Are you ready to make a daily commitment for learning how to sing better? Maximize the beauty of your voice with the best vocal hygiene. Your vocal hygiene is the foundation and your greatest key to accomplishing your singing goals. Let’s reveal the secrets for ultimate vocal hygiene!
This post is a guide for how to accomplish excellent vocal hygiene.
Focusing on two simple natural remedies will make an enormous, astounding improvement for literally everything about your singing!
1) Always hydrate. Give yourself the most essential ingredient for consistent vocal hygiene, by making sure you drink your water every single day. Unless your doctor says otherwise, drink 80-90 ounces per day of clean, unflavored water.
It might not always be convenient. But when you hear and feel the improvement in your vocal quality, suddenly the chore of drinking your water becomes so worth it!
In order to work well, your vocal anatomy needs to be kept moist. And the physical demands of singing involve more work for your vocal folds. So singers naturally have an extra special need to stay hydrated.
2) Sleep for plenty of hours. Your voice will sound so fresh, and your singing technique will be more responsive! Singing becomes a real joy, when you are well rested. Sleep is the magical time when the voice deeply recovers from a day of speaking and singing.
When we don’t sleep well, the vocal anatomy becomes inflamed and swollen. This is when the real troubles start for a singer. An exhausted body causes the small muscles required for singing to behave as if they are lame. Read “lame” in this instance defined as “disabled.” This can be so frustrating and singing becomes nearly impossible. No thanks to being exhausted!
How Many Hours Should You Sleep?
Expert advice can be valuable. But sometimes expert advice can raise more questions than it answers.
My personal experience is that anything less than 6 hours of sleep causes me to have more difficulty with singing. My muscles just feel too labored and exhausted to respond well, for singing.
We will soon have a new post on how insomnia affects singing. And that post will include lots of suggestions for wonderful natural remedies to help with sleeping difficulties.
You must experiment to discover how many hours of sleep allow you to function well. Please bear in mind that singing is a highly specialized athletic physical activity. Many of the finest singers in the world feel strongly they need nine or more hours, to be at their personal best.
So their is no magic number, when it comes to sleeping hours. It will vary. And you are ultimately the best person to discover your optimum sleeping requirements.
Your Sleep Requirements: Quality AND Quantity
When students ask me how many hours they should be sleeping, I usually suggest a good 8-9 hours. Many people feel that too much sleep causes their muscles to feel lazy. You must learn to feel what is happening in your own body. Zero in on how you are feeling and how literally everything affects your singing, particularly regarding sleep.
There is no substitute for sleep. When you are well rested, you hear and feel your voice blossoming and springing to life as never before. Please do not allow the stress of life to deprive you of a good night’s sleep!
In the first post published on this blog, there is detailed instruction on the recommended water and sleep, as general for any singer. Once more, you should discover your own personal best lifestyle choices, which are most supportive to your singing goals.
Good Spinal Alignment: Your Ticket to Ride!
A straight and flexible backbone makes every aspect of good singing more automatic. It is a newfound feeling of freedom you do not want to miss! Your spine should always be lengthening upward, fluid and flexible. This is how you are able to be expressive with your entire body, for the music you are singing.
In an earlier post, we had a brief introduction to the world of the Alexander Technique. Frederick Matthias Alexander was an Australian actor, who lived from 1869-1955. He was having chronic problems, losing his voice on the stage, during live performances. Alexander’s research led to a solution focused on the crucial role of spinal alignment. Since his discovery in 1890, countless actors and stage performers, including many thousands of the best singers, have relied upon the Alexander Technique, for consistently healthy vocal production.
It really is crucial to your entire development as a singer that you know about the Alexander Technique. Your daily vocal hygiene depends greatly upon having a strong, flexible, responsive spine.
A Singer’s Best Friend
The practice of yoga is another way that many singers find the greatest freedom and expression throughout their bodies. Stretching properly builds flexibility which translates to a much greater command of your entire vocal technique. Yoga and Alexander Technique complement each other in the most meaningful ways for any stage performer. This is particularly true for any singer!
My personal go-to source for advice on healthy lifestyle is Dr. Andrew Weil. Here is one of Dr. Weil’s articles on yoga. Needless to say, he is strongly in favor of everyone learning some yoga, unless otherwise directed by your personal doctor.
A Singers Worst Enemy
Smoking of any substance as well as breathing exhaust fumes is as foolish as a marathon runner who shoots himself in the foot. There is a terrible degree of searing heat from smoking, plus over 7000 harmful chemicals from the tobacco blend of cigarettes, which combine to create an avalanche of ruinous effects for any singer.
Among the first troubles smoking causes is the dehydration of the vocal anatomy. Next comes inflammation, unavoidable for smokers. When we sing with inflamed vocal folds, we can count on swelling. And this means the voice simply cannot respond normally. Unfortunately many singers fall into the trap of insisting upon singing with swollen vocal folds. This is when the hoarse voice sets in.
At this point the voice badly needs to rest. Continued singing is guaranteed to cause more vocal loss. And when a singer continues to “power through,” the result will likely be some form of damage to the vocal anatomy.
Of course, the troubles mentioned above are only the beginning. Nicotine is usually said to be at least as addictive as morphine. So breaking the habit is generally known to be a miserable experience, to put it mildly. On tobacco products, there are warning labels about the cancer-causing effects of smoking or chewing tobacco. I am at a loss to name one single benefit that tobacco products offer to any singer.
Please know that drinking alcoholic beverages will cause the vocal cords to swell. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect upon the body in general. You should drink even more water than usual to compensate, if you have been drinking alcohol.
We will have a separate post about the effects of alcohol upon the singing voice. For now, please realize that alcohol is not going to help you sing and will in fact set you up to fail miserably. It is also said that caffeine has a dehydrating effect upon our bodies. And we know that citric fruit juice is acidic and therefore drying to the throat. Your greatest defense is always sleep, hydration, and good lubrication for the throat (slippery elm, for example). More on this is below.
Leave the Fry in the Kitchen!
It is so easy to forget how fragile our voices actually are! Anyway, our minds can only really focus on one thing at a time. Singing well with good vocal technique requires our mental energy and our physical stamina. Even the best singers sometimes need reminding that we are only flesh and blood, after all. The vocal cords do need a lot of looking after, if we can expect them to work optimally.
So if the style of the music you want to sing requires “vocal fry,” please understand you will need extra recovery time. Here is a pretty good example and some info on how to guard against damage that is caused by frequent use of vocal fry.
The argument can be made that vocal fry is an expressive tool, used sparingly in a few styles of music. But deliberate use of vocal fry is limited only to a handful of musical styles. In other words, most of the time vocal fry simply is not wanted in the music.
And one thing is certain: vocal fry is never wanted for the sake of your vocal hygiene! It requires that sound be produced after the normal flow of air has actually come to an end. So this is not a normal of healthy vocal production.
Sizzling, Suffocating, Sound of Sameness
The irony here is that using vocal fry as an expressive device actually robs the speaker or singer of communicating literally anything. Vocal fry is produced by depriving the voice of normal air flow. This causes the noise of frying or rattling that sounds like an exhausted croaking frog. You hear this and instantly have no idea what the speaker or singer is trying to convey.
Meanwhile, the strain imposed upon the vocal folds does indeed have the effect of “frying.” Dehydration, inflammation, and swelling are on the way, thanks to vocal fry. How important is it that you speak or sing this way?!
Your Beautiful Voice for Life
My advice and opinions are rooted in the goal of your best singing for many years to come. There is a price to be paid for a singer’s vocal health. And there is the significant risk of damaging the voice, from purposefully using vocal fry in your speaking voice and/or in your singing voice.
Our vocal cords (folds) depend upon the stability and power of the lower network of muscles. Breath pressure should be held back by the engagement of muscles in the rib cage and below. Our abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor of the pelvic floor, muscles in the buttocks, in the legs, and all the way down to the feet all coordinate to form a great anatomical architecture of support. But when the muscles of the neck and throat are used to actually stop the flow of air through the vocal folds, the entire technique breaks down. You are better than this!
Your Daily Vocal Hygiene Plan
Let’s boil it down!
2) Plenty of Sleep
3) Good lubrication
Slippery elm lozenges or tea
4) Address any reflux issues. Here is your first step.
5) Address any allergy issues. Here is your first step.
6) Avoid breathing any type of smoke, including exhaust fumes. Avoid smoking in all forms. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. Be aware of foods and substances which have a tendency to dry the throat and avoid these as well.
7) Avoid yelling, screaming, and vocal fry.
8) Practice Alexander Technique or yoga to ensure optimal body alignment.
9) Have an examination by a good ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist doctor, when you are confronted by any vocal issues that are more than you can cope with.
10) Make sure you have a good voice teacher, to carefully guide and monitor your best vocal technique.
Let Me Hear Your Singing!
I am 100% on your side! It gives me the most satisfaction, when a student begins singing better. You receive personal private singing instruction, carefully tailored to your individual needs for singing better. And when you actually start realizing that your singing is improving, there really is nothing more exciting!
As a retired singer, I completely understand what the struggles are. And I also know that your voice and your talent can start to bloom in exciting new directions, simply by having a few private singing lessons. I am at your service and I consider it an honor to help you with your singing goals!
This post has combined the tried and true with a fresh approach to vocal hygiene. Be sure to email me personally with any questions, about vocal hygiene or about anything else related to the health of your voice and related to wanting to sing better.
Ask Me About Private Singing Lessons!
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Details are available on request and I’m eager to hear from you!
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