Being a singer is amazing: you have an instrument that literally no one else on the planet has. And it’s also frustrating: that instrument is a part of your body, meaning it changes due to things like hydration, allergies, illness, and fatigue. I’m Camille van Niekerk, singer & teacher with 30 Day Singer, and here are 4 ways to take care of your voice.
1. Vocal rest when you’re tired, sick or sore
Resting your voice when you have a sore throat is a no-brainer. When it hurts to sing or speak, it’s pretty intuitive to limit your amount of singing and speaking. But I encourage you to also take special care when you’re tired or sick, even if that sickness doesn’t include a sore throat. Why? When you’re tired, your technique is more likely to suffer. And with sickness usually comes inflammation, meaning your vocal folds are more injury-prone. While I don’t want you to be afraid of singing, I do want you to know when you should take it easy and pay special attention to how your voice is feeling. Vocal injuries happen and can be treated, but my goal as both a singer and teacher is prevention.
2. Regular hydration
Singers are always drinking water, not just right before a performance. Why is that? Because it takes time for the water you drink to actually hydrate your vocal folds. When you drink water, it feels hydrating and soothing on your throat, but it’s going down your esophagus to your stomach. Your vocal folds, also called vocal cords, are housed within your larynx, above your trachea. If that water reached your vocal folds right away, you’d cough it up and probably say “wrong pipe”! Give your body the time it needs to hydrate for optimal functioning by always having water within reach and drinking regularly.
3. Saline sinus rinse
If you’ve used a Neti pot when you’ve been sick, you’ve done a sinus rinse. Why do our sinuses need rinsing? According to Dr. Reena Gupta of the Osborne Head & Neck Institute: “
When singers inhale particles that are irritating (including air pollutants, allergens, etc) this causes mucous to form in the nose. The mucous drips down the back of the throat and onto the vocal cords. When it lands there, several things happen:
- Vocal cord swelling (decreased vocal pitch)
- Pitch instability (difficulty hitting a note consistently)
- Throat clearing (which worsens vocal cord swelling)
- Voice breaks
Irrigation washes away the particles before the nose can make mucous and may avoid the above symptoms completely. It may also therefore help to avoid the need for medication to control postnasal drip. Avoiding medication is always preferred, especially in singers where side effects of medications (such as drying) may be detrimental to the voice.”
If you’re not a fan of the Neti pot, you can get a squeeze bottle instead with packets of solution - or make your own with salt and baking soda. Read the instructions that come with the pot or bottle: your water needs to be distilled or previously boiled, and lukewarm. I’ve made the mistake of using too-cold and too-hot water and neither feel good, trust me!
Of course, ask your doctor if saline sinus rinses are good for you, especially if you have concerns or a history of ear, nose and throat issues.
4. Pay attention to what hurts and avoid it.
I know that’s simple advice, but it’s easier said than done! And it’s also worth stating because some singers think that pain is okay, or even necessary to make big, loud sounds. Pain is never a good sign, and it’s not something you push through like you might when lifting weights or exercising your body intensely. Some things I avoid that I know hurt my voice are being around smoke, talking over loud music, and being on the phone for a long time. You don’t need to be paranoid that you’re destroying your voice and are completely unaware. Usually if you’re doing something harmful, there will be symptoms! So that’s why this tip is to first pay attention to what hurts, and then do your best to limit or avoid it.
Thank you for watching, and I wish you happy, healthy singing!