We’re in the height of the Fall season now, and Winter will be here before you know it! Before you get swept under by the holiday hustle-and-bustle, take a moment to review these vocal tips to keep you healthy during these colder months, courtesy of Seattle vocal teacher Nicole G...
It’s my favorite time of year! The air is crisper and cooler, you’ve located your cozy fall jacket, you’ve started making hot oatmeal for breakfast. The heat may be turned on in the house, and you might be craving a hot cup of coffee to keep you awake on early morning routes to work. Or, you are managing a hectic school schedule, juggling homework, exam studying, play or musical rehearsal, a part-time job, sports practice, community service, college coursework, family time, holiday preparations, a social life… you name it!
Busy. We are ALL busy people in our own ways, especially during this time of year. Yet even in the midst of this energetic daily buzz of life, it is EXTREMELY important to be taking care of our bodies, and clearly, our voices! Sometimes we get caught up in the craziness of our schedules. As singers and as people who use our voices constantly every day, we need to be aware of how to tend to our special, personal instruments. Below are several vocal health tips to help you take care of yourself in the best possible manner…
1) Hydration is essential! Drink plenty of water. It is recommended to drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day. During the winter months, the air is drier, with little humidity or moisture in the air. It is especially important to maintain hydration in the winter months. You may be in the bathroom more frequently, but your vocal folds will be MUCH happier. If you drink coffee, tea, alcohol or any liquid containing caffeine, it is vital that you drink one glass of water (or more) to counteract the caffeine. This recommendation applies to everyone, not just singers! Caffeine is a stimulant, and while it keeps our energy up, it also dries out our vocal folds.
2) Strive to get enough sleep. When we are busy, sleep is often the first thing that gets the short stick. Everyone requires a different amount of sleep in order to function. In the same vein, a lack of sleep has a direct effect on the functioning of the voice (and your brain!). I highly encourage taking naps, if possible. It’s important to listen to your body’s needs.
3) Avoid using the phone at night. Most people aren’t aware of how they are using their breath and throat while speaking on the phone. When we’re calling a friend, study partner, relative, coworker or significant other, we are usually in a very different mindset than when we’re in a voice lesson or practicing. Because we don’t need to project, and because we have other things on our minds, we may fall into the habit of talking lazily or not loudly enough into the mic of a phone, which can tire out the voice rather quickly. By talking lazily, I mean using less air than we are equipped with, or unintentionally tightening the throat.
4) Be aware of your posture. Are you carrying a heavy backpack around between classes? Are you standing or sitting at a work desk frequently during the day? We often collapse our chests while carrying something heavy or while sitting in front of a computer. Keep checking in with your body throughout the day to make sure you stay upright and are leading from the sternum (the breast bone). The head can also unintentionally tip backward or jut forward. It’s best if your head feels as if it is floating on your spine.
5) Avoid clearing your throat during speech or after coughing; swallow instead. As the climate changes, it’s easy to feel “under the weather,” and we may start to clear our throats more. When you clear your throat, you are basically smacking your vocal folds together, which is abrasive. This can create a “repetitive stress injury” in the voice box, known as the larynx. Swallowing is a much healthier alternative to clearing your throat.
Nicole G. teaches singing, music theory, Opera voice and speaking voice lessons to students of all ages in Seattle, WA. With her Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from Ithica College School of Music, she is now pursuing a professional certificate program at Cornish College of the Arts. She joined the TakeLessons team in October 2012. Learn more about Nicole, or search for a teacher near you and sign up today!
Photo by Dricker94