Vocal Health.

July 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Singing Articles


Vocal HealthHaving the most unique instrument in the world requires certain discipline to ensure it is kept in pristine condition.  Unlike other instruments you can’t go out and buy a new one if something happens to your voice.

Some key areas that we as singers can control are:

  1. Environment
  2. Diet
  3. Smoking and Alcohol

Environment

Our bodies react to extreme changes in temperature and humidity.  It is important to try and keep your body at a regulated temperature when possible.  Avoid breathing in cold air.

Avoid speaking at high levels over a prolonged period of time.  The most common occurrences are sport carnivals and trying to speak over loud music at parties and clubs.

Smoking and Alcohol

Everyone is aware of the dangers that smoking poses to your health.  It is not my intention to push these points as everyone has the right to make their own choices in life.  However if you are serious about singing it is wise to know how smoke affects the voice.

Smoking causes trauma to the delicate membrane of the throat and vocal chords.  The heat causes irritation and the membrane secretes to counter the effects of dryness.  This is why smokers constantly have to “clear” their voice.  To the trained singer, the effect of passive smoke can cause temporary irritation which will be serious enough to cause discomfort.

Would a brass player leave their instrument out it the rain?

Would a singer knowingly inhale smoke?

It’s your decision

Alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates the body.  Your voice needs hydration to function properly.  I’m not saying that you should never drink alcohol, but certainly not on the day that you have to sing and preferably not the night before.  If you do get into a situation where you feel obliged to have a drink make sure you have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol.  This will keep you hydrated.

The Triple Whammy

The effects of these “voice killers” in isolation have a negative effect on your instrument.  When combined they cause “Vocal Suicide”.

Classic example:

  • The Party.  Passive smoke, alcohol, speaking over loud music, cold night.

It can take days for your voice to recover, after a triple whammy, to the point where you can sing at your best.

Does this mean parties are off limits?

No, but you must be in control of your environment as much as possible.  Make the decision not to stand near smokers, find a quite place to speak, drink water to combat the dehydrating affects of alcohol.

Avoid the triple whammy at all costs!  Disciple yourself, your voice will thank you for it!

Diet

There is no “set in stone” diet for a singer.  There are some foods which a serious singer should avoid on performance day, and some that should only be taken in moderation.

Good

Bad

Vegetables

Dairy

Lean Meat

Spicy Food

Pasta

High Fat Food

Non citrus fruit

Salt

The best diet for a singer is a balanced diet for general living.  On performance day avoid all the foods in the bad column.  Preferably have an early dinner to allow food to digest.  If the stomach is full the diaphragm cannot descend to its flat position.

So does this mean that to be a singer you have to give up all of your favourite foods and alcohol?

NO

I absolutely love sitting down to a beautiful thai dinner with a glass of red wine.  I just make sure I don’t have to sing the next day!

Rest

Make sure you get enough sleep.  The voice is one of the first muscles to tire.  A solid 8 hours per night is recommended.

What to do when you have a sore throat.

Avoid lozenges as they tend to dry the throat, especially if they contain alcohol, methol or antiseptic.  Chewing and swallowing a piece of apple will promote saliva.  There are also some vocal sprays which create saliva and can be used as a “direct hit” of moisture.  Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

Above all, the best way to promote vocal health is to condition yourself for performance.  Follow a specific vocal regime daily.  Get into the habit of being a healthy singer.

You are a vocal athlete.  Every athlete follows a training regime.

Ian Castle

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