If you are serious about your musical vocals, then you might know that taking care of your voice for singing is critical to your success. In fact, losing your voice, or suffering chronic laryngitis, hoarseness, or inflammation of the larynx can completely derail your singing ability.
Studies show that women are nearly twice as likely to be challenged by vocal problems as men and of course, singing tutors and professional vocalists are at risk too. If this is you, you may want to find out how to take care of your vocal cords for singing.
In this article, we look at how to take care of your singing voice, voice training techniques, and reasons to see a speech-language pathologist or ENT specialist, both of whom could advise you on how to look after your singing voice.
How to Avoid the Risks Associated with Singing
Unfortunately, for singers, and anyone who uses their voice excessively, there are risks of damaging the pharynx, vocal cords, and larynx.
Simply put, think of your voice as a string instrument that needs care and maintenance. If you don’t know how to take care of your vocal cords for singing, you could end up damaging your voice.
The first route to taking care of your vocal cords involves improving your singing technique so that voice loss and hoarseness don’t occur without your noticing.
When it comes to how to take care of your vocal cords for singing, our first tip is knowing when to rest. A lack of rest will result in nodules and polyps and a decreased ability to vibrate your vocal cords.
This is the first sign of chronic laryngitis which leads to inflammation. This is when you should visit a specialist, and once better consider singing lessons to improve your technique, which is ultimately how to take care of your singing voice.
Left untreated, a vocal injury can lead to dysphonia which may be benign at first, but cause more serious problems in the future.
Interestingly, some of the other causes of dysphonia include:
- Lifestyle: excessive smoking, alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, stress, coffee, poor posture, bad breathing, and dehydration.
- Temperature fluctuations: avoid these with honeyed warm water, a scarf, essential oils, eucalyptus pastels, etc.
- Overconsumption of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals.
- Allergies related to pollen and pollution.
- Respiratory issues (bronchitis, lung disease, a bacterial infection on the lungs, etc).
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Throat swelling
Voice care for singers is imperative especially considering their somewhat frantic lifestyle of interviews, tours, and lack of rest all of which can result in vocal cord issues like dysphonia and aphonia.
If taking care of your voice for singing sounds interesting, keep reading.
10 Tips for Taking Care of Your Vocal Cords
If you want to know how to take care of your singing voice, here are 10 tips that could help you.
- Warm-up your voice before singing, especially before a concert.
- Sleep: if you are tired, you will have to pressurise your vocal cords to sing. Rest your vocal cords with sleep, especially before any exertion. A lack of sleep can result in voice loss or hoarseness.
- Practice good posture to open your lungs, this will allow you to breathe with your stomach. Stand up straight, feet hip-distance apart, hands at your sides, and shoulders relaxed. By reducing muscular tension, your singing will become more powerful and more fluid.
- Regular exercise also increases vocal endurance and lung capacity. Following a workout, the body consumes an overproduction of oxygen which feeds muscles used and limits lactic acid production in tissues. You’ll notice how increased lung capacity and improved singing are directly related.
Taking care of your voice for singing is serious business, consider this advice too.
- Do not smoke as this can damage vocal cords and lead to fatal diseases.
- Avoid chills.
- Use silence to rest your voice.
- Use rest to reduce muscle tension in the throat and respiratory system.
- Take a break when your throat is inflamed, sore, infected, or suffering from allergies.
- Consult a medical specialist if symptoms last over a week.
Taking care of your vocal cords may sometimes require drastic action, like surgical interventions, too, however, if you are serious about how to look after your singing voice this can be avoided.
Retrain Your Singing Voice
If you are wondering how to look after your singing voice, one of the most effective things you can do to protect it against hoarseness or laryngitis is to retrain it!
When rest isn’t enough, there are several methods you can use to retrain your voice and ensure it keeps working for you!
Beyond throat lozenges, liquorice pastels, herbal tea, honey, and lemon juice, which are all helpful, be careful not to self-medicate. Avoid pharmaceutical products that include cortisone as these could make matters worse.
One way to get your voice back is to try the straw exercise which involves singing notes at high volume, to the top and bottom of your range, into a straw, to reduce swelling.
In addition, if you are searching voice care for singers, you could try these exercises too.
- Voiced fricatives: make the sound of the letter “V” across your whole vocal range, contracting your abdominal muscles when you breathe out while releasing tension as you breathe in.
- “M” exercise: Sing “M” while holding a note and feeling it vibrate in your nose, after that sing “E” (behind the teeth) and then “ooh” using the lips.
Unfortunately, these exercises can’t repair everything, however, if they don’t help, it could be a sign that you have a more serious issue regarding your throat. Taking action at this point is how to take care of your singing voice!
Voice Care for Singers: When to Consult a Speech Pathologist
When it comes to knowing how to look after your singing voice, the ability to discern when to consult a medical specialist is key. Generally, if you have problems with your voice for over a week, you should consult a speech pathologist.
How to Look After Your Singing Voice with Medical Specialists
Knowing how to look after your singing voice could involve a speech pathologist who focuses on language, speech, and communication. Commonly, they deal with speaking, voice, language, swallowing, and hearing issues, while an ENT specialist doctor (ear, nose, and throat) can also intervene.
Symptoms to Be Aware of When Taking Care of Your Vocal Cords
- Chronic coughing
- Broken voice
- Vocal fatigue
- Voice loss
- Vocal fold paralysis
- Difficulty producing high notes
- Swelling in the throat
- Laryngeal pain
- Vocal cord alteration
- Allergic reaction
The doctor may suggest a laryngoscopy to examine your throat and vocal cords. Using a light on the forehead, this involves inserting a mirror into the back of your throat.
Fortunately, for minor issues, rest is often prescribed. You may also be advised to make use of the natural remedies like herbal teas mentioned earlier. However, for serious conditions like nodules or polyps, surgery may be required.
If you want to know how to look after your singing voice, keep in mind, that you don’t need to sick to visit a pathologist. If you are a singer looking for advice on taking care of your vocal cords, you would be wise to have an annual check-up and gather other techniques not listed here in order to keep your vocal cords in perfect condition.
As a singer, your voice is your instrument, one you should invest in maintaining.
How to Look After Your Singing Voice by Using a Singing Tutor
If you want to improve your singing and maintain your vocal cords at the same time, one of the best ways to do this is to sign up with a professional singing or vocal coach. Consider using a site like Superprof where talented signed tutors and voice coaches have already been verified in terms of their credentials, will meet with you online or in-person, and often offer their first lesson for free.
In-person private tutorials are just between you and your tutor and are conducted face-to-face. On Superprof, you can search for a tutor who is located near you for extra convenience. These sessions are generally tailored according to your unique needs, weaknesses, and of course, strengths. In South Africa, sessions like this, which are by far the most effective, can cost an average of R320 per hour depending on your location.
Technology has made tuition using Superprof coaches from all over the world possible too. Using the internet, a webcam, and meeting software, you can improve your singing with an online singing coach. This way of learning is almost as beneficial as in-person learning, but probably better suited to academic-type subjects rather than hands-on ones.
Finally, there are group classes. These are like traditional classes where several students are taught by one teacher. This can be a more cost-effective way to afford a private tutor if you have friends and colleagues who are willing to share the tutor’s time with you. The only downside is that the tutor will not be 100% focused on you during the session.
So when it comes to how to take care of your vocal cords for singing, the main thing to remember is that if you are a singer, find out how to look after your singing voice, which could be both a valuable instrument, your livelihood, and your future!