Top Vocal Care Tips – Keeping a Healthy Voice

Apr 02, 2022

Regardless if you sing professionally or leisurely, it is important to take care of your voice. Meaning much tender loving care to your delicate vocal cords is essential.

Here are some tips to help you maintain optimal vocal health and how to look after your voice.

Plenty of these: 

  • Hydration! Hydration! Hydration!

Try to drink 2 litres of liquid a day (not including coffee, alcohol or fizzy drinks). This will prevent dehydration of the vocal cords.

Carry a bottle of water with you or ensure that you always have a glass of water on your desk.

  • Warm up

I frequently remind my students; they need to think of themselves as athletes.  Athletes train almost every day by stretching and work on their muscles.  As such, these factors apply to singers as well.  Singers should be working out their voices daily.

A gentle warm-up loosens the vocal muscles, removes excess mucous and reduces the risk of injury. Do not over push the voice though, some gentle exercises like humming for a start will do the trick.

For singers, one of the most popular warm-up exercises is ‘lip bubble’ or ‘lip trill’ for a quick vocal warm up.

  • Keeping the volume down

Avoid talking at noisy places, shouting over background noise or from room to room. This can strain your voice.

Raising your voice suddenly will put a huge strain on your vocal cords if you haven’t warmed-up. Ok, sometimes you need to – kids run into roads and toddlers get too close to ovens – the key is being mindful.

Walk and find the person you are calling, or turn down the TV when having a conversation.

Consider using a microphone when appropriate. In relatively static environments such as exhibit areas, classrooms, or exercise rooms, a lightweight microphone and an amplifier-speaker system can be of great help.

  • Steaming

This helps to introduce moisture into the vocal tract and helps keep the vocal folds hydrated.

Half fill a large bowl or sink with water that has just boiled. Sit comfortably and cover your head, shoulders and the bowl with a large towel. Breathe in and out through your mouth. Continue until the water stops steaming.

Try to do this twice daily or more often if your throat is especially irritated. For a quicker option when you are on the go or at work, fill a cup with steaming water.

  • Get enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to your voice and singers must sleep well to sing well. Fatigue can cause the voice to sound hoarse, loss of control and volume, causing strain and even damage in the long term. Having adequate sleep (full eight hours sleep recommended) is beneficial in order to have your voice function at optimal level, especially before a performance.

  • Take adequate breath when speaking

Take enough breath when speaking - do not speak in sentences that are too long so you are left to force out the words on too little breath.

Take deeper breaths and reduce sentence length.

  • Voice rest

If your voice feels tired or strained then rest it. This is your body’s way of telling you to rest your voice.

Find some time during the day to rest your voice, for example during lunch, or in the car.

If you experience any pain during speaking or singing which last for more than two weeks, I recommend seeking out an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor.

Avoid these:

  • Excessive throat clearing

Try not to clear your throat unnecessarily. Constantly clearing your throat puts strain on the vocal cords as they are ‘bashed’ together. Also, it can create excessive mucous and lead to a further need to clear your throat.

Try to swallow, take a drink of water or suck a sugar-free sweet instead of clearing your throat.

  • Caffeine and alcohol

Avoid too much coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol. These can dry out the vocal cords.

Try drinking decaffeinated tea or coffee or follow an alcoholic drink with a soft drink.

  • Smoking

Stop smoking. If you can’t give up, cut down. Smoking irritates and damages the vocal folds.

  • Irritants

Avoid chemical irritants and smoky, dry and dusty atmospheres as they may dry out the vocal cords.

Wear a dust mask if you are in a dusty environment. Solvent based glues, perfumes, felt tip pen fumes, chlorine, paint, varnishes, bleach and other cleaning products can contain strong chemical fumes. Follow product advice on ventilation.

  • Throat lozenges

Avoid medicated throat lozenges as they numb the throat which allows you to do more damage. Menthol lozenges also have a drying effect.

Sucking sugar-free sweets. 

  • Gastric reflux

Reflux or indigestion may affect voice quality and cause discomfort or a feeling of a lump in your throat.

Spicy or acidic foods may increase the likelihood of reflux that can irritate the throat and cause hoarseness. When eating spicy or acidic food, you should drink plenty of water. You should discuss your symptoms with your doctor as they may be able to prescribe medication to help.

  • Overusing of voice

Take extra care while singing when you are sick or extremely fatigued. Voice overuse is often the main culprit to voice disorders e.g. Nodules, polyps, granulomas.

These are serious issues that need to be treated by ENT doctor, and some cases, surgery is required.

 

With good vocal technique, healthy habits and common sense, you can avoid undesirable issues which may cause loads of discomfort and even permanent damage.

We can’t replace our vocal folds but with much tender loving care, they can last your whole life through.