and strengthen your muscles so you can master more complicated reads. 

The key to these verbal exercises is to start slowly, letting the precision of each word come to the fore. As you become more proficient, the pace can increase, turning the exercise into a lively, modern chorus. If a mistake occurs, simply start over, maintaining the calm composure of an experienced singer. The sillier you look when you warm up, the better your warm-up will be. Try standing in front of a mirror and don’t be afraid to look foolish!

Here are some of the Voices Insiders’ favorite tongue twisters to add to your repertoire:

Doug Barron:

Peter Piper picked a pickle of prickly pears purposefully.

Elizabeth Saydah:

Toy boat toy boat toy boat.

Kristy Reed:

Sally sells seashells by the seashore.

Sandra Osborne:

Red leather, yellow leather.

Kristen Paige:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

Tricia Stewart Shiu and Tiffany Grant:

Rubber baby buggy bumpers.

Kim Handysides and Rob Jellison:

The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.

Want more? Check out our alphabet of tongue twisters in our Beginners Guide to Voice Acting

Audition Preparation and Expectations

An audition requires meticulous preparation and offers various performance opportunities. Prepare to demonstrate your vocal range and understanding of different delivery styles. If you’re able to select the material for your audition, choose pieces that complement your voice and allow you to perform confidently, much like guest artists picking their signature instruments in fully staged productions.

Be ready to explore the story behind each piece, understanding not just what you’re performing but the entire production and role, and prepare to discuss it in detail. This not only showcases your vocal skills but also your commitment and understanding of the project you’re auditioning for.

Prep One Hour Before Your Session

The last hour before you have an audition or enter the recording studio is a crucial moment. Wake up at least an hour before you need to use your voice, allowing time for that final glass of water to hydrate your body and to follow any dietary commitments you’ve made.

Drink a glass of water one hour before you need to perform. Remember, the water will only take effect one hour after it has been consumed. Expecting water to work in the immediate moment only sets you up for disappointment.

Protect your voice from environmental factors, whether it’s cold weather or exposure to smoke and exhaust. If you live in a region where you experience cold temperatures or endure high elevations, a scarf or neck warmer can serve as a protective barrier between your voice and the harsh environment. This will provide somewhat of a barrier between your instrument and the air you’re breathing, making sure nothing hinders your excellent vocal performance.


To deliver a vocal performance that captivates and inspires is an art form honed through meticulous preparation. We’ve looked at the essential strategies that underpin vocal excellence, from the rejuvenating power of rest to the importance of hydration. These practices are not just routines; they are the rituals that forge a voice capable of making an impact with every performance.

All warmed up and ready to start auditioning? Sign up for a Voices account today!

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  • Avatar for Linda Martin
    Linda Martin
    July 26, 2017, 1:57 am

    Thank you!

  • Avatar for April
    November 16, 2018, 10:52 am

    I have a performance tonight and I’m worried I won’t be hydrated well enough, considering no matter what I do it seems my body is always dehydrated.

  • Avatar for Emma
    March 26, 2019, 5:49 am

    Thanks! I have a concert this Friday, and my voice is cracking when I sing. This really helps. Thanks again!

  • Avatar for Boakye Dani
    Boakye Dani
    March 29, 2020, 5:26 pm


  • Avatar for Anthony Schmitz
    Anthony Schmitz
    February 22, 2021, 12:20 pm

    The tips were great

    • Avatar for Oliver Skinner
      Oliver Skinner
      February 25, 2021, 11:09 am

      Thanks, Anthony!

  • Avatar for Grace
    April 7, 2021, 2:09 pm

    This worked great. Thank you!

  • Avatar for Anthony Thompson
    Anthony Thompson
    April 26, 2021, 11:23 am

    Thank you for this most helpful article. Any websites you can recommend for voice over work or for starting a podcast would be much appreciated? I appreciate all you do.
    Anthony Thompson

    • Avatar for Oliver Skinner
      Oliver Skinner
      April 26, 2021, 11:34 am

      Hi Anthony,

      You should check out our blog post that covers everything you need to know about how to start a podcast. If you want to get into voice over work, subscribe to a Voices membership and begin auditioning for jobs featured on our platform.

  • Avatar for Hannah Anderson
    Hannah Anderson
    December 6, 2021, 10:01 pm

    Thank you very much. I have a chorus audition tomorrow morning and hope that your tips help, I am pretty sure they will because this was very well-written and it seems like the author knows what they are talking about.

    • Avatar for Niki Clark
      Niki Clark
      December 7, 2021, 9:14 am

      Hi Hannah!

      Best of luck at your audition today. Be sure to let us know how it went and if the preparation tips were helpful!


  • Avatar for Valentino Groove
    Valentino Groove
    September 1, 2022, 12:26 pm

    This is very helpfu… thank you for the insights and the water part…

  • Avatar for Michael Peters
    Michael Peters
    October 25, 2022, 6:14 am

    Thank you so much, I have a recording this Sunday and I know this will help me greatly.. Blessings

  • Avatar for Thevasri Sasikumar
    Thevasri Sasikumar
    February 8, 2023, 6:30 am

    Thank you so much! I have a solo performance in my school and was worried if i might not make it but his article made me feel more confident. Again, thank you very much!

  • Avatar for Danny Corr
    Danny Corr
    February 21, 2024, 9:44 am

    Thanks for the advice. I will definitely use it