In my previous post I mentioned the importance of cooling down the voice to ensure good vocal health but I also wanted to add some other suggestions as to “DO’s and DONT’S that will greatly improve your vocal longevity. A huge part of maintaining good vocal health is to retain lubrication of the vocal folds and anything that compromises this should be avoided when you are needing to sing. So what are some of the things you should and shouldn’t do?
1. One of the most obvious ways is to drink plenty of water! However, if you’ve already reached the point at which you’re noticeably dehydrated it is worth noting that it takes at least a couple of hours for the water to be absorbed by your cells at the level of the vocal folds and for them to return to normal hydration. Make sure you don’t get to the point where you’re noticeably parched by bringing a bottle of water around with you as you go about your daily activities.
2. Steam! Steam! Steam! Steam! (This is one of the best!) You can purchase a steam inhaler from most chemists. Add boiling hot water to the steamer and inhale. Alternatively if you can’t get a steam inhaler get a big pot of water (DON’T add eucalyptus, tea tree or olbas oil as these tend to be quite drying) put a towel over you head and inhale. Steaming is also one of the best things to do when you have a cold and you still have to use your voice.
3. Avoid consuming anything particularly drying or irritating to the voice directly before singing such as antihistamines, cold and flu tablets and excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
4. Too much abdominal pumping (excessive breath pressure) causes tightening within the throat (scratching) and dries out the vocal folds. Avoid this at all costs. Many singers find this hard to let go of as they find a quick and instant connection between pumping/pushing from their stomachs and volume. Needless to say it is not a safe loud. Pushing is a surefire way to lead to vocal trauma and yet in some singing studios some teachers are still teaching this method???!!!!
6. Avoid excessive breathy singing by singing with clear, clean tone.
7. Avoid smoking. Your vocal folds are like the guardians of the airway- anything that reaches your lungs has to pass by the vocal folds first. We all know what smoking does to your lungs- its effects on the voice are equally as bad with one of the most noticeable aspects being a diminished ability to hit high notes, sing cleanly (without breathiness) and to sustain long phrases and notes. The same is even more so true of wacky tabaccy (marijuana). Whatever your crutch or addiction I am not advocating going cold turkey but if the desire is there to kick the habit find professional help to do so!
8. Stand and sing with good posture.
9. Develop your technique by getting singing lessons AND practice.
10. Warm the voice up with soft vocal slides- avoid singing a song to warm the voice up.
11. Avoid excessive throat clearing.
Your body is your instrument and singing is muscular. This connection between the body and the voice is never more highlighted than when one is sick and does not have the physical energy or stamina to sing. Needless to say it is important that you look after your physical health by getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising (I know- its common sense stuff but I am never ceased to be surprised by how many singers forget about the “voice-body connection” on occasion and this is usually the time that coincides with their own vocal problems).
There has also been a significant degree of research into the link between one’s mental state and ones physical health. Thus maintaining a positive attitude and frame of mind is also hugely important- especially as it is during times of increased emotional stress is when vocal difficulties surface. Activities such as meditation, yoga and tai chi are great to regain the balance!