My Top Five Tips For Protecting Your Voice…A Little Prevention Goes A LONG Way

A healthy pair of vocal folds, ready for singing. Looks like an alien, doesn't it?

Second hand smoke, high pollen count, cold, flu…it can wreak havoc on your vocal folds.  Did you know that coughing can make you lose your voice faster (and more often) than yelling?  When you’re a working singer, it’s hard to keep your voice in tip top shape.  You’re around germy people in germy, smokey bars and clubs, you have to stay out really late and sometimes have to get up early to go to a day job the next day.  Yes, this is the life of a musician, but it’s much more detrimental to those who sing.  If you break a string on a guitar, you can just put on a new one…or change the whole set.  You can’t just get a new pair of vocal folds.  When you lose your voice…it can be gone for a long time…and it’s scary.  There are some preventive measures you can take to keep you and your voice healthy and ready for singing…and they aren’t very expensive.  

1. Don’t smoke.  If you do…stop it…you’re a singer for crying out loud!  Why do I even have to tell you?

2. Stay hydrated.  If you are a non smoker it may be impossible for you to avoid secondhand smoke when you play (if you can book gigs in smoke free venues, do it) , so it’s even more important to make sure that you are properly hydrated.  When you stay hydrated, it helps your mucous membranes stay nice and moist so they can move any foreign stuff (like secondhand smoke or pollen and other junk) out of your lungs more efficiently.  Avoid drinking alcohol when you’re gigging…all it does is dehydrate you and your vocal folds…plus, it makes you stupid.  Drinking plain old water is best but soda is ok (if you really must have sugar) and you should avoid citrus and milk products before and during a performance…they will give you phlegm like you wouldn’t believe.

3. Rinse out your nose.  Nasal irrigation is extremely helpful, especially if you have allergies and/or asthma.  The neti pot is probably the most popular method…they talk about it on TV a lot…but you can use a nasal bulb syringe or a nasal bottle (squirts like a bulb syringe, but doesn’t back flow).  You can buy pre mixed salt packets to mix with water, or you can make your own:

3 tsp SALT (pickling, canning or sea salt, non iodized with no other additives…just salt)


Mix the salt and baking soda well. Use 1 tsp salt mix for each cup (8 ounces) of distilled or boiled water.  Rinse your nose according to the directions on your neti pot, nasal bottle or bulb syringe.

If the thought of traditional nasal irrigation freaks you out a little, you could try Simply Saline.  It’s saline nasal spray, but it’s an aerosol bottle that sprays a nice fine mist…kind of like a spritz bottle.  It makes it easy to rinse the gunk out of your nose without such a massive amount of solution.  Plus, the solution stays clean and sterile because it only sprays one way…nothing from your nose gets sucked back into the bottle like regular nasal sprays.

4. Get some rest.  Lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your immune system and makes you much more vulnerable to upper respiratory and other illnesses.  A healthy body and voice depend on you getting enough sleep…especially right after a gig.  If you have a day job, that may be more difficult, but do your best.  Your voice is counting on you.

5. Protect your hearing.  Yes, filtered earplugs not only protect your ears during a gig, but they protect you from over singing during a gig.  Even with a monitor right in front of you it can be really hard to hear yourself with all the other amplifiers and drums right behind you and it’s really easy to sing harder than you should without even realizing it.  Using proper earplugs will help you hear yourself better (along with everyone else) in the mix so you won’t overcompensate by yelling.

Well, there you have it, my top 5 tips for keeping your voice a little healthier and ready for singing.  You should always do your best to keep your body healthy, but even more so if you are a vocalist.  Like Earth, you only have one voice.  Take care of it or it will go away…and it might not come back.

Posted on July 14, 2011, in Musician's Health and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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