If you like to sing – solo, in the choir or a rock band, in shows, or on stage, you need to know how to keep your vocal folds healthy. Taking care of your voice can help you rock and improve your vocal performance.
Maintaining vocal health is not very complicated: basic knowledge of the subject will be enough for you to let your voice out without fear.
Why must you care to keep a healthy voice important when singing?
The vocal cords are the instrument of a singer – you would never row a canoe with a guitar or use a flute to hit a golf ball, right? If the answer was no, then you should also not abuse your voice.
A healthy voice allows you to exercise your full potential, produce a complete sound and sustain a melody. No matter what the musical genre – whether you’re more inclined towards an Iron Maiden performance or a lyric opera star – to have a career as a singer, your vocal health should be your number one priority.
What are vocal cords?
The vocal cords, also called vocal folds, are two triangular bands of tissue that are at the top of the trachea. They stay open while you breathe, and when you speak or sing, they close.
They narrow for higher notes and become looser for lower notes. Ideally, your vocal cords should be soft, smooth, flexible, and free from inflammation.
What can harm your vocal cords?
Allergies, inflammation, cigarette smoke (directly and indirectly), tension, overuse, and abuse (shouting, for example) can damage your voice.
Irritated vocal cords do not close efficiently, which prevents you from reaching the highest notes and causes you to produce a rougher and hoarser sound, regardless of the note you are singing.
You may like a hoarse sound, but it must be your choice knowing that, under this condition, there may be limitations. Keep your voice flexible and healthy and you can sing in any style you choose.
Tips to help you take care of vocal health:
1. Heat and cool
You must warm up your voice before you start singing. There are endless varieties of exercise that can suit any age, timbre, and level of experience.
Start with relaxation exercises to warm up your facial muscles – loosen your mouth and jaw muscles by blowing through your lips, stretching your tongue as far as you can, massaging your face, and sighing with a voice.
Don’t be afraid to make sounds while warming up your voice. Make noises with your mouth closed, soft snores on your lips, or trills on your tongue.
Only when you feel that your face, mouth, and voice are loosening, should you start singing real notes. The whole process should take between 10 and 20 minutes (don’t skimp).
After your class, audition or concert is over; take some time to cool off. Although cooling is often omitted from lists with vocal health tips, it is essential to practice it.
Effective exercises are sighs on a downward note, in addition to yawns with the elevation of the soft palate, which releases any accumulated tension. Take about 5 or 10 minutes to allow your voice to return to its normal range of speech.
2. Moisturize your voice
If you have doubts about what to drink to make your voice sound better, the answer is quite simple: water.
Drink water throughout the day and always keep a bottle nearby during classes and rehearsals. A sip or two, while you are warming up is not enough – your vocal folds work best when they are well lubricated, which means keeping your entire body hydrated constantly.
This means that there is no way to moisten the vocal cords directly. Nothing you drink or dissolve in your mouth comes into contact with, and this is because your larynx is separated from your esophagus (which is good, otherwise we would always be suffocating).
However, as soon as the vocal cords dry out, they become irritated – and this is how you damage your voice.
3. Take vocal naps
If you exercise, you know how important the rest days are. A tired voice is more prone to injury, take time to rest.
That means not talking, not singing, and not whispering, which is terrible for the vocal cords. A tired voice needs time to regenerate, so the more you rest, the better.
4. Humidify your home
Although nothing you drink directly hydrates your vocal cords, you can preserve them by breathing properly humidified air. When you breathe very dry air, your voice wears out more easily.
Consider humidifying your home, especially when you’re working on a specific production or doing a lot of shows.
5. Do not use your throat to sing
Although we are focusing this text on healthy vocal cords, they are only part of a complex system that produces your voice. To sing well and maintain your vocal health, you need to understand your body and know where it comes from.
You should never sing with your throat – it is your breath that powers your voice and it must be supported by your diaphragm.
Allow your vocal cords to relax and ensure that your voice resonates in your chest, pharynx, and face.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense to you right now. It takes time to train your body. You can speed up the process by working with a vocal trainer.
6. Do not sing if it is causing you pain
We feel pain for a simple reason – it is our body’s way of telling us to STOP. If you have a sore throat, an infection of any kind, or straining your voice due to overuse, do not sing.
Take a rest. Drink lots of water. Get some more sleep. Take care of yourself and your tired voice.
But most importantly, don’t ignore the pain; you can seriously damage your voice if you insist.
7. Avoid harmful substances
Smoking anything is the most effective way to permanently ruin your voice. When you inhale smoke, you are bathing your vocal cords in toxins.
Everything you breathe – every pollutant, every particle of pollen or dust – passes right through them, drying and irritating them.
Alcohol may not have this effect immediately, but it is dehydrating and inflammatory. The high sugar content of most drinks is also bad for your voice. If your vocal health is important to you, return to tip # 2 for suggestions on what to drink to sing better.