The voice is probably the most delicate instrument of all. It is key for all vocalists to care for his or her voice so that as to avoid excessive strain and fatigue, in turn your voice can operate at optimum levels. Practicing good habits and maintaining overall health is critical. Insufficient rest, poor nutrition and hydration and bad habits can all lead to serious affects on your singing voice. Vocalists must pay close attention to their bodies and the signals their voice gives so that the necessary steps toward preventing problems can be taken. At times, a change in certain behaviors or unhealthy habits may be necessary in order to protect the voice from developing problems in the first place.
Just as an athlete would never push their body to its physical limits without first stretching and loosening up, a vocalist should never put their vocal muscles to use without first stretching it. A proper warm-up involves gently preparing the voice for the demands associated with singing. A favorite approach of many vocalists to warm up your vocal range without strain is simply “rolling your R’s” also referred to as trills. Lip and tongue trills help to loosen the throat, jaw, tongue and lips and help with relaxation of the vocal chords. It is much easier for singers to gently access their full range by trilling the lips and tongue than by singing actual vowels and consonants. The throat is able to remain open and relaxed, and airflow faces no obstruction from the articulators. The voice is freed up, and the singer can warm-up in the highest and lowest parts of the range with ease and minimal risk of strain. Trills also help to get the respiratory muscles into readiness. Simple scales on any comfortable vowel or combination of vowels and consonants are the next best kind of warm-up exercise. They limit the voice to a short range, allowing for proper loosening up. Once these shorter scales have been used you can to try full octave scales to continue stretching the vocal chords.
Water! Water! Water! In order to vibrate properly and to work effectively, your vocal chords need to be efficiently moisturized. Hydration should be a priority throughout the day, everyday. Room temperature water is ideal, since cold water can have a numbing effect on the throat and mouth. The vocal apparatus can get dried out for a number of reasons, including environmental dryness and other air pollutants. Using a humidifier overnight can be helpful if your home is excessively dry. Invest in a cool mist humidifier instead of a warm mist as to not encourage unhealthy bacteria in your throat. Having the humidifier running continuously during the winter months will help to get adequate moisture into the air. Avoid consuming carbonated and caffeinated beverages before singing. They not only produce excess gas, but also serve as a diuretic, inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb fluid which leads to dehydration.
Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! One of the worst irritants for your precious vocal chords is insufficient rest. When the body is tired, the voice will often show signs of fatigue, such as overall weakness or loss of control, diminished range and poor tone. Also, you will lack the energy and concentration needed in order to be able to perform at your best. Whenever possible, a vocalist should get a full night’s sleep before performances or lessons.
This one is a no-brainer; cigarette use. It is undeniable that smoking in general is horrible for your body. It is especially harmful to your vocal chords. Smoking irritates and dries out the tissues of the throat, particularly the vocal folds. The smoke must pass the vocal folds on the way from the lungs to the mouth. Smoking may promote laryngeal pharyngeal reflux, or acid reflux and cause irritation in the entire throat. Additionally, smoking degrades lung function, which decreases airflow through the vocal folds and shrinking lung capacity and stamina while singing. This drastic loss of lung capacity is one of the biggest effects of smoking on the singing voice. The effects of tar produced from cigarette smoke on lungs are also significant. Tar in the lungs literally paralyzes the cilia, tiny hairs in the bronchial passages. When healthy, cilia increase the surface area of the bronchioles, allowing more oxygen to pass through. When the cilia is paralyzed by nicotine, tar and phlegm begin to coat them. The body also attempts to forcefully remove the excess mucous by coughing, annoying to all, defeating to vocalists. Many rock singers revel in the fact that their voices sound deeper and raspier when they smoke. It needs to be understood that even though smoking. Although smokers may speak in a lower range of pitches than they naturally would if they didn’t smoke, this doesn’t mean that their vocal instruments are also capable of reaching lower notes.
It all seems pretty simple right? It is, take care of your body and your voice will follow!