Vocal Health

by Jonathan Cole, Voice and Piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

As singers, our body is our instrument. Because of this, things like illness, lack of sleep, dehydration, and emotional stress can affect our singing in a negative way. Here are some things we can all consider to make our voices function as well as possible:

· Drink plenty of water, especially considering Colorado’s dry climate. Being properly hydrated is one of the simplest things to do and one of the most important factors in vocal health. Remember, substances such as alcohol and caffeine can cause dehydration. Consider using a humidifier.

· Get enough sleep. Experts suggest that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and children need more: up to 11 hours! When our bodies are not rested, our voices don’t function as well as they could otherwise.

· If you’re ill, even if you just have a common cold, take it easy! Our vocal folds are often swollen when we’re ill (just as any muscle can swell when it’s irritated), so they are more susceptible to injury. If you don’t have to sing or speak, don’t. Consider it a free pass to not practice for a few days! Remember, whispering can be harmful when ill, so avoid it.

· Antihistamines/decongestants should be avoided as they cause drying of the vocal folds. Analgesics (aspirin products such as ibuprofen) should be used with caution while singing. If your body is producing extra mucus (the gunk that makes us clear our throats), consider taking an expectorant such as Mucinex paired with lots of water. Additionally, a spoon of honey and gargling with salt water can help sooth a sore throat.

· Don’t clear your throat unless absolutely necessary. If you must, do so in a very gentle manner and as seldom as possible. If you must cough, do so gently.

· Don’t smoke. In addition to long term health problems, smoking also affects our voices in a very negative way. It also goes without saying that you should avoid illegal drugs as well.

· Exercise regularly. Cardiovascular exercise and yoga have proven to be especially beneficial for the singing voice. If doing weight training, do not “grunt” to facilitate lifting heavier weights. Instead, try making a hissing sound while lifting.

· Eat a balanced diet. If you have reflux, take steps (diet change and/or medication, based on your doctor’s recommendation) to fix it.

· Don’t scream or yell. This is particularly tempting to do at sporting events, concerts, and other loud settings.

· Use ear protection when in a noisy environment, and keep your headphones at an appropriate level.

· Keep yourself mentally healthy, and remember that you started singing because you enjoy it. Singing should never be a chore!

With these tips we can all keep our voices healthy. In the occasional event of illness, they are especially important to consider. You only have one voice—take care of it and it will take care of you.

Jonathan Cole, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Jonathan Cole


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3 Responses to “Vocal Health”

  1. soundsorceress Says:

    Reblogged this on SoundSorceress Studio and commented:
    The seasons are changing again. This month we’re dealing with nature waking up and putting out pollen and other allergens, which could easily affect our ability to sing well. That, plus changes in barometric pressure and humidity. And a lot of us singers are in the midst of spring concerts of all kinds, so we have to keep good vocal health at the forefront. Here’s a helpful post to keep you going.

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