8.03.2008

Healthy Voices

Taking care of one's voice is essential for any singer. Your voice is your instrument and you only get one, so treat it well. Here are a few tips for keeping good vocal health.

Water, Water, Water - Make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Water works to lubricate your vocal cords and protect them from harm. Dryness effects the mucous membranes that cover your cords, causing redness and swelling. Dry air can also dry out your vocal cords. So, if just drinking more water is not helping, try using a vaporizer during the day and even at night.

Reduce Vocal Stress and Misuse - Look at places in your life where you might be overworking your voice. Speaking for long periods of time on the phone in the office with no relief or excessive yelling with friends at your favorite late night hot spot can ware on your vocal cords over time. Throat clearing and coughing also effect the voice negatively when it becomes a habit. Be mindful of how loudly you are speaking and try to keep yourself on the lower end of your volume. If you are vocally taxed, make sure you talk in a low voice but not in a whisper. Whispering doesn't help the voice and can make it worse.


Avoid Vocal Irritants - Smoking and heavy use of alcohol are terrible for your vocal health. They both irritate your vocal and respiratory tract tissue. When you inhale heated smoke it is extremely drying to the tissue and nicotine works to constrict the blood vessels, reducing the overall blood flow. If you hang out in smoky places and you add excessive talking to that mix this can be extremely harmful to your voice. Alcohol can be dehydrating and cause engorgement of blood vessels in the throat as well. This doesn't mean that you can't go out and have a good time. It just means you have to be conscious of your surroundings and choose places that will limit your smoke exposure. Make sure that you read the side effects of any drugs you may be taking and ask your doctor about the possible side effects and how they may relate to your music performance.

Use Vocal Rest and Pace Yourself- There will be times when your rehearsal and performance schedule will be taxing on your voice. This happened to me quite frequently in college around the holidays. Don't forget to take vocal rest whenever you can. I know its hard not to talk to your friends when you are off stage but if you don't give your cords time to rest in the in between times you will regret it and your performance will suffer. Make a game of vocal rest and learn some hand signs or bring a pad of paper with you where ever you go. In this day and age with cell phones and texting being so popular it shouldn't be too hard not to use your voice every once in awhile. Pace yourself as you rehearse and make sure you are mindful of the frequency, intensity and duration of your rehearsal. Do your most vocally challenging pieces during the middle of your rehearsal when you are warmed-up but not worn out.

Don't Forget to Warm-up & Sing in Your Voice Range- Warming-up the voice helps the singer to take stock of their instrument and see how its performing that day. Warming-up can also enhance performance and may help prevent vocal injury. All good vocal warm-ups should include exercises in relaxation and breathing. The warm-up should be completed before each performance and rehearsal time and should be tailored to the vocal demands of the given production. Make sure you sing pieces that are in your vocal range and that you can sing comfortably. Straining yourself can have negative effects over time.

Don't get Sick - Now I know that's easier said than done but believe me take some preventative measures when you can to ensure that you stay healthy for as long as you can. Staying in good health means making sure you eat a balanced diet, exercising and getting enough sleep. If you do feel yourself coming down with a cold, make sure you hydrate and get lots of rest. Avoid coughing as much as possible. If you are congested try a warm drink like tea or my favorite hot chocolate. That helps to open things up a little and may help calm any irritation in your throat that can cause you to cough.

For more information about how the voice works and your vocal health check out The National Center for Voice and Speech website.

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