500 words or less: Five Good Habits for Vocal Health

Singing voice hurts?

This is a common complaint amongst singers. And a number of you have asked about how to keep your voice healthy and working right, before and after some problems. There are lots of great ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, but here are my top 5 for today…

1. Carry a bottle of water with you all the time – OK, we all know how important it is to drink water, but the focus here is on developing good habits. I carry a bottle of water with me everywhere. Whether I glug, sip, gargle or don’t even use it, the bottle is always with me. Keeping a bottle of water with you is the best way I’ve found to combat dehydration and to keep your vocal cords lubricated to fight it if your singing voice hurts.

2. Don’t try to be heard over loud environments – When you’re out at gigs, clubs, performing, or even as a teacher, don’t try to speak so as to be heard over loud environments. This is a surefire way to cause your vocal cords to suffer ‘adema’, i.e. to swell, and – hey presto! – voice is gone. Best habit I have developed is just to not talk at all when in such environments. Wearing earplugs also helps you to hear how loud you are really talking. This is an easy way to end up hurting your voice and find your singing voice hurts.

3. Stay away from smoking and smokers – You CANNOT sustain a career as a singer and smoke regularly. End of. At the minimum it dries out your vocal cords and long term regular use damage the tissue of the cords. Passive smoking carries the same risks. Even if you don’t care about your lungs, show your vocal cords some love and stay out of those environments. Ultimately, it’s your vocal health at risk here, you shouldn’t feel bad about making your excuses and going elsewhere or asking people not to smoke. Stay away from smoking and smokey environments to avoid hurting your singing voice.

4. Lost your voice? Rest your voice totally for much longer than it takes just to get it back – Usually the vocal cords are swollen when we lose our voice. Complete vocal rest is the best way to get back up to speed, but we need to rest our voice much longer than it takes just to get it back – i.e. rest it another few days to week longer. If we start to use it again before it’s fully recovered, then you can go right back to square one or constantly be battling swollen vocal cords. So rest for longer than you think you need. Otherwise that complaint of ‘my singing voice hurts!’ ain’t gonna go away!

5. Pay attention to what your body is telling you – Some singers have voices that can sustain hours of singing without feeling their voice tire. Some of them need to rest every 20-30 minutes, or even every 5 minutes! Above all, pay attention to your body and how it feels, and craft your practice and performance regime around that. Strength and stamina comes in time and your own abilities from over time will vary, so get in the habit now of learning what you can/can’t take.

That’s my top tips for what to do if your singing voice hurts and how to keep it in tip top shape. That’s all for now!

Learn More: Related Articles

If you want to learn more about vocal health and voice issues, you may enjoy the following articles:
Shouting masquerading as singing: Why so many singers are just yelling
Why vocal problems so regularly derail careers, permanently
Famous Singers with Voice Problems
Vocal Health Issues
Vocal Longevity: The Icarus Effect
Why do I keep losing my voice: Overuse, Misuse and Abuse
The Seriousness of Vocal Fold Nodules

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