Today I had the pleasure of attending a vocal health workshop with Jenevora Williams, as part of the Musicians Union Health and Wellbeing month – workshops are subsidised by the kind folk at The MU, BAPAM and Help Musicians and run throughout August. If you are a Vocalist/ Musician based in the UK, I highly recommend checking it out!
As a voice teacher, it’s so important to keep learning yourself so you can pass on what you learn to your students. I’ve attended many vocal health events, but I’ve still learnt some fascinating and useful things from today’s session. Jenevora busted open a few myths as well, so here are some vocal health facts and tips you may not have known..
1)Resting your voice little and often is the way to go!
Break up your vocal practice/ rehearsals/ nattering on the phone with regular breaks. After a particularly demanding song, give yourself 2 minutes of rest before tackling the next one. ‘Breaking up’ your singing with mini- breaks will help your voice to recover more quickly.
Awareness is not only key to developing your voice, but noticing external factors (like busy traffic, or loud music) and it’s impact on your voice use is very important. If you are in a noisy environment, don’t spend the night shouting- find a quieter place to chat or have a dance instead!
3)Avoid Throat Sweets!
They may be packaged to appear healthy but there are a number of ingredients that irritate the vocal tract instead of helping it. Menthol might make your airways feel clear, but actually it just irritates and inflames you. Many throat sweets also contain anaesthetic, which may encourage you to ‘push’ through when actually you should be resting. Pain is there as an indicator that something is wrong. What to do instead of suck on throat sweets? Sip water! Not exciting perhaps, but the best remedy!
4)Dairy isn’t necessarily bad
A lot of singers avoid dairy like the plague, believing it to be a mucous forming nemesis! It might be if you have an allergy or intolerance, but in general, any mucous-forming effect wears off after 20 minutes. Everyone is different, so listen to your body and decide what affects you, and what doesn’t.
5)Yes, smoking and drinking really aren’t good for you..
..but you knew that already! Alcohol is incredibly dehydrating so should be avoided before performing or rehearsing. Cigarette smoke irritates your vocal folds (cords) and should be completely avoided. (If you need help quitting, the Allen Carr (not the ‘chatty man’ comedian!) method has helped a lot of people.) Smoking marijuana is even more drying and rough on the voice!
6)And that late night KFC isn’t such a fab idea either…
…which can be a bit of a problem for performers who are famished when they finish a set late in the evening. Unfortunately scoffing food down just before you hit the pillow is a recipe for acid reflux, which is the number one source of vocal problems. An over the counter treatment like Gaviscon Advanced will be beneficial, but always consult your doctor beforehand.
7)Warm up, don’t wear out.
Start your warm ups by jumping up and down on the spot- then follow with some gentle stretches and humming- don’t push your voice to extremes. Rushing straight to loud or intense vocalising could do more harm than good!
8)Living well prevents and cures…
Looking after yourself really is at the heart of keeping that voice healthy.
- Get plenty of sleep
- Rest your voice (take regular mini breaks!)
- Stay hydrated (drink water and steam those vocal folds!)
- Think positively (stress has an incredibly negative affect on the voice!)
- Stay inspired (what’s good for your mind is good for your physical health too!)
and in other news…your voicebox (larynx) evolved from the gills of a fish.
You heard me. Of all the things I picked up from the session, this is the one that blew my mind the most. This doesn’t really bear any relevance at all to vocal health, but I really wanted to pass that on anyway. because wow.
Jenevora also showed us this weird and wonderful video of a quartet of larynxes. Worth a watch!
Keep singing and look after those vocal folds! 🙂