Morning voice is a common problem for singers. After a night of sleep, your voice pitch can tend to sound raspy and deeper. Although we all experience a croaky hoarse voice in the morning at times, there are steps you can take to minimize and shorten the effects and avoid a bad voice day.
Giving your voice time to wake up by talking it out slowly with gentle, normal vocalizing without yelling or loud talking first thing is what most people tend to do naturally. Still, there are additional practices we can add to reduce potential voice issues.
Here we will discuss what can make a voice raspy and the steps you can take to protect your natural voice, like developing a healthy nighttime ritual and learning how to properly warm up the voice so your voice in the morning can be less croaky and deep.
Note: While low, deeper notes are essential for singers, we want to sing them with proper technique instead of using swollen morning vocal cords.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
Sleep - Did you get as much sleep as you needed? Lack of sleep is a voice killer and contributes to a raspy voice! Sleep and getting a good night's rest is when the body heals itself, and your vocal cords are no exception. Most singers need at least 8 hours, and if you are only getting a few hours of sleep, it may contribute to a hoarse voice in the morning. Try creating a schedule conducive to good vocal health and optimal voice rest.
Your Sleeping Environment - Are you sleeping in dry air that has been heated or air-conditioned? If so, you should be running a humidifier to put throat-soothing moisture back into the air and onto your vocal cords and to help protect your throat at night. Proper levels of humidity are essential for vocal health.
A hygrometer is a handy, inexpensive device that will tell you the humidity level in your environment. Whenever it drops below 45%, you should be running your humidifier.
Eating Late – This is a real problem for singers. With crazy hours and late performances, singers often find themselves hungry just before bedtime. This is the worst time to eat as you don't want the body to digest food while sleeping. This can cause acid reflux, where stomach acid can travel up the esophagus and burn the cords. Acid reflux is one of the main culprits of a harsh, tired, deep voice.
If you must eat, make sure it is something light (no protein or spices) and easily digestible, like a broth.
Coffee – Many of us (including myself) rely on this wonderful beverage to help get us going in the morning. However, coffee is not the best beverage for helping your voice. It can also contribute to acid reflux.
Coffee and caffeinated drinks can dehydrate the voice, leaving the mucous membranes on the vocal cords dry. If you drink coffee, make sure to replace the lost moisture with plenty of water. It is best to avoid alcohol as this is also dehydrating to the vocal folds.
First Words – Do you start talking right away on your morning voice, or do you allow it to warm up with some gentle vocalizing during the morning hours?
Remember, your vocal cords have been at rest for many sleeping hours, which is a reason why they sound deeper in the morning. Doing a lot of heavy talking on your dry, swollen cords can cause additional irritation. Give them some time to rehydrate and rejuvenate. Water (warm water or room temperature water can be soothing) and gentle vocal warm-ups starting in your lower vocal range are essential.
Voice teachers worldwide are recommending straw warm-ups as a tool to soothe the vocal folds and help a tired voice. Warming up with a common straw is one of the most effective ways to get your voice aligned and working properly. I have a free straw warmup course you can download right here:
Morning Shower - The perfect time to steam your voice box is in the morning with a hot shower. A little extra hot water with lots of steam and deep breathing is great for getting the vocal folds moisturized. This is a quick way to get the throat moist and to relieve a husky voice.
Performance Days – You need to give your voice time to “wake up,” shake off that raspy, deeper voice, and get ready for a vocal performance. Some of the toughest challenges my students have when working as a professional singer is performing on morning radio or TV shows. Voice actors have to consider this as well.
You should get up at least two hours before you have to sing, even if this causes you to have less than optimal sleep time.
Eat a light breakfast, avoid spicy foods, and start hydrating right away. Take your time to warm up until you feel like you are vocalizing in your normal voice range.
Warm-up: Make sure to warm up before the performance – but don't work the voice too intensely. Football players don't lift weights before a game. Don't overwork your voice either. And remember, vocalizing through a straw is one of the best ways to get your voice going.
Also, adding a lip trill or tongue trill to your vocal warm-up exercises is a great way to gently get blood circulation in the vocal tract and to your vocal folds.
If You Have a Sore Throat
A tired croaky voice is one thing, but if you have chronic hoarseness, a sore throat, or difficulty swallowing, you will want to rest your voice and seek out your healthcare provider if it does not resolve within a reasonable time as an upper respiratory infection, such as viral infections or a bacterial infection, can cause vocal cord inflammation. Extreme inflammation can even lead to temporary voice loss. To prevent vocal cord injury, you will want to give the voice plenty of time to heal before trying to sing if you have experienced any loss of voice for a period of time.
Drink plenty of fluids like temperate water or warm (not hot) herbal tea. Gargling with salt water can also soothe a sore throat. Of course, we all have our favorite home remedies, but essentially you want to rest the voice and take care of yourself until the acute laryngitis resolves before singing or exercising your voice.
Again, if you are experiencing ongoing painful symptoms or persistent hoarseness, or if you have a need for persistent throat clearing, you may want to find a throat specialist to rule out an underlying cause or other medical conditions.
A raspy sound could be as simple as minor acid reflux, but vocal fold ruptures, vocal cord nodules, vocal fold lesions, or other voice disorders can be diagnosed with a physical exam from a voice care specialist.
Good habits and pre-planning can help anyone get through their morning voice problems to help prevent a raspy tone, and if you are working with a vocal coach, talk to them about recommended warmups to help work through a raspy voice in the morning.
If you would like to develop your vocal techniques, my new book "Beginning Singing" comes with bonus videos with effective exercises to get you started. To learn more about my books, courses, and John's Singing School, please visit johnhenny.com. And if you are interested in online vocal lessons, you can reach out to our front desk at [email protected], and we would be happy to answer your questions.