Vocal Health for Singers
Although it is very convenient to have your instrument in your body, it does add a huge level of responsibility to keep your healthy vocal cords ready to go at all times. Here is a list of tips and recommendations on how to take care of your voice for optimal longevity and vocal health for singers.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
As they say, “pee pale” 😳, this is a great indicator that you are hydrated. It takes at least two hours for water to hydrate so plan to drink several hours before a voice lesson, performance or audition. If you need a quick fix, apples and apple juice are the closest thing to your saliva and will be an instant hydrator.
2. Vocal Naps
Give yourself quiet time from singing AND speaking everyday. This will allow your voice to recharge and give it some “down time.” Try to avoid noisy situations especially during heavy performance or audition times. Yelling or screaming over ambient noise can be way more tiring than singing for hours. If you are at a sporting event or concert, let others around you do the cheering or singing along, you can show your spirit or get involved in other ways…clapping, dancing, a foam hand or even just mouth the words or pretend to scream.
3. Do not whisper
This does not help save your voice, it actually can cause more strain and pressure on the vocal folds. If your throat feels dry or your voice feels tired and you are getting hoarse, STOP talking and/or singing. This is a warning sign that your voice may be irritated and you need rest.
4. Be aware of your speaking voice
Talking too high, too low, too loud, too soft or even too fast can cause vocal fatigue and possibly damage over time. Work with your voice teacher to find an optimal speech level and speed much like you would speak when delivering lines on stage.
5. Limit excessive coughing or clearing your throat
When you clear your throat, it’s like slamming your vocal folds together. If possible, take a sip of water or swallow hard first before coughing. If you feel like you have to clear your throat often, you might consider getting it checked by a doctor for things such as acid reflux, or allergy and sinus conditions.
6. Warm Up
Just like athletes stretch their muscles before a game or competition, we vocal athletes need to do the same. Exercises like sirens and lip trills are great ways to wake up the voice. Find a few staple “go to” vocalises that will set you up for more extensive singing, performing or auditioning.
7. Avoid medications that are drying
Be sure to let your doctor know you are a singer, they will treat you with a different lens when prescribing medications. Suggest staying away from antihistamines and decongestants that can cause drying effects.
8. Know what your voice LIKES and DISLIKES
Everyone is different and it’s important to be mindful of what foods, beverages and circumstances that can help or hinder your voice. Some things to consider:
- Avoid dairy – it may cause your body to produce too much mucus.
- Avoid caffeine – it can dry you out.
- Avoid heavy foods – big meals might zap your energy and make you feel full which can hinder your breath.
- Avoid cold things – ice or frozen beverages may constrict or “freeze” up the tissues of the throat. (I recommend room temperature water when in performance/audition mode.)
- Use lozenges or gum without menthol – lozenges or gum are good at helping to produce saliva, but you may want to avoid products with menthol which can dry you out.
- Drink hot beverages – tea or hot water with honey or my favorite bits of fresh ginger can help soothe and loosen the tissues of the throat.