Whether you’re a singer or you play another musical instrument, taking care of your body should be on the tip top of your list of priorities. Depending on your instrument, you should zero-in on the particular muscles you use heavily on a daily basis. If you’re a guitarist, it’s a must that you maintain certain stretching exercises to avoid long-term issues such as carpal tunnel, which is “a numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist.” Today, we’ll dive into optimizing your vocal health.
Let’s start simple. Water, water, water. We’re sure you’re tired of hearing it, just like us, however there’s a reason why some things are repeated over and over again. UT Southwestern Medical Center states “The most important thing we can consume to improve vocal health is water. Staying hydrated helps your body produce thin, watery mucus. Your vocal cords vibrate more than 100 times a second when you speak, and they need that mucus to help them stay lubricated. We recommend drinking 64 ounces of water each day.
Vocal exercises should be one of your best friends. This is one of the best ways to achieve your desired range and also workout the kinks between the solid spaces in your voice. Much like any athlete, the muscles must be warmed up before both practice and performance.
Just like the rest of life, vocal rest is just as important as vocal exercising. When you’re feeling off, have a sore throat, a hoarse voice, or just a bit drained and under the weather - to avoid further damage, you absolutely must give your voice a rest. Did you know that Mariah Carey does not speak all day long when she is on tour, in order to preserve her voice to be able to hit those high notes during her concerts? This is a bit extreme when you aren’t performing, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. In addition to vocal rest, actual full body rest, as in sleeping, is equally as crucial.
Alongside the previous note, it’s important to not force yourself to hit notes that aren’t currently in your repertoire. You can work your way up to that desired range but aren’t forcing yourself to a stretch that your precious cords aren’t ready for.
When it comes to fact versus fiction, it may be good to note that while you may think that water, honey, apple cider vinegar and other goodies that are typical for vocal health touch the vocal cords when ingested, they actually don’t. Those items are helpful to soothe the throat and entire body, however steam inhalation is the only item that will directly interact with your vocal cords.
UT Southwestern Medical Center educates us with how the pros do it. “Professional singers treat their voices a bit like athletes treat their bodies, writes singer and broadcaster Mary King. The best protection is a good posture and sound vocal technique. Voices always need to be supported by the bigger muscles in the body - poor posture can lead to muscular tension and vocal strain.”
Get to know your voice, its limitations and highlights. Optimizing one’s vocal health will aid in your tone, stamina and overall creative output. Later down the line you’ll be so happy that you put the time in to make sure that you take special care of the beautiful gift that you’ve been given.