I talk a lot. It’s how I earn money. No voice, no money. So over the years, I’ve learned quite a bit about vocal health and the importance of caring for my voice. Here are some tips that have served me well:
Warm up your voice and your body before you practice, audition, or record. These warm ups may include humming, tongue twisters, yawning, stretching, singing, jumping up and down, etc. Do what works for you. Your vocal chords are muscles that need to stretch and warm up before a workout just like any other muscle. It’s also important to loosen up your whole body to alleviate strain and stress on the vocal chords from poor posture, tightness in the body, particularly the back, shoulders, neck and jaws.
Hydrate. Vocal chords must remain lubricated to function properly. Forget to lubricate and your vocal performance will suffer. Water is certainly the top choice and room temp is best. Other great choices include herbal teas such as Yogi’s Throat Comfort Tea or Traditional Medicinal’s Throat Coat Tea. Avoid extreme temperatures as cool or cold beverages will tighten the vocal chords, and hot beverages will over relax the vocal chords. Your vocal chords are like rubber bands and vibrate to produce sound. If they get too cold, they lose elasticity and can tear when stretched. If they get too hot, they lose the ability to retain tension and strain to produce sound.
Breathe. Proper breathing is breathing from your diaphragm and requires proper posture. Stand in front of a mirror, place your hand over your belly and breathe. Notice your posture. Are your neck and shoulders relaxed? Are you breathing from your chest (up and down – not proper) or is your hand moving in and out on your belly as you breathe? Now speak or better yet, sing. Look at your neck. Do you see tension? If so, re-check your posture. Feet should face forward, knees should be soft, hips should be in neutral (stick your butt out, tuck your hips in, and then relax them –that’s neutral!), tummy should be tucked in, shoulders back and down, and the neck should be neutral (same process as the hips). Now try it again. You should see no strain in the neck.
Rest. Like any other muscles, your vocal chords need proper rest to repair and function. Allow breaks for yourself throughout the day and especially after a long day of recording. Refrain from talking as much as possible during those breaks. Additionally, give yourself 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night to rest your voice and body.
Avoid these for at least an hour before recording:
Dairy – produces mucus
Sugar – produces mucus
Caffeine – dehydrates and tightens the vocal chords
Greasy and Fatty Foods – produces mucus and promotes acid reflux
Spicy – promotes acid reflux
Alcohol – dehydrates
Smoking – produces mucus – also horrible for vocal health in general
Mucus happens sometimes. Allergies or illness can be culprits of producing unwanted mucus too. Tips for dealing with mucus include gargling with salt water, adding fresh lemon to your water, drinking more water, and doing a nasal rinse. Coughing is tough on the vocal chords. Avoid coughing by putting your chin to your chest and swallowing. The mucus will usually clear quickly.
Your vocal health is important for so many reasons. Protect your vocal chords and you will reap the rewards of a strong and healthy voice for years to come. As a voice talent, that also means more money!