Vocal health and voice disorders are a wide fear amongst singers of all types and levels, yet a surprising amount of singers, especially students, have very little knowledge about each. In this post, I hope to give some basic information about vocal health, which will be followed by a second post about voice disorders. As a disclaimer, I would like to remind my readers that I am a fellow singer and pedagogue, not a doctor, speech pathologist, or other medical professional, and this information should not override that of a medical professional.
So vocal health.
Some of this may seem very basic, but that does not make them any less important.
Water, water, water!
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average male should take in 3 liters (13 cups) a day and the average woman should have 2.2 (9 cups) a day. This of course varies according to the amount of physical activity you do, but as singers, the average is a must. You should know though that it takes 24 hours for the water you take in to hydrate the vocal folds, so if you have a big concert tomorrow, be sure to hydrate today. Drinking water while practicing helps keep your mouth from becoming too dry, but does little to affect the vocal folds in the moment.
I know this one is hard to do with busy schedules and lives, but physical fatigue can affect your singing just as much as bad technique.
Use a healthy speaking voice
So many singers are taught great technique when it comes to singing, yet do not transfer that knowledge to their speaking voice. Our instruments come with us everywhere, and the average person, including singers, use their speaking voice much more than their singing voice. Be sure to not shout or scream and to use good breath support for your speaking voice like you would for your singing voice. I hope to speak further on this particular subject in a future post.
Maintain a balanced diet.
Not only is this important for your overall physical health, many singers suffer from acid reflux which can greatly affect the vocal folds (more on this in part two of this post).
This is a must. Smoking can cause both lung and laryngeal cancer, and increases the risk of any of the below disorders. Also drink alcohol and coffee minimally, if at all, as both can seriously dry the vocal folds.
Singing can require just as much stamina as any sport, so maintaining physical health can be just as important for singers as it is for athletes.
And of course, good technique!
Be sure to warm up your voice before you sing every day with exercises your teacher gives you. It’s just like an athlete stretching his or her muscles before a big game, so don’t underestimate the power of a good warm up!
This should cover the basics of what you would want or need to know. Is there anything else you’d like added to this list? Are there any vocal health products you would like for me to discuss or review (e.g. Neti Pots, Throat Coat Tea)? Also, be sure to stay tuned for next week’s post on voice disorders.