It can be extremely easy to forget that, just like our guitars, violins, snare drums and trumpets, your vocal chords are also your instrument.
For a singer, maintaining vocal health is as important as maintaining an instrument for a musician. When our guitar strings snap we can buy a fresh set, a hole in the drum skin is no disaster (unless mid gig of course!), and the majority of our flutes, saxophones, trumpets and trombones can be restored like new. The vocal chords, however, are an instrument that cannot be replaced so easily.
As singers especially, if we want our voices to last a lifetime, we’ve got to take exceptional care. So, without further ado, here are our top tips for maintaining your vocal health!
Maintaining Vocal Health? Warm Up!
This one may seem glaringly obvious – and is probably something that most of us would be aware of – but there are many things we can do to improve the humble vocal warm up.
As well as the voice, we need to start off with the face; massage those cheeks, stick out your tongue as far as it can go, sigh like you mean it! This part can make you feel pretty silly, but make it fun! Be loud, be noisy and embrace the ridiculousness of it all! Enjoy the ooo’s and ahhh’s, the humming and the trilling, for at least 10 minutes.
Most importantly, make sure you do the simple warm ups first. We love a complex arpeggio to the Gods, but let’s work towards that.
Vocal Health Tip n.2: hydration, hydration!
Water is without doubt your voice’s best friend. We spoke to vocal expert, Rebecca Woods, who told us that water is essential, and lots of it. She said,
“Your vocal chords are one of the last places to benefit from water intake, so drinking plenty and often is key!”
It’s quite important that this water is room temperature too. Anything that’s really cold or really hot can be a bit too harsh for your vocal chords, and our main priority is being gentle!
Herbal tea (obviously not when it’s boiling hot!) is also great when you’re bored of that H2O! You can find herbal teas designed especially for singers that contain smaller amounts of caffeine, too much of which can be dehydrating (hey, we never said this would be easy!). Whilst the flavour doesn’t really matter, teas like peppermint and liquorice root are fantastic at getting through unwanted mucus (the glamour), so there’s less need for you to be coughing or clearing the throat which can be pretty damaging.
Also, eating light meals before a performance is really important! We certainly don't need a full belly pressing down on the diaphragm!
Vocal Health Tip n.3: Steaming/humidifying is great for maintaining Vocal Health
This is an interesting one, which you can think of almost like moisturizing your vocal chords, like you might any other part of your body. There’s nothing worse than dry air that makes our voices hoarse and coarse, so, regularly steaming your vocal chords, or keeping a humidifier in your living space, is what will keep those chords moist! Plus, your houseplants will LOVE it!
Tip n. 4: Stop singing!
Say what? Yep that’s right, give it a rest sometimes!
Sometimes there is nothing better than simply giving your voice a day off, and research shows that we should do this regularly. Taking a bit of time off from singing (and speaking!) is really essential for rest and recovery - just like we’d need to rest our legs after climbing a mountain! This is called taking a “vocal nap”, which, quite honestly, sounds lovely.
Vocal care is not just for singers!
That’s right guitarists, bassists, drummers, teachers – we’re looking at you! If you’ve ever done some backing vocals at a local gig, screamed at the top of your lungs when watching your favourite band, or even sung scales to your student, taking care of your voice is still incredibly important for us all. After all, our voice needs to take us through life and so we want it to last. If you wanted your guitar to last a lifetime, from your first day to your last, you’d be taking extremely good care of it, right?!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about how to take care of your precious voice today! If you’re looking for a way to integrate your warm up into your practice, then check out our Practise with Purpose blog. Or, perhaps you might want to take a look at our blog post on how to practise your sight reading: a scary task for many, but not so hard, if you follow our tips.