Anyone who’s ever overeaten at Thanksgiving dinner knows that there is definitely too much of a good thing. Maybe you begin to bloat and feel uncomfortable, or perhaps you even start to get a wave of nausea. Eating all that turkey and a second round of desert may have sounded like a good idea at the time, but you can certainly overdo it. This concept applies to singing as well!
Singing, in my opinion, is one of the most enjoyable activities in the world. But just like eating too much makes you feel sick, singing too much has very real physical repercussions that can damage your voice, sometimes even permanently. Because of this, it’s important to focus on maintaining healthy vocal cords and understanding your limitations. But how do you keep up with your vocal health?
First, it’s important to understand that every singer is different. For example, you might be wondering, how much singing is too much singing? The truth is, what may be too much singing for yourself may be perfectly fine for another singer. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on other aspects of your health, such as your level of hydration and your sleep schedule. You actually might be surprised at what exactly can have an effect on your vocal health.
To help make sense of it all, I’ve created a guide on how to keep your vocal cords healthy. I discuss everything from the disadvantages of singing too much to healthy vocal techniques to help you keep your vocal cords in tip-top shape. Follow along to learn the top healthy vocal habits.
The Dangers of Singing Too Much
Can you sing too much? Believe it or not, the answer is yes! So what happens if you sing too much? Well, since your vocal cords are a part of your body, singing too much has many of the same effects as overusing any other body part.
Imagine that you’ve been clapping for hours. What would happen to your hands? They would likely be red and swollen. If you kept clapping despite the swelling, your hands would eventually become very painful and develop calluses and blisters. They might even start to bleed (ouch).
This same thing can happen to your vocal cords. The first step is vocal cord swelling. If you continue to sing with swollen or strained vocal cords, you can develop nodules (calluses), polyps (blisters), or hemorrhaging (bloody cords). Treatment for these issues includes vocal rest, vocal therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery. Any of these issues, if not treated, can permanently damage your singing and speaking voice.
Overusing your voice is just one of the many bad habits singers often make. It’s ok to sing every day to a certain extent, but you must learn your limits. The good news is that you can avoid vocal injuries and stress as long as you follow healthy singing tips.
Vocal Health for Singers
The side effects of singing too much, like strained vocal cords (and damaging your voice) may sound scary, but it can be avoided as long as you follow healthy vocal techniques. I’m able to sing all day, every day without injury, because I am constantly thinking about my vocal health. Staying healthy as a singer is much like staying healthy as an athlete, so following these rules (or exercises) can be the difference between a happy voice and an incapacitated one.
To help you maintain a strong and healthy voice, I’ve created a list of the top tips for singers’ vocal health. From exercising your body to addressing any allergies, these easy-to-follow vocal health tips will help keep your vocal cords in top-top shape.
- Stay Hydrated
Drinking water isn’t just good for your body, It can help your singing voice, too! According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men should drink 15.5 cups of water a day, while women should drink around 11.5 cups a day. I chug a glass of water as soon as I get up in the morning, and I carry a water bottle around with me everywhere to ensure I get my daily recommended amount of fluids. Hydrated vocal cords are nice and plump (and thus less prone to injury). When it comes to keeping your voice healthy, this is one easy trick that you can incorporate into your everyday routine.
- Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is your friend. After all, fatigue affects your vocal cords just like it affects the rest of you. To give your vocal cords a good night’s rest, skip any caffeine in the evening, avoid looking at your screens (like your smartphone or computer) an hour before bed, and start winding down at a decent time so you have plenty of time to snooze before your alarm goes off. Create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you prep for sleep whether that’s drawing a warm bath or curling up with a book. These tips are especially important leading up to an audition, rehearsal, or big debut and can make a huge difference in how you sound and how your vocal cords respond.
Working out is another easy way to improve vocal health for singers. Good singers have to be very in touch with their bodies, and physical exercise helps you develop kinesthetic awareness. Exercise also helps alleviate tension, especially tension associated with sitting at a desk for long periods of time. This modern tension often centers around the throat, and throat tension is terrible for singing. Shaking this tension out of your body can work wonders for your singing. But don’t think that you need to chain yourself to a treadmill to get results. Simply go for a walk, lift some weights, or dance around your living room to relieve built-up stress.
- Address Allergies, Acid Reflux, and Colds
Addressing your allergies is one vocal health tip you may not have considered. I have seasonal allergies, so I take medication and use nasal sprays to alleviate post-nasal drip. Post-nasal drip is when mucus drips onto your vocal cords, irritating them and sometimes causing vocal issues. If you have allergies, you need to be aware of this and take appropriate precautions. Alleviating your allergies won’t just make you feel better, but it will make you sound better, too!
I’m lucky enough not to suffer from acid reflux, but many singers do. Acid reflux bathes the vocal cords in stomach acid, which is as horrible for the voice as you would expect. See a doctor immediately if you think you have acid reflux. There might be a medication that your doctor recommends or foods you can avoid to keep you and your vocal cords in prime condition.
I don’t have to tell you twice about how poorly a cold can make you feel. But aside from the usual symptoms like aches and fatigue, a cold can do a number on your voice. When you’re feeling under the weather, take a break from singing and let your body rest. However, if you must sing for a big performance or audition, take special care and follow these tips for singing with a cold.
- Warm Up
Warming up is easily one of the most important healthy vocal techniques that every singer should follow. Just like athletes stretch before vigorous exercise, singers must warm-up before diving into difficult music. Some singers might practice scales, while others like to say tongue twisters or silly phrases. Find a warm-up exercise that you not only enjoy but can easily incorporate into your signing routine. I warm up every morning while puttering around the house — it’s second nature now, and it means my voice is always ready to go.
- Listen to Your Body
As I discussed, singing too much won’t do you or your vocal cords any favors. A big part of vocal health for singers involves listening to your body and knowing when to take a rest. Maybe you’re starting to feel some strain or your throat is getting hoarse. Recognizing these signs will help prevent you from pushing yourself too much and damaging your vocal cords.
- Stop Smoking
Kicking your smoking habit is another way to promote healthy vocal cords. When you inhale (or vape) smoke, you expose your vocal cords to harmful substances and toxins. These toxins can irritate, dry out, and inflame your vocal cords. Note: That also goes for incense, too.
The Most Important Rule for Singers
I saved the best tip for singers’ vocal health for last here. If an athlete has poor technique (an improper gait for a runner, a bad swing for a batter), they end up injuring themselves. Same goes for singing.
If you don’t learn proper healthy vocal techniques, you will probably end up in vocal therapy at some point. But if you work with your voice teacher to improve your technique, you will learn how to sing better overall and possibly prevent doing any unintentional damage to your voice.
You can even sign up for our online singing lessons for convenient and hassle-free instruction over the internet. Your stamina will build, and you will be less likely to hurt yourself. Now, doesn’t that sound good? Simply follow my vocal health tips above, and you will be performing at your very best, without ever worrying about damaging or stressing your voice again.
Photo by Eva Rinaldi