It’s happened to all of us…Right before that big performance or important studio session you’ve spent weeks preparing for, you loose your voice. In some circumstances there is nothing you can do to regain full voice. However, there are some very important rules you can incorporate into your everyday routine that can keep your voice healthy, consistent, and strong even on your worst vocal days…
The sound of your singing voice is produced by your vocal chords. Your vocal cords are extremely delicate, and at times overworked. Vocal chords can vibrate anywhere from 55 times per second to 1,047 times per second, depending on the note’s pitch. Overall good health will contribute to the quality, longevity, and strength of your singing voice. Overall good health will contribute to the quality, longevity, and strength of your singing voice. Here are a few Vocal Hygiene tips to live by.
Hydration – You will see this tip in any article you read about singing for a reason. The vocal chords must be hydrated in order to vibrate correctly. You should always keep a bottle of water with you, especially during rehearsals, performances, and sessions. It takes about 20 minutes for our bodies to fully absorb water, so make sure you hydrate on a regular basis.
Eat Well & Exercise – Eat a well balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid dairy products before a performance. It increases mucus in the throat, which weighs down the vocal chords, inhibiting their motion. Also, follow a regular exercise routine. Doing so keeps your body and immune system strong and resilient. This makes your body resistant to many of the causes of voice loss, including an unexpected bout with a cold or the flu. The healthier you are, the less severe sickness will be, and the better your body will do fighting and overcoming the illness. Remember your entire body is your instrument, so treat it with respect and care.
Speaking Habits – Pay close attention to how you use your voice in everyday conversation. Do you have a job that requires you to be on the phone all day? Do you consistently speak in a low monotone voice? Your everyday habits have a huge impact on your singing voice. For one day, focus on your natural habits and take notes. It’s good to add a melodic quality to your speaking voice. Add inflections of different pitches both high and low to your speaking voice, and don’t be shy during conversation. Speaking in a low, monotone voice, prolonged whispering and yelling, and excessive talking all place strain on your voice, which can adversely affect your ability to sing.
Warming up and Down – You wouldn’t run a marathon without stretching would you? You wouldn’t run a marathon without stretching would you? The same principal applies to singing. Make warming up and down the first and last part of your performance routine. Train yourself to automatically warm up, before singing a note. If you don’t normally warm up on regular basis before singing, you may not be aware of how not warming up feels for your voice. Once you get into the habit, you’ll quickly notice the difference on the off occasion that you don’t warm up. Your throat will feel tight and your notes won’t be as flexible. Warming up is the best way to help prepare and protect your voice.
Things to Avoid – The biggest drying irritants include caffeine, alcohol, and smoking.
Over-consumption of caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate your body, which leads to dry vocal chords. And dry vocal chords don’t work very well.
Smoking is even harsher for the quality of your voice in that not only does it dry your vocal chords, but it’s also extremely harmful for your whole body. Smoking will eventually limit your lung capacity, which will prevent proper breathing technique. Smoke dries out your throat by depleting natural lubricants your body produces, which protect the larynx. All of this is true whether you smoke tobacco, marijuana, or whatever else. These are the facts of inhaling smoke of any kind into your body.
Other irritants include antihistamines, chocolate, Vitamin C, and pollution. Obviously, I don’t recommend completely avoiding things like Vitamin C (or chocolate), but moderation is key. Avoid taking antihistamines until you absolutely cannot go without (or until you know you won’t need to sing for a few days).
It’s important to change any destructive behaviors that will cause damage to your voice. Following these rules will take discipline and a closer awareness to your body, but will pay huge dividends. You will be able to sing confidently and accurately through any vocally stressful situation, even take 56 over 2 sleepless days in the studio.
Remember, as a professional singer, you will be expected to sing not matter what the circumstances. So prepare yourself!