Vocal Health Article #2 - Vocal Health
Article by MEWSIC.
You have to make your own choices about what to do to take care of your voice and weigh them against other parts of your life. There are all kinds of theories and opinions about what is good and bad for singers. Here are some common beliefs on care of the voice:
Bad For Your Voice:
Alcohol dries vocal folds, Don't drink and sing!
· Don't use Antihistamines if you can avoid them, they dry the respiratory system.
· Anesthetic sprays - they just numb you into thinking everything is OK when it's not!
· Diuretics (including caffeine!) these deplete the body of excess fluids and as a singer you NEED fluids! So if you drink caffeine - drink lots and lots of water to counteract the drying effects.
· Beta blockers - tranquilizers, valium, alcohol, these aren't good for your voice. To overcome stage fright try some of the techniques covered in my other workshop: yoga, visualization, preparation, exercise, breathing... and remember that nervous energy gives you an edge in performance!
· Don't shout! - Singing, speaking, shouting or screaming too loudly is bad for your voice. Get out of the habit of yelling if you do it often. If you sing in loud venues or with a rock band, use proper amplification for your voice and make sure you can hear in a monitor well enough to not oversing.
· Lack of Good Vocal Technique - using poor or injurious habits.
· Inadequate Sleep · Inadequate Hydration - drink LOTS and LOTS of water! ("Pee Clear")
Good For Your Voice:
· Drink - Drink LOTS of water! - herbal teas without caffeine and avoid hibiscus (it's also a desiccant) this can be tricky because lots of teas have it, but I've heard that just following the herbal tea with lots of water works. If your throat feels tired I suggest Traditional Medicines "Throat Coat Tea" it has slippery elm in it and tastes pretty good as well as making your throat feel soothed.
· Don't eat too much. Wait two hours after a full meal before singing. (Due to interaction of diaphragm and digestive system.) Bring along healthy light snacks to eat if you get hungry. Fruit is excellent because the natural sugar energy it provides gives you a boost when you may need it most!
· Don't PUSH the sound! Avoid situations where you must force your voice. Don't yell to be heard. If you are singing along with many instruments or people in a casual setting either use a microphone or use your hand cupped between your mouth and your ear to help you hear yourself better and remind yourself not to shout. Insist on being properly miked if performing with a band or in a loud setting.
· Avoid Smoke. Don't smoke. Try to avoid smoky places.
· Get plenty of rest. This really is very important.
· Warm up vocally and physically before singing. Get in the habit of it. Make it a badge of being serious about singing. It's very important. Warming up with vocal warm-ups is better than just "singing a song" because the warm-ups generally help you get you focused on proper technique, which makes you sound better and protects your voice.
· Steam - Take hot showers and take deep breaths and even gently warm up in the shower. Use a humidifier in your house/bedroom/practice room. Consider traveling with a humidifier or steamer. (Hotel rooms get very dry!) Steam anytime but especially when clogged up from sinus congestion, a cold, smog etc.
· Use Saline Nasal Spray - This works! It actually helps your body avoid colds etc, and also opens clogged nasals, and hydrates.
When should I see a doctor? Here's some information on vocal nodes.
Vocal cords aren't really cords, they are actually folds, which is why the term vocal folds has come into use. The vocal fold is where polyps or nodes (nodules) occur. Nodules are most frequently caused by vocal abuse or misuse. Polyps may be caused by prolonged vocal abuse, but may also occur after a single, traumatic event to the vocal folds, such as yelling at a concert. Long-term cigarette smoking, hypothyroidism, and gastroesophageal reflux may also cause polyp formation. Vocal abuse takes many forms and includes: Allergies, Smoking, "Type A" personality (person who is often tense or anxious) Singing, Coaching, Cheerleading, Talking loudly, Drinking caffeine and alcohol (dries out the throat and vocal folds) I am not in any way trained in this area but the following is excerpted from an article in "Vocals Newsletter" and will at least give you an idea:
Here are symptoms that are warning signs of nodes or polyps: Auditory Signs: acute or chronic hoarseness; reduced vocal range; inability to sing at length; recurring laryngitis; a tonal change from a clear voice to one that's breathy, raspy, squeaky, foggy or rough; and the inability to project clearly. Sensory Signs: repeated throat clearing (to no avail); progressive vocal fatigue after speaking or singing; pain in or around the larynx; the sensation or a foreign substance or lump in the throat; recurring throat soreness; tickling, a burning sensation, tension or tightness in the throat; the feeling that talking or singing is an effort; frequent mucus formation; and unusual swelling of veins or arteries in the throat during speaking or singing. Visual Signs: You can't see nodes, only an otolaryngologist or speech pathologist has the training and equipment. in an exam what they see is benign callus like growths that are the body's reaction to undue friction of the vocal fold mucous membranes. Always get a second opinion! There are other things that can have similar symptoms and before ever letting anyone perform surgery on your vocal folds make sure it's really necessary. Nodes can be cured without surgery depending on the severity.