Musician’s Corner: Vocal Care 101
This post is for all you vocalists out there:
Just like your ears [take care of ’em], you only have one voice – one set of vocal cords. Your voice is brilliant and unique. Treat it with the utmost respect to ensure that you can use it to its fullest potential for the rest of your life.
1. Hydrate: While this may seem like a given, many musicians turn to other beverages while on the road. Soda, coffee, alcohol… none of these can replace the benefits of staying consistently hydrated with water. “Your vocal cords vibrate more than 100 times a second when you [use them], and they need mucus to help them stay lubricated. We recommend drinking 64 ounces of water each day” [Lesley Childs, M.D. of Otolaryngology].
2. Avoid Alcohol Before Singing: Alcohol dries out singers’ throats. It can lead to a raspy voice and inflamed vocal cords.“If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, the chemical irritation can become so severe you can develop chronic laryngitis, and this will result in prolonged spells of voice loss” [Gemma Saunders].
3. Try Tea Instead: While water can never be replaced in terms of “throughout the day” hydration, tea can be an excellent pre-show ritual. Luke-warm is best. I recommend this tea.
4. Do Not Sing While Sick: While instrumentalists may be able to push through a show amidst a nasty cold, singers should avoid this at all costs. Singing while sick can wreak permanent damage on the voice, as well as lengthen recovery time. I once attempted to push through a set while I was suffering from immense mucus buildup in my chest and throat. Needless to say, it was a bad decision.
5. Avoid Smoking: This one is a given. Cigars, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping, etc. I love Mary Jane as much as the next dreadlocked rocker hippie… but this includes the herb, too. If you’re serious about a long-term career as a vocalist, you will come to the realization that your voice is more important to you than smoking is.
6. Don’t Push It: One of the most challenging things for vocalists [rockers, particularly] is getting over the feeling that you need to push your voice in order to “get over the sound of the band.” That’s the microphone’s job, not yours. That’s the sound technician’s job, not yours. That’s the P.A. speaker’s job, not yours. If you need to buy larger speakers, then do it. But if your electric guitarist can’t stand to play at any lesser volume than “11,” even during a small house show, you might want to consider where the problem actually lies.
7. Control Your Adrenaline: Sometimes, the amazing “adrenaline spikes” that we feel on stage can cause us to singer louder than we usually would. Be aware of times when your adrenaline is causing you to strain your voice; learn to channel it differently.
8. Sing Regularly: Similarly to the way in which runners build up stamina over time, so too, do singers. Going prolonged periods without singing leads to a weakening of the voice. Make it a point to sing at least once a day, even if it is only in the shower.
9. Don’t Sing Too Much: Again, just like the way in which runners can harm themselves by running too long over the course of one day, so too, can vocalists when it comes to singing. Know your limits.
10. Dairy = “No” Before the Show: Dairy is the biggest “no-no” before singing. I once drank a cup of chocolate milk during a rehearsal, and it took around a month for my voice to return to normal. I even had to visit an ENT. “Fat-rich dairy products can cause the mucus in your throat to thicken” [Amy Poole of Open Mic UK]. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives, such as rice milk and almond milk.
11. Warm Up: Going back to the running metaphor – imagine sprinting without stretching beforehand. Bad idea? Yes. Now, imagine singing without warming up beforehand. Also a bad idea? Yes.
12. Avoid Screaming: We all know the temptation – the desire to yell across the house rather than to get up off the couch. Your voice really, REALLY begs you not to scream, though.
13. Throat Spray and Cough Drops: Don’t leave for a show without some cough drops in your bag. Investing in a “vocal spray” is a good idea, too. My personal favorite is “Clear Voice” – http://clearvoicespray.com/shop/fresh-mint-clear-voice-vocal-spray/
If you have any other vocal tips, comment below!
| Alisha Peru |
Multi-Genre Live and Studio Vocalist
@kobebigs on unsplash.com