Maintaining your vocal health is incredibly important if you want to go far with your singing! It’s easy to forget the basics — so check yourself with these two tips from Glendale, CA teacher Ben M…
As singers, we’re very sensitive about the way our voices feel. Even the slightest change in the strength, tone, or comfort of the voice is detected by a singer and can lead to an array of concerns about vocal health. But so often when students report problems with their voice, such as vocal fatigue, hoarseness, difficulty singing, and a rough, gritty feeling, they haven’t given much thought to the two single most important factors to maintaining a healthy voice: sleep and hydration.
1. Have you REALLY had enough water today?
Let’s be honest – the answer is probably no. But understanding why hydration is so important to maintaining good vocal health may encourage you to drink that extra glass of water.
Have you ever seen a video of vocal cords at work? If not, go to YouTube and do a search for a “laryngoscope.” One of the first things you’ll probably notice about the vocal cords is that they are slippery and wet – they have to be, in order to vibrate freely and create a smooth, healthy sound. How do you think the sound and feel of your voice would change if your vocal cords weren’t quite as hydrated? Well, think about your skin when it becomes dried out. Instead of appearing supple, smooth and glowy, it becomes tight, uneven, and dull. The same is true of your voice. Hydration works from the inside out – replenishing your entire body so that your tissue is healthy and flexible.
Remember – hydrating the voice is not like applying a topical medication! You can’t just take a big swig of water before a long performance and expect your cords to stay hydrated. The only way to hydrate vocal cords is to hydrate your entire body – and that means drinking a lot of water each day. Individual needs vary, but it is recommended that women consume 2.2 liters of water a day, while men need 3 liters.
2. Did you get enough sleep?
Think of it this way – your voice is a muscle, just like any other in your body. Each time you lift weights, do yoga, or go for a run, do you notice that additional tone right away? Probably not, unless you imagined it, because your body first has to go through a reparative process in which it rebuilds the muscle tissue you broke down during the workout.
The same process – albeit on a much more delicate level – happens to your voice each time you use it. And without that extended period of rest after a vocal workout, your voice doesn’t have time to repair itself and reap all the benefits of your training. This is where the sleep comes in. According to findings from Harvard Medical School, “many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.” So, if you’re looking to gain any sort of endurance (for those long live sets or strenuous studio sessions), the first step is giving your body plenty of time to recoup.
The National Sleep Foundation concedes that there is no “magic number” for sleep. Sleep and hydration needs are as individual as vocal needs – they vary from person to person, and it’s up to each singer to determine what is working the best for him or her.
Once you have implemented these two important staples into your daily routine, you can begin improving your voice with a teacher who can identify areas of improvement for you. Vocal exercises, posture, breath support, proper technique – these are all important to learn and implement. But first, let’s make sure you are setting yourself up for success by preparing your body to be a platform for success.
Ben M. teaches music performance and singing in Glendale, CA. He attended Northeastern University and is currently studying voice at Brett Manning Studios. Learn more about Ben here!
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