Step 1: Drink water
Drink lots of water. Singers need more water than the average person in order to keep the vocal cords and the mucous membranes surrounding them moist. Aim for eight to 10 glasses every day.

Always drink water at room temperature; cold water can damage vocal cords.

Step 2: Warm up
Warm up your vocal cords frequently. Just as a pitcher needs to warm up his arm before taking the mound, a singer needs to loosen up his vocal cords to keep them in optimal shape. Just don’t overdo it.

Step 3: Limit dairy
Limit dairy products, which can cause mucus to build up in the throat, leading to irritation.

Resist the urge to clear your throat; doing so causes the folds of the throat to slam together, causing irritation.

Step 4: Take slippery elm
Take the herb slippery elm, which singers discovered more than a century ago was a good way to coat the throat and soothe tired vocal cords after a performance. Slippery-elm lozenges are available in health-food stores.

Whispering to save your voice? Don’t! Studies show whispering actually makes your vocal cords work thirty percent harder.

Step 5: Turn off the AC
Turn off the AC. It can dry out the air—and your vocal cords!

Step 6: Use a humidifier
Sleep with a humidifier by your bed, especially before an audition or performance: vocal cords work best when moist. In fact, you need to keep the surface of the cords slippery enough to vibrate up to 1700 times per second!

Steam your throat regularly by holding your head over a pot of hot water, covering your head with a towel, and inhaling deeply.

Step 7: Sip hot tea
Sip hot tea, especially marshmallow-root or licorice tea. Both contain mucilage, which has been proven to coat the throat and soothe vocal cords. Drink it preventively and for relief when you get a sore throat.

Don’t add lemon to hot tea. It can be drying.

Step 8: Gargle
Gargle with a mixture of warm salt water and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda to help keep the vocal cords moist.

Gargle in a high pitch; it forces your cords to contract, making gargling more effective.

Step 9: Limit alcohol and caffeine
Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can be drying to vocal cords. And if you have a cough or cold, avoid antihistamines and menthol cough drops, which dry out and irritate vocal cords.

Step 10: Limit air travel
Limit air travel, which can dehydrate you and cause your vocal cords to swell.

Like a fingerprint, every person has a unique “vocal print” that belongs only to him.

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Comment by Scott Gentle on November 23, 2010 at 3:16pm
This thread also reminded me of something I heard recently on NPR - Elton John and Leon Russell's simple homebrew tonic:

Mr. JOHN: I came over to play the Troubadour club in August 1970. I wasn't sure whether it was the right time to come to America to play. But my record company insisted. And it was the right decision to have made, like hell was it the right decision. I came on stage with top hats and, you know, flying boots and wings on them and doing, you know, handstands on the piano and I there's pictures of me flying horizontally in the air.

And then I'm halfway through "Burn Down the Mission" and Im playing the piano solo, and I glanced right, and I see Leon, with the silver hair and the Ray-Ban glasses. And I temporarily you would never know it, but I froze, I kind of semi-panicked because this was the man who I really did idolize, I mean...

And I met him afterwards and he actually gave me a recipe, because I had a my throat was beginning to cease up, I think more of excitement than anything else. But he gave me a recipe of one spoonful of cider vinegar, one spoonful of honey in the hottest water you can gargle with. Gargle with it for like a minute, and you'd be surprised what comes out of your throat. And I still to this day have that in my dressing room. Do you remember that?

Mr. RUSSELL: Yeah, I do.

Mr. JOHN: Yeah.

(Full transcript: )

Haven't tried this yet, but plan to soon!
Comment by Scott Gentle on November 23, 2010 at 3:05pm
re: Barbara's suggestion:

Sounds similar to the BC or Goody's"headache powders" that are popular in the southeastern US. Don't see 'em much up here in NYC, but they're in EVERY truck stop, convenience store, and pharmacy Down South - just ask any trucker, farmer, or fan of NASCAR.

Basically the same powdered aspirin idea (plus acetaminophen with Goody's) but with caffeine to further speed absorption, with each dose in a folded wax paper sleeve that you funnel under your tongue and chase with water or dissolve in water and drink. Either way tastes as foul as if you chewed or let an aspirin tablet dissolve in your mouth, but otherwise usually works as advertised for quick pain relief!

Obviously a no-no for those who can't take NSAIDs, and possibly problematic those prone to upset stomachs or wanting to sleep after a session. I'm guessing the caffeine might also cause dehydration or hyperactivity for some, but that's an individual call; the dose is basically the same as a cup of coffee.

One could probably make their own custom DIY version by powdering these with a pill crusher (or rolling pin or hammer in a pinch) and mixing with room temp water, adjusting the components to your liking:

- 2 regular aspirin tablets

- half a No-Doz, Vivarin, or other standard 200 mg caffeine tablet

- 1 regular Tums or other similar easy-dissolving antacid tablets (a substitute for the baking powder, and flavor enhancer/buffer for everything)
Comment by Paul Seidel on November 3, 2010 at 4:44am
How do you stop "mouth clicks" ? I seem to be building up more saliva lately - and i'm not THAT old !
Comment by Mara Junot on October 12, 2010 at 6:35pm
Thanks for the great information, Zurek. Your article reminded me that I have a full bottle of slippery elm collecting dust that I seriously need to take advantage of using today! Kudos!
Comment by Marlo aka Double M on October 9, 2010 at 1:12pm
Thank you, these are great!
Comment by William Hannant aka W.E.Stewart on October 1, 2010 at 12:26pm
Gargling with sage is also good for the throat. 1-2 tsps in hot water, dry or fresh leaves.
Comment by Kimberly Geter on September 26, 2010 at 8:01pm
Thanks for the advice. Sometimes, I forget about this, especially my fave coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. Less calories too if used sparingly.
Comment by James Eastman on September 18, 2010 at 1:32pm
Yes, whispering does strain the chords! In fact, if you want a deeper, rougher sound then whisper as loud as you can for a few minutes (no, I'm not joking) and you will notice a big difference in the texture. Otherwise, stay away from whispering. Just talk normally. Be yourself.
Comment by Ivy Buseck on September 16, 2010 at 1:51pm
What great tips. I can't wait to put them in action.
I knew those methol cough drops were the culprit of agitating my cough even more.
Comment by Duane DTheEngineer Richard on September 15, 2010 at 12:41pm
Great information

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