The fall season is upon us and with that comes the fear of colds and flus. That inevitable slight tickle in the throat is clearly a singer’s worst nightmare. Here are 5 hints on how to handle your vocal health in between your voice lessons, gigs and rehearsals:
Drink loads of water: Drinking water or warm clear liquids keeps the vocal cords hydrated and when they are hydrated they can adduct (come together) more easily. There is nothing worse than trying to produce a sound with dry vocal cords. It would be like driving a car without oil. Your vocal cords need lubrication in order for them to have enough agility to adduct and thus produce a sound. Besides, water flushes out toxins so that your body can get rid of the virus faster. “A hem”, stop clearing your throat! Compulsive clearing or grunting causes more irritation to the vocal tissue and can lead to hoarseness. Let water clear your throat for you. Remember it can take several hours before the water that you drink can have any affect on hydrating the cords. So be sure to drink well in advance of your gig.
R&R: Napping in between rehearsals and shows is a must if you feel a cold coming on. The voice is a muscle and it needs rest in order to bounce back again when you get back on that stage. A singer’s obscure schedule tends to make it impossible to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night. Therefore, short naps will give your body a chance to restore itself so that it can have enough strength to fight the germs.
Text or email: A scratchy or hoarse voice is your body’s way of telling you that your vocal cords need rest. Minimal talking in between gigs or rehearsals will contribute to vocal rest. Don’t whisper as this will dry out your vocal cords faster and may cause more stress to your larynx (the muscle that houses the vocal folds) If your voice just isn’t there try one complete day of total vocal rest (zero talking and zero singing) plus water and your voice will ‘thank you’ the following day.
Vocalize: Try a lip bubble every few hours or exercises like hooty ‘Wee’ or ‘Mum’. These are not abrasive and will keep your larynx stable and keep your voice feeling flexible and agile. A dancer stretches throughout the day to keep the blood flowing and their body flexible. “De-stiff” your vocal folds by vocalizing for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per day on the days leading up to your gig. This will help keep your voice balanced and ready for combat.
Wear a scarf: Cover your instrument, after all, you wouldn’t walk out in the rain without your guitar in its case. If your neck is covered, your vocal cords are warm and they won’t take as long to ‘warm-up’.