Vocal health might be a somewhat unglamorous list of dos and don’ts, but it is a major part of being a good singer.
In this episode, John explains the following:
- Key points you need to know to keep yourself healthy and to make sure your voice lasts
- Understand key foods, medications, and lifestyle choices that can create serious problems for singers
- Tips to improve your singing
No matter how good your vocal technique is, if you don’t stay healthy, you will not be able to sing at your best.
How to Take Care of Your Vocal Health
Taking care of your singing and speaking voice is essential. Finding an experienced teacher and learning how to use the voice are vital steps toward success in this field. But staying healthy can be challenging with a fast-paced lifestyle and environmental factors attacking your singing voice.
Looking after your vocal health comes down to two categories:
- Vocal use. How much you’re using your voice and how you’re using your voice.
- What you expose your voice to. It’s maybe the different types of foods, medicines or drugs, stress, and lifestyle.
Your vocal cords comprise ligaments, muscles, and mucosal tissue. This tissue is what reacts to the different things you encounter. That’s why you need to keep this tissue nice, healthy, hydrated, unswollen, and moist with thin mucus.
Causes Serious Problems to Your Vocal Cords
Here are things to avoid to help keep your vocal cords healthy:
Smoking can do more than just harm your lungs; it’s particularly damaging to vocal cords (or vocal folds) as well.
Imagine what would happen if you blew hot cigarette smoke into someone’s eye. That same principle holds true for the delicate soft tissue of your vocal cords. Remember, even beyond any potential cancer-related risks associated with smoking.
For singers, in particular, that need the occasional fix but don’t want the side effects of smoke inhalation, vaping could be just what they’re looking for. Keep your voice healthy, and try not to subject it to unnecessary exposure!
Of course, marijuana can also have medical benefits when used appropriately. But it can have a significant impact on your vocal cords.
To support vocal health for singers, it’s best to avoid marijuana if possible. Remember, cutting down is always better than continuing on the same path. If you, as a singer, partake, vaping is the least harmful option available.
Alcohol may seem like a tempting option to ease stress or calm nerves. But keep in mind that it can seriously harm your vocal cords.
Drinking alcohol can dehydrate you significantly, which is bad news for singing performances. This causes inflammation and puffiness of the cords.
Additionally, drinking alcohol is very often done in environments that are horrible for the voice because they’re clubs, they’re loud, and you’re shouting over the music. And so what’s happened is you’ve dulled your senses to feel what you’re doing.
To ensure proper protection, stay mindful of how long and loudly you are singing while consuming alcohol. Otherwise, it could lead to problems down the road with those all-important vocals!
Any substances that can change the way you feel
When you ingest something, it’s important to consider the impact on your body – including your vocal tract! That is because anything that changes your feelings will also affect what comes out of your mouth.
It’s essential to be mindful and choose only those substances which might benefit rather than harm you for your healthy singing voice.
Vocal Health Tips
Hydration is essential for maintaining the health of your vocal cords. But some common things could be improved regarding how to best do so.
Drinking water does not directly hydrate the vocal cords – swallowing triggers a little flap called an epiglottis that closes off food and drink from entering the windpipe where our vocals sit. Although drinking doesn’t immediately target your voice box, it still has its benefits by moistening your mouth.
Here are the best alternatives for moisturizing your vocal cord:
- Systemic hydration. This means drinking plenty of water so it can make its way from the stomach throughout your body – including those crucial vocal cords. A good amount of time is needed for this process – at least 20 minutes or more!
- Hydration at the cellular level. Unlike systemic hydration, which takes up only 20 minutes, the cellular level takes days.
- Use of vaporized water. Steaming can be a way to do it. You can also take a hot shower and breathe in that steam. You can also get those little personal face steamers.
- Mesh nebulizer. The nebulizer turns the saline solution into a fine mist, which is inhaled. The advantage of this method over steam inhalation is that the salts are included in the vapor and can do more to hydrate our vocal cords.
- Humidifier. Investing in a humidifier is a great way to improve the air quality in your place and combat dryness. Keeping it clean should be a top priority as well!
- Avoid food that triggers acid reflux. Foods like coffee, chocolate, red wine, and spices such as garlic or onion should be avoided. Citrus fruits, spicy food, and acidic sauces make perfect recipes for an uncomfortable night’s sleep so limit your intake close to bedtime too!
- Be aware of your medicines. All medications are going to have certain side effects. If you want to know the whole list of medications and what they do for your voice, visit the National Center for Voice and Speech website.
- Vocal Rest. Sleep and vocal naps are the best ways to ensure your voice maintains its strength and clarity. Too much singing without enough time off between practice sessions will cause vocal cords to be damaged through overuse.
Take some time to assess and rethink your habit.
Do you abuse your health? Or maybe you didn’t take good care of your voice?
Making healthy lifestyle choices and keeping your vocal cords in top condition is key to prolonging the life of your singing voice. Try to stay away from stress-inducing activities, unhealthy habits, or anything that could dry out or strain them. Think about how you can keep them hydrated and rested.
I’m here as an ally if you need help – let’s work together towards healthier lifestyle choices!