Is there such a thing as singing too much? If you’re working on a rigorous singing schedule, check out these tips to stay vocally healthy from voice teacher Elaina R…
Anyone who’s ever eaten too much 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 prevent you from singing more — sometimes even permanently. Because of this, it’s important to focus on keeping your voice healthy and understanding your limitations. 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, 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.
As a full-time professional singer, I sing a lot. I recently had a day where I had to sing for six hours. Even so, I haven’t had any vocal health problems since I was an undergraduate. Here’s why I have to be careful and what I do to keep my cords healthy.
The Dangers of Singing Too Much
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.
The good news is that you can avoid vocal injuries and stress as long as you follow healthy singing tips.
Vocal Health as a Singer
Strained vocal cords (and damaging your voice) may sound scary, but it can be avoided as long as you take proper care. 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, and following these rules 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 joints, organs, and skin. It can help your singing voice, too! 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. 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
You don’t need me to tell you that your body functions better when you get enough sleep. Fatigue affects your vocal cords just like it affects the rest of you. To give your vocal cords a good night’s rest, avoid caffeine before bed and start winding down at a decent hour, so you have plenty of time to snooze before your alarm goes off. Getting enough sleep, especially leading up to your audition, rehearsal, or big debut, 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 your body out of this rigid mode 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 and Acid Reflux
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. Please 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.
- Warm Up
Warming up is easily one of the most important healthy singing 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.
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.
Believe it or not, there’s far more to singing than opening your mouth and carrying a tune. If you don’t learn good and proper healthy singing 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