If you are a singer, you are concerned about protecting your voice. It goes with the territory. Your vocal cords are your instrument and not only must you exercise them, you must take care of them. However, there will be times when you notice your voice becoming a bit 'husky'. Most of us notice our voice getting a little raspy after a night of cheering our favorite ball team or meeting a friend for dinner at a smoky restaurant or nightclub.
But no need to despair! You are not condemned to a life of never knowing when your voice will give out or give you less than perfect pitch. There will be times when circumstances are out of your control and your voice fails you, but you can also have many more times when you are able to sing beautifully because you put a few tips into practice. If you take the following list to heart, your voice will maintain its strength and reliability much more often.
1. Rest your voice. Now this seems obvious, but that doesn't make it any less true. If you are coming down with a cold or notice a bit of a raspy voice, rest your vocal cords. Don't feel embarrassed to communicate through notes and email. If you have a singing engagement, saving your voice is paramount.
2. Don't clear your throat. Throat clearing is a big no-no. When you clear your throat it causes your vocal cords to hit each other. All this does is cause irritation and damage. If you feel yourself wanting to clear your throat try taking a deep breath and yawn. The breath pushes air over the vocal cords and yawning can break up tension within the cords. If the need to clear does not completely disappear, it will at least lessen until you are able to take a drink of water.
3. Avoid oily foods and dairy products. If you have a speaking or singing engagement after a meal, avoid any type of mayonnaise at that meal. These foods are known to increase the tendency to clear your throat, which, as we just discussed, causes vocal cord damage.
4. Treat acid reflux. If you suspect that you have acid reflux disease, by all means treat it. You will relieve yourself of constant discomfort and prevent potential larynx damage. The esophagus is near the larynx and the excess acid in the esophagus due to acid reflux, is bound to damage your larynx. Take the time to visit your physician, mention all your concerns and that you are a singer and then follow their advice. You will be much better off than if you let the acid reflux go untreated.
5. Avoid smoky and dusty places. Breathing in toxins of any kind are damaging to a singer's vocal cords. Sometimes it is unavoidable and you find yourself in the middle of a smoky bar or dusty construction site. If you are worried about your voice after a temporary visit to one of these places, use a steam inhaler once you get home. These devices are relatively inexpensive and may just save your voice!
6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I'm sure you've heard of this tip, but a reminder never hurt anyone. Include 'wet foods' in your daily diet. Wet foods include soup, fruit and, of course, decaffeinated beverages. Keep a bottle of water nearby at all times. The one time you don't have a drink handy, you will go into a coughing fit - it's Murphy's Law. If your profession involves speaking all day, make sure that you drink water continually throughout the day. It will keep your vocal cords hydrated along with the rest of your body!
7. Don't eat 3-4 hours before bed time. Avoid the potential for heartburn by not eating before bed. During digestion and due to the position of the body in sleep, acid can creep up into the esophagus and damage the larynx. If you have been ill or feel a cold coming on, sleep is wonderful medicine. This allows the vocal cords the time they need to heal.
It really doesn't take much extra work to protect your vocal cords. Drinking more water and avoiding smoky places are somewhat common sense, but when combined with a few other pointers, they help to protect your singing instrument. Tired and sore vocal cords are more easily damaged and once they are damaged, the only remedy is rest. By taking a proactive approach and protecting your voice, you will feel more confident in your instrument and your abilities.
About the Author
Kevin is the publisher and editor of musicianhome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.