World-renowned singer, Tracy Hamlin shares the secrets that have enabled her to avoid any kinds of vocal challenges over her long and extremely busy year career.
ABOUT TRACY HAMLIN
Tracy Hamlin is a highly acclaimed performer who has traveled the world singing with artists such as Peabo Bryson, Gloria Gaynor, Carlos Santana, Will Downing, Chaka Khan and many others. Tracy performs a nonstop mix of Soul, Jazz, Pop and Soulful House Music. Every show is meticulously tailored to that individual audience.
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Welcome to our Carne video titled ‘How Do I Ensure My Voice is 100% Healthy And In Top Shape All The Time? Our guest today is Tracy Hamlin.
My name is Tracy Hamlin. I’m an international recording artist. The genres that I sing in are jazz, R&B and soulful house music. I’m classically trained and I absolutely love what I do. And I use my platform to give back to my community through a festival and a jazz concert series here called Tracy Hamlin’s Sweet Jazz Concerts or Sweet Jazz Festivals. And we use music as a catalyst to give back to the community via music scholarships, as well as donations to local charities. So I’m extremely excited about it because it allows me to use my platform to fulfill my purpose and my passion, which is giving back to my community and grooming up-and-coming artists.
Tracy, how long have you been singing? You don’t have to give away your age or anything. Just how long have you been singing?
I have been singing for a very long time. And I’m just going to say more than 25 years.
You’re known for your amazing range and power. How have you been able to keep your voice so strong and healthy?
I took voice lessons for five years and it was the best thing that I could have ever done, considering I knew I wanted to be a singer since I was five years old. And the interesting piece is, I’m classically trained, and for those five years I despised it. But it was the greatest thing that I ever could have done. I didn’t realize the value of it until it was over. But because of the discipline and technique that I gained, I sing properly.
So as somebody with asthma, somebody with allergies, I have never had nodules. I’ve never had any kind of issues with my vocal cords because I’m disciplined. And so, with traveling the world, different climates, you know, different climates, time zone changes…
“I always like to tell singers, we are the only instrument whose… the instrument is housed in your body. So what happens to your body, happens to your voice.” And we are vocal athletes, so we have to take care or we’re going to run into major issues. So for instance, right before COVID, when I did my solo Russian tour… Two weeks before I leave, I make sure that I am on a great vitamin regimen that includes a multivitamin, vitamin D with K and a probiotic. Because when you’re going to different countries and you’re eating different foods. You may have things that your body is not used to. So if you’re preparing your body, it’s going to allow you to eat the foods and not be sick so that you’re, you know, not sick and shut in while you’re on the road.
Cardio is extremely important. So when I’m preparing to go on the road, I am making sure that I get in a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio. And I’m walking fast. And running every couple of songs that I sing because it helps to expand the lung capacity. And I can just sing for days, hit on my big notes and not have any issues. Another thing that is extremely important for singers to do, and a lot of people forget this step is warming up the vocal cords. You have to ready the vocal chords to sing, you know. And I equate that to, if you’re living in a cold climate and it’s, you know, 17 degrees outside, and you go outside to get in your car… Before you pull off, you need to let it run and warm up.
It’s the same thing with your voice. You need to warm up the voice. And I use an incredible five minute warmup and sometimes I’ll do that five minute warm up twice if I need to for preparing. I make sure there are certain things that I stay away from, like dairy foods. I won’t eat bananas, I won’t drink orange juice.
Now there are textbook definitions of what you should and should not eat, but it’s really important that you understand what works for your body. Because as a singer, you know a lot of voice teachers will tell you, ‘Oh, you need lemons and honey’. Well, I can do honey, but lemons dry me out. So I had to find out what works best for me, not go by what is in the books of ‘You should do this and you should do that.’
So all of that has really made a difference for me. I stay hydrated. I don’t go on stage without electrolytes. So I like to make sure before I perform, I have had at least 75 ounces of water. I make sure that I’m well rested. And all of that has served me well. When I’m on the road, I’ve never had any kind of vocal issues because I prepared. And that technique and discipline is what has sustained me to this point. I mean, it’s even the reason why I still have the vocal range that I do, and I’m easily able to do 2 75-minute back to back shows, 8:00 and ten – 10:00. And the 10:00 show has just as much energy, if not more. And as great vocal ability for the second show as it is the first show.
So, you know, I had to put myself on a regimen and I encourage all singers to, you know. And I’m happy to help. If anybody needs support and has questions as far as what they should and shouldn’t do. But being on a great vocal regimen is just crucial and is central to your success on the road as a vocalist.
And you still take vocal lessons, right?
I still take lessons. I have an amazing vocal coach. His name is Kenny Wesley. He’s from the States. But right now he’s in Spain getting his doctorate and he is a vocal master. And I just feel like no matter how great you think you are or people say you are, there’s always room for improvement. So I’m always trying to grow and be better.
And you give vocal lessons as well, right?
Yes. I have given voice lessons for about 15 years. The last maybe, year, I have not as much as I had in the past because my schedule didn’t allow it. But it is something that I absolutely love because of the different techniques that I use. I’m consistently hearing from folks and people who study with many other teachers that what they’ve gotten from me in an hour’s lesson they had never gotten from other teachers that they had been with anywhere from eight months to two years.
So, everything that I teach is, I mean, some of it is textbook voice. You know, vocal fundamentals. But a lot of it is trial and error from what I do or don’t do on the road and it has made a difference for so many people. One of the things that’s important to me when I’m giving vocal lessons is, I make sure we’re learning songs from multiple genres because every genre of music lends itself to you learning different characteristics about your voice.
And I, you know that that’s a skill that I gained from being a versatile singer and singing songs in all these different genres. I learned a great deal about myself and about my vocals and how I should and shouldn’t approach different things. You know, when I’m about to sing different songs.
What are some of the things that you see artists do or not do that harm their voices?
I think that they’re not understanding that they’re vocal athletes, so they’re not taking care of their bodies. They are not rested. And a huge thing that I don’t hear many folks talk about that is at the top of the list for me… teaching folks when I give voice lessons is really pacing your energy when you perform. Because when we get out there on the stage, the adrenaline is flowing and you just want to dig in hard. But if you give every ounce of your energy for the first 5 minutes of the song, you’re too exhausted to finish the show.
So you have to pace your energy. And everybody does not get that memo. So therefore, you see folks exhausted. You see folks out of breath because they haven’t prepped with cardio exercises before. Another thing that I’m huge on, aside from energy, is shaping vowels when I sing, because a lot of singers want to get up and just imitate what they’ve heard.
And you really have to figure out what works best for you, you know. Because if I’m doing a Whitney Houston song or Mariah Carey song, the way that they shape their bowels may not work for me. And so I have to… I say I ‘Tracify it’ and do, you know, what is best for me. But the voice is just… it’s a very, very interesting instrument.
And if folks are really into discipline, I think that a lot of singers would not have the issues that they have. And because I think a lot of singers sing from the wrong place. And again, that whole classical piece was just huge for me because I was absolutely singing from the wrong place. And because of the technique that I learned, I mean, I’m able to still have a great range because of how I’m opening the back of my throat when I’m singing and how I’m breathing properly, when I’m hitting the big notes and how I’ve taken care of my body before I got on the stage. Because it happens before you get on stage.
Yeah, it’s definitely uncomfortable for an audience to see a singer who is struggling.
It really is. And I think that whole, just the whole prep, I mean, when I’m working with students…And again, what I teach my students is what I do, even down to what I say and how I say it. Because if I am comfortable on the stage, my show is received how I had imagined it. And you know, so even just creating an outline about what I’m going to say. And when I’m working with people who’ve not done it before, we create the outline and then I literally have them write word for word what they want to say to deliver the message. And then we remove all of that and go back to the outline. So when they look at the outline, it’s like, Oh, now I’m going to talk about this. Oh, now I’m going to tie this story to this song.
And that, combined with practicing in front of a mirror, allows you to understand what you look like. And that also creates a comfort level that people don’t talk about. So if you do things before you get on stage to create the comfort level, it makes a huge difference in how your show is received.
I think not rehearsing enough is one of the biggest challenges artists have. So when they feel uncomfortable, they get nervous, maybe stammer over their banter. It definitely affects their voice.
Absolutely. And another thing that I do along with my vocal exercises is relaxation exercises, because with singers, when we’re nervous… And I mean, after all of, you know, traveling the world, I performed in probably 59, 60 countries… I still get nervous. And so when a singer gets nervous, you know, there’s restriction in the throat area. So I do relaxation exercises.
I have three exercises that I do to warm my body up along with, you know, this is before I wear my vocals out. And folks, you know, when I introduce people to these things, or to people that aren’t singers, they understand my process. Everybody’s just amazed because they say, ‘we thought you just get up there and sing.’ I said, ‘No, there is a process.’
There is a strategy that determines whether it’s a successful show or not. Then I tell people all the time to inspire. They don’t want to hear your drama or your junk.
So you really have to be strategic. And if there is a negative story that you want to tell, you have to be very strategic in how you frame it, you know. Because you don’t want people coming to your show depressed. You want to uplift and inspire them.
You especially don’t want them leaving depressed. The truth is, you’re in control of your audience’s emotions for the entire time that they’re in front of you. And they’re going to jump on social media when the show is done and tell the world exactly how you made them feel.
I mean, it’s just so true. And it… that is just such an important message to get to singers that are out here. Because it’s so much more than wanting fame and it’s so much more than just getting up there. You have to really take advantage of the opportunity and understand what that means to you and what that means to your audience.
This concludes our video titled ‘How Do I Ensure My Voice is 100% Healthy and In Top Shape All Of The Time? We want to thank our guest, Tracy Hamlin, for sharing her incredible experience and expertise with us.