Good vocal care is not rocket science. Some simple and practical adjustments and considerations will ensure your voice stays in good form for the hard work you put it through when you sing.
Here is my Do’s and Don’ts list for good vocal care.
+ Keep well-hydrated 1-1.5l/day. More if energy output increases or you’re in a hot environment. If your pee is a pale straw colour then you’re well hydrated.
+ Maintain good general health with a balanced diet.
+ Consider planning your eating around your performance needs.
+ Maintain regular vocal practice and training.
+ Get a vocal instructor who understands how to train and exercise the voice for singing.
+ Get adequate rest. Your vocal folds are made of muscle, tissue, joints and ligaments and need recovery time.
+ Get regular physical exercise, but don’t overdo abdominal work as it hinders correct breathing for singing.
+ Keep throat area warm in cold weather.
+ Humidify your environment if too dry e.g. in central heating.
+ Identify and use your optimum speaking pitch. Talking in a strained way will impact on your singing voice.
+Maintain a well-balanced posture for singing and public speaking. Watch for slouching or jutting jaw etc.
– Smoke! Duh…!
– Drink caffeine, alcohol in excess, take illicit drugs and medications that dry your mouth and throat e.g. antihistamines, decongestants. Get medical advice for prescribed medications that may affect your voice e.g. Hormone replacement, some contraceptive pills, steroids, asthma puffers.
– Practice excessively – 20 minutes of correct practice with 5 min rest. Short and regular is more effective than long and sporadic.
– Singing in environmental extremes if possible, e.g. dry, cold, hot, dusty places. If unavoidable use countermeasures to reduce the impact on the voice.
– Clear your throat or cough excessively. Use an open vocal fold strategy – it’s weird but less abusive to the folds
– Yell, shout, scream, talk excessively.
– Talk above loud noise for too long.
– Hang around people with respiratory infections…they are evil! The germs I mean, not the people.
– Sing or talk on a ‘sick voice’ e.g. laryngitis, sore throat (full rest if so advised)
– Ignore changes in your singing or speaking voice that last longer than 2 weeks…see a doctor or ENT specialist
When to seek medical advice
If you experience symptoms of
- More than 2 weeks of ongoing change in the quality of the voice e.g. hoarseness, roughness, breathiness, wheezing.
- Splitting of sound/note in speaking or through bridge area.
- Persistent pain or discomfort that develops during speaking or singing.
- More than 2 weeks of persistent vocal fatigue (where the voice tires and fades).
- Persistent unexplained loss of vocal range
If you are a professional/wannabe professional performer then I highly recommend that you find an Ear Nose and Throat specialist and other medical practitioners that specialise in working with performing artists. You can sometimes get the run-a-round in the medical world, as they don’t know how to deal with singing and performing, nor do they realise the demands of the job, or in fact that it is a job! We need to be dealt with in a different way to the average Joe, in the same way, an injured athlete needs to see a sports medicine specialist.
I suggest you do a search for “Performing Arts Medicine” (PAM) in your area. It won’t always be easy, even in London there are only a handful of PAM specialists. You can also ask around within your industry or ask a few singing teachers in your area if they have any recommended doctors and health practitioners.
Here are a few links to get you started:
- British Association of Performing Arts Medicine
- Performing Arts Medicine Association
- International Foundation for Performing Arts Medicine
- Australian Society for Performing Arts Healthcare
- German Performing Arts Medicine
- European Institute for Sports and Arts Medicine
Wishing you and your voice all the health in the world.