The human voice is a precious, delicate mechanism. Used properly, it rarely goes wrong. The harsh environments and air-conditioned atmospheres of modern living can often cause hoarseness, unreliability and even complete failure. If you are a singer or actor – amateur or professional, solo or choral – voice problems and sore throat can have a major effect on your career. This article is packed with tips and advice on keeping your voice in first-class condition. If your voice is important to you, this guide will help you maintain it properly.
Always warm up:
Your vocal folds are muscles. Like any muscles before exercise they need a thorough warm up to get the best performance. We recommend very gentle humming and glides, for about five minutes in the morning and before intensive voice use. After the warm-up, give your voice 10-15 minutes rest before the performance. Use the warm-up period to relax; check your breathing habits and drink some water! Healthy habits pay off in the long term and bad habits cost. Just because you get away without warming up now does not mean that you will never need to.
If you care about your voice, you should not smoke. The irritants in tobacco damage the voice and will certainly shorten your vocal career. As a smoker you are more prone to infection and your voice can become unstable.
Caffeine, alcohol and some drugs can prevent the body from retaining water. The vocal folds’ protective cushioned layers need to be kept moist to stay healthy. Avoid too much tea or coffee, colas, alcohol etc. Drink as much water as possible. Many medications are dehydrating; check with your pharmacist or doctor. Also try to avoid hot dry atmospheres or air-conditioned areas.
Avoid late-night eating:
This can result in stomach acid spilling into your larynx, causing hoarseness. Tell- tale signs are bad breath (especially first thing), prolonged vocal warm-up (more than 15-20 minutes), and a sour taste in the mouth.
Monitor your voice use:
Everyone’s voice has his or her own limits. Know yours! Loud harsh talking or singing is more damaging than gentle use, so avoid prolonged use in “hard” environments such as clubs and pubs; even using your mobile in a noisy place. Don’t shout when you don’t have to!! Your vocal cords collide with each other more than a million times a day. Any extra activity adds to that and puts a strain on them.
When recovering from a voice problem, avoid unnecessary conversation; for example phone calls, chatting, etc. – and try to monitor your voice use.
Keep to 2 hours of intensive use a day (performing, rehearsing, public speaking or meetings) and remember that the more intensive the use, the less time your voice will last.
Avoid repeated throat clearing:
Clearing your throat and coughing can damage the vocal folds. Try sipping water instead, or sucking a cough sweet (don’t overdo it, cough sweets can dehydrate you).
Manage your stress:
Stress can be very harmful to the voice, causing forced voice production and vocal fold damage. Relaxation techniques, deep breathing and regular exercise can help.
Watch out for:
Persistent breathiness, hoarseness or pain. They may signal a voice problem. A consistently unreliable voice can also signal deeper problems. Always consult your doctor or voice coach if you feel you may have a problem.
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