Voice Care: Best Tips From The Professionals
Whether you are performing in summer stock theater, working a vocally demanding Shakespeare festival or keeping up with a busy audition schedule, your voice is the center of your craft. Your voice must be in top shape or you run the risk of losing a job or even more concerning – vocal injury. Sometimes the information on vocal care can be contradictory and confusing. Below are five tips that are proven to work and backed by research.
1 – Stay Hydrated!
When you speak or sing, the vocal folds close against each other and then open to create the sound wave of your voice. That constant closing and opening (which can happen hundreds of times per second) means that the tissues of the vocal folds are impacting hundreds of thousands of times every day. In order for those tissues to function well and recover from all that use, they need to be fully hydrated.
There’s a lot of differing opinions about how much water to drink and what type of water is the best, but here’s a simple way to tell if you’re getting enough hydration – your urine should be pale yellow or clear throughout the day. Drink small amounts of water constantly throughout the day to ensure that your body has a chance to absorb the fluids you take in. Yes, you will have to take a few more bathroom breaks, but your voice will thank you!
2 – Sleep On It!
Like all the other tissues in your body, your vocal folds, larynx, tongue, etc, all need for you to enjoy some prolonged, deep sleep in order to recover from the work your voice does all day long. Not only does sleep allow those muscles to recover, but sleep also allows your brain to organize or memorize any new co-ordinations you are trying to build in your voice. So “sleep on it” is good advice for multiple reasons!
3 – You Are What You Eat!
So it seems that Mom was right, at least when it comes to good vocal health. Since your voice is another part of your amazing human body, it is directly affected by what you put into that body. No need to change your diet drastically, but knowing how food, drink or medicine impacts your voice can help you make smart choices that support your vocal health. Get to know your body’s allergies. There are simple blood or skin tests that an allergist can run to see if you have an allergy to milk, egg, gluten, etc. Eating a food that you are allergic to may cause excess mucous and inflammation which can directly affect your voice.
Peppermint tends to dehydrate, as do alcoholic drinks and caffeine. You don’t need to give up your morning coffee, but be aware that too much caffeine intake coupled with heavy voice use may cause vocal fatigue and strain.
Some types of pain killers that contain NSAIDs (you can search for a list of pain killers with NSAIDs) can leave singers more prone to vocal injury. For pain relief during heavy vocal use, turn to acetaminophen pain killers first.
4 – Listen To Your Voice!
If your voice feels tired or sounds raspy or you’ve lost some vocal range, your voice is telling you that it is stressed and needs a break. Your voice doesn’t “cry wolf”, so listen to what your voice is telling you. Vocal rest, hydration, sleep, therapeutic exercises, a visit to your Speech Language Pathologist or your Otolaryngologist may be just what your voice is crying out for. The sooner you listen and act quickly, the better your chances are for a speedy and full vocal recovery.
5 – Cool It!
Most singers and professional voice users know the importance of a good vocal warm-up routine. Warm-ups are indispensable! However, cooling the voice down after significant use is overlooked by most performers. When you use your voice for extended periods of time or use extreme co-ordinations (for example, belting, projecting, singing in the limits of your range) the tissues of the larynx, throat and jaw can become tight and stressed.
By cooling down with gentle, low volume exercises you can help all those tissues relax and reset to their natural resting position.
When you help these tissues relax and reset, they can recover more quickly and be at peak performance the next time you are on stage.
Give your voice a little TLC and your voice is more likely to be at its very best when you need it most!