Save Your Breath – Helpful Tips to Keep Your Voice Healthy
We’re getting into the colder season here in San Francisco (well, colder than normal) and that presents some challenges for singers. It might be rain on the way to your performance or you might find yourself in a space where it’s hard to warm up, vocal cords or otherwise, but it might start to feel like this weather has an agenda against vocalists.
Fear not. You can overcome – or at the very least, understand how to take care of your voice. As a bonus for you, these tips can be used all year round! You’re welcome.
First and foremost – sing with proper technique. Your voice is an instrument and all instruments require care and maintenance. You wouldn’t take a pair of scissors to guitar strings or a hammer to piano keys would you? Your voice requires just as much care (if not more) because you can’t buy another voice. Take care of the one you have now!
Some basic tips regarding proper technique include:
- Warm Up: Like any muscle, you gotta prime it before you get to work. Some basic warm ups include lip trills, ascending and descending scales, and breathing exercises. Doing full body stretches can also make a positive impact to your breath and overall ability to sing.
- Posture: Align your body properly to support your voice. Singing is a full body experience so use it. No slouching! Posture helps you engage the muscles you need for placement and breathing optimally.
- Breathe: Breathing is fundamental to reducing tension when you sing, as well as helping you connect with your placement, and supports safe singing. Breathing properly is half the battle. No breathing… No bueno.
- Placement: One of the most important things to remember while singing is your placement. By understanding how your voice is changed by your vowel shapes and enunciation, you can shape your tone more effectively. Feeling and knowing where (and how) sounds vibrate in your body can improve your consistency and adds finesse to your performance.
- Muscle Control: This is a combination of tips two and three. Practice mindfulness of your body. Know which parts of your body allow you to push more air, control your tone, or create strain. Adjust as necessary while you perform or practice.
Learning and understanding proper technique can be made easy by working with a coach. An outside opinion with experience can make all the difference in your ability to sing safely and effectively.
Not only can proper hydration help your body perform your regular functions at its most optimal level, it also positively affects your singing. So put down your pumpkin spice latte/peppermint mocha/mint mojito and listen up.
- Drink your water: You guessed it. To get into the nitty gritty of it, water helps maintain the mucosal lining that covers your vocal folds, reducing the friction that occurs during vocalization (this includes singing, talking, yelling at your upstairs neighbor, talking, whispering to that picture of your favorite singer that you keep in your wallet etc). Room temperature water is good during performances to keep your mouth hydrated. Colder temperature fluids, in general, will tense up the muscles you use to sing creating vocal strain.
* Personal Tip: I really like using “Throat Coat” when I’m recording vocals or getting ready to perform. It’s a tea that creates a film in your esophagus, smoothing out any irritations (the dreaded “tickle”) in your throat. This doesn’t beat staying hydrated all the time from good old H2O. (Editor’s Note: Gerard is not sponsored by Throat Coat or any of their subsidiaries. That being said if you wanna toss a couple bucks my way, that’d be cool.)
- Watch What You Eat (or drink!): One of the most popular tips is to avoid dairy. This is a widely known tip but allow me to make some clarification. This tip is rooted in the idea that dairy-based products increase mucus production making it more difficult to sing. Instead, it’s actually found that dairy products (or really, anything you consume with high-fat content) thicken the already existing mucous.
- Caffeinated drinks are also widely touted to affect singing voice because of dehydration. For those of us (including yours truly) who take coffee through an IV, this sounds like an awful time. However! Through the wonders of science, we find that coffee doesn’t dehydrate you! However, it is a diuretic, which is a fancy word that means, “something that makes you pee.” In a way, you can lose more fluid because of this, but it can be easily remedied by drinking more water. Who would have guessed?
Look – this sounds like a crazy idea. I know. But sometimes, the best thing you can do to take care of your voice is taking a break. Like all muscles in our body, the muscles we use to sing can get tired. They become swollen, achy, and without proper care, they can become permanently damaged. If you find yourself straining your voice or you’ve been singing for an extended period of time, it’s okay to take a break and pick it up again once you’ve had some time to recover.
There you have it. Following these tips can help you maintain a healthy voice so you can sing to your heart’s content. Have any questions? Wanna know more? Let’s chat! Hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, or by e-mail. Tell us about what you do to keep your voice happy.
‘Til next time,