4.5 Vocal Tips From Phil Wickham

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singingHave you ever thought about leading worship as an athletic event? If you have, then you’re not far off.

Your vocal cords are muscles. They need proper warm up, technique, and recovery. For worship leaders, our ability to sing is a gift. Like any athlete takes care of his body, we should take care of our vocal cords.

Phil Wickham was recently interviewed by David Santistevan on the Beyond Sunday Podcast. If you are involved with worship ministry in any capacity, you need to do what I have already done and subscribe to this podcast . In a recent episode, David interviewed Phil Wickham. It’s a great listen. Click here to check it out.

These two cover a lot of great information, from the story behind Phil’s Sing Along Projects, favorite times of worship, and finding our identity in Christ. Phil also told the story of a vocal scare he experienced a couple of years ago.

A few years ago, Phil Wickham was diagnosed with a polyp in his vocal cords. As part of his treatment, Phil Wichkam wasn’t able to speak for months.

As part of this interview, Phil shared four awesome tips he learned to help maintain vocal health and keep his voice in top form, and in Phil’s words,”put up a defense” against vocal scares. Here is the tip of the iceberg of that interview with my own thoughts and experiences sprinkled in.

1. Have A Warm Up Routine

Phil Wickham said his warm up routine takes about 13 minutes. When he doesn’t go through the routine, he “feels a massive difference” once he is done singing a set. I get the impression that the routine might be an mp3 on Phil’s phone, which is a super convenient way to keep your routine with you.

I have a friend who has a five minute routine she uses from Youtube. There are a ton of different exercises and warm up routines on Youtube. Click here to see one search. Experiment with a couple. You’re bound to find one you like.

My vocal warm up isn’t near as sophisticated. I’ll start by humming the lowest note in my range, slide up till I hit the top notes in my range and then slide back down, all with one breath. It sounds like a slow police siren or a whale noise. This helps me practice proper breathing while gently loosening every part of my vocal cords. I should note that after hearing this podcast, I’m rethinking that routine and I’m going to explore something a bit more traditional.

2. Get Plenty Of Sleep The Night Before

Phil acknowledges that it’s hard to go to bed early on a Saturday night, but getting plenty of sleep the day before you do a lot of singing goes a long way to improving your vocal performance.

I tend to wake up pretty early on Sunday so for the most part, I’m in the habit of doing this, but sometimes, I just can’t help it.

2.5. Rest After You Sing

Phil uses the analogy of a runner. After an athlete runs a race, they need to rest so their muscles can recover. I’ll have more thoughts on this topic in tip number four.

3. Stay Hydrated

It is important that you are hydrated so every part of your body involved in singing stays lubricated.

Obviously, you are not gong to drink water through your wind pipe. You would choke. From the video below, I heard it takes about 3 hours for moisture to get to your vocal chords. Others claim that it takes the body about 24 hours (my nurse sister supports that idea). Either way, realize that having a drink of water before you go up to sing isn’t going to do you much good.

4. Be Aware Of Talking

Talking exercises your vocal cords, too. Phil said he used to talk with the band on the way to worship sets, on the plane or in the bus. He has almost stopped that completely. Pay attention to how much talking you are doing before and after your worship sets. A boxer probably isn’t going to do heavy lifting after a fight. A runner isn’t going to run sprints right after a meet. How much talking should you do after singing?

For me, I try to keep my Sunday afternoons pretty low key so I don’t have to do much talking. I’m able to take Mondays off and I usually don’t schedule any appointments for that day. This keeps my talking to a minimum and allows me to rest from the three services the weekend before.

Your ability to sing is a gift, not a right. The young athletes that rely on their youth to perform are never able to perform well for very long. Be wise and take care of your voice.


P.S. Again, if you aren’t subscribed to the Beyond Sunday Podcast, you really should be.

P.P.S. Phil Wickham just released a new album called Children of God. You can find it on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music (my choice) and everywhere. I really like it. Very P&W 2.0x. Check it out.

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