Looking After Your Voice
In this blog we are am going to discuss the importance of looking after your voice and what you as a singer can do to ensure that your voice survives the stresses and strains of a life as a singer, as much as possible.
This blog has been made especially to celebrate the launch of our new course FAST-TRACK SINGING, which is sponsored by VocalZone and The Tea Makers of London! Now you can learn singing with our award winning vocal coach Matthew Humphrys, by taking our online video course with over 240 minutes of HD footage and additional free bonuses for those who sign up early.
360 have been around for over 10 years now and have recently won two awards in the Lux Life Vinyl and Record Awards 2019 – “Best Artist Development Specialists – UK” and “Most Outstanding Vocal and Performance Coaching – UK”
We’ve seen singers come to us with a multitude of different vocal issues, including occasions where we’ve written to Doctors requesting examination. Ideally it would never get to this stage, but no matter what level you are at you can still suffer damage to the vocal cords or muscles surrounding them if you overuse or misuse them – there are many cases of very famous people who have had vocal surgery and it hasn’t always gone to plan.
The problem with vocal surgery is that the margin for error is fractions of a millimetre and once you lose the ability to freely vibrate your vocal cords together it can stop you from singing professionally forever – take Julie Andrews as a prime example. A fantastic entertainer’s career as a singer/actress stopped due to vocal surgery going wrong.
You only have one voice and therefore looking after it should be second nature to all singers; but just in case it isn’t – here are a few tips!
The way we make sound is to vibrate our vocal cords together. The faster they vibrate as air passes through them, the higher the note we sing. Take a look online at videos of “stroboscopy normal vocal cords” and you will see what it looks like! You’ll see the muscles that bring them together and then relax again afterwards. These are some of the muscles we need to warm up before any singing takes place. You’ll also see that the vocal cords have nowhere to go in the mouth when we aren’t singing or speaking – which means that everything you put down your throat could be a risk to them – and we will be discussing diet, food and acid reflux in this article because of that.
First of all, the vocal warmup
If I asked you to run into your nearest town immediately, you could probably do it. Unless we suffer a disability we all have the muscle power to break into a run at any moment. However, the next day we would really ache because we did it without any stretching or warming up.
If you want to sing, you can sing – immediately. But…you guessed it, you are using muscles and while they are weak muscles, they are muscles none the less and require the same treatment that you would give larger muscle groups before you properly work them out.
There are plenty of different warm up exercises that you can do for vocals to keep them working well and lots you can find on YouTube. You can also check out my vocal course at www.360artistdevelopment.com to find out why I recommend our specially developed technique “Finding your V” as the easiest warm up you can do anywhere, at any time. Steaming is also a great way to relax the muscles both before and after singing. Use a steaming cup to avoid greasy hair but only use boiling water – no oils – as you could be breathing in acid over your vocal cords, which is obviously not what you want to be doing.
So you’re warmed up, what next? Well the vocal cords need to stay lubricated. This is so that they can function their best. Drying out the vocal cords with smoke, alcohol, caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, coca cola etc.) is bad and will not help you so try and avoid all of this when singing and a couple of hours before and after. Drink water. Not just to keep hydrated, but to lubricate the vocal cords. This is where VocalZone pastilles really come into play for vocalists. They are specially designed to alleviate dryness and irritation and will help to keep you lubricated, without needing bathroom breaks every 5 minutes. That’s why so many vocalists use them and why I recommend them to all of my artists.
As I’ve mentioned, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as these dry out your vocal cords. Drinks with gas in them are also bad because they will make it uncomfortable to use the diaphragm breathing techniques you need as a singer. They are also often high in acid and this can have a damaging effect on your vocal cords over time.
Avoid milk and other dairy products around singing as these cause a build up of mucus and the feeling of needing to cough frequently. Also avoid Bananas for the same reason.
Have a look online for PH Scales of food and try and have a diet that stays away from the red as much as possible.
This can be a career killer. Acid going onto your vocal cords can burn them. It can leave you feeling hoarse, feeling the need to clear your throat all the time or actually damage them permanently. Not much acid is required to have this effect and the injury can be worse for people who use their voice a lot, like singers. Silent reflux is where the acid comes up when you are asleep and rests around the vocal cords without you knowing.
If you suffer with acid reflux, first of all definitely study the PH scales of food and avoid acidic foods so as not to add acid to your stomach acid and secondly buy a product that neutralises acid at the sphincter muscle.
A killer to a vocalist. The common cold is dangerous because we can suffer a sore throat and the inability to sing. Sing on Laryngitis and risk getting cysts and needing vocal surgery! So there are two parts of this section; preventing a cold and dealing with one.
To prevent a cold requires good diet and a healthy immune system but there are some things we can do to help our bodies a little. Take Manuka honey 10+ – it has antiseptic properties and will kill germs in your throat. Drink Matcha green tea. It has around 70x the anti-oxidants of orange juice and 137x the level in normal green tea! It kills free radicals and gives you a natural energy boost. Matcha tea really is a superfood and it is discussed in some detail in our course. We recommend the ceremonial grade matcha tea from The Tea Makers of London.
Finally, have a cold spray at hand that wipes out the cold virus at the first signs. They are clinically proven to work at the first sign of a cold.
If you already have one – DON’T SING! Don’t do more damage to yourself by taking anaesthetic (numbing) pastilles that won’t alert you to the damage you’re doing while still using your throat and use VocalZone pastilles to keep the throat lubricated and irritation away. Rest and recuperate, cancel tours and don’t overuse your voice. Make sure you have sufficient insurance in place if you are worried about cancelling gigs. A gig is never worth your voice.