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Tips For Year-Round Vocal Health

Brett Manning teaches that a singer is a complex human instrument, with all parts of the body, mind, and spirit requiring proper care and maintenance to consistently perform at its highest potential.

He cites an unhealthy lifestyle as one of the most commonly encountered issues for singers at all levels of accomplishment. He emphasizes that lifestyle is a choice and is manageable. He stresses his vocal training can make you a better, stronger singer, but bad habits and lifestyle choices can significantly compromise vocal health and in many cases can damage the voice.

“If you have unhealthy habits or an unhealthy lifestyle, plan on those unhealthy habits affecting your voice severely,” Brett said, noting heavy drinking, smoking, and poor nutrition as key offenders.

For the next few weeks, we’ll look at healthy habits and practices to engage as well as dietary issues, supplements, and other tips for achieving and maintaining optimum vocal health.

Healthy Body Supports A Healthy Voice

Overall good health is obviously key to vocal health as well, but it is far too often overlooked. Someone may rest the voice, but only get four or five hours of sleep each day. So, proper rest for the body and getting sufficient sleep on a daily basis is absolutely necessary. If you don’t get enough rest, you then start to push yourself more and more to function at an optimum level, whether it’s singing, speaking, or simply walking.

This pushing through will ultimately stress out your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infection such as colds and viruses. So getting enough rest and sleep are key to maintaining optimum health and performance. To help fend off colds and viruses, it’s also recommended that you engage in frequent hand washing.

Restrict Emotional Stress

Emotional stress can significantly impact stress and strain of the voice. To help relieve emotional stress, relaxation exercises and practices such as yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are helpful. Regular exercise such as brisk walking and jogging is also helpful in reducing stress. It’s important to note that weight lifting when it is engaged extensively with higher weights can place some wear on the vocal folds. So power lifting should be avoided during times of repeated vocal use or periods where you’re experiencing vocal fatigue.


Environmentally Sound Proof

Environmental factors can impact the use of your voice. In other words, a noisy setting will naturally make you want to speak up, or even scream and shout. So it’s important to limit the use of your voice in such environments as high-ceilinged restaurants, noisy parties and other public gatherings. Limit the amount of time spent talking in cars and planes. The problem with such environments is that the more you talk, the more you continue to subtly raise your voice above background noises. Then, before you even know it, you’re straining your voice because you’re actually yelling.

Don’t Get A Shout Out

You want to avoid yelling and resist the urge to call out to others from room to room. Many times after a performance there’s a tendency to be pumped up and more vocally gregarious. But you must avoid shouting, screaming, loud laughter, and heavy throat clearing. If you need to get someone’s attention, rely on some non-vocal cues such as clapping, waving, or whistling. Once you get someone’s attention, move closer. As a general rule, make it a point to move closer and face people you engage in conversation. This invites a natural level for speaking. And, remember to engage in listening by not doing all the talking.

Gentle Throat Clearing

Remember that throat clearing and harsh coughing are traumatic to the vocal cords and should be reduced as much as possible. Necessary coughing and sneezing should be as gentle as possible, minimizing any vocal sounds. One of the most frequent causes for throat clearing and coughing is thick mucus from dry vocal folds or too much mucus on or below the vocal folds. Physicians at the Texas Voice Center in Houston recommend clearing mucus by using a gentle, breathy productive cough where there is high airflow with little sound. This can be achieved by taking in as deep a breath as possible, briefly holding your breath, and producing a sharp, silent “H” sound as you expel the air.

Hydration Sensation

And, we can stress this enough, since moisture is a necessary lubricant of the vocal folds. So, hydration is critical to maintaining optimum vocal health, with two quarts of water a day generally accepted as the recommended norm. When the body is dehydrated, wear and tear takes place at a much greater rate throughout, including the voice. Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided because of their diuretic properties that rid the body of its fluids.

Stream Through The Deserts

To help with lubrication you also want to limit your exposure to dry, artificial interior climates. According to Radford University, laryngologists recommend a humidity level of 40 to 50 percent for optimum function. The problem is that body moisture is lost while breathing air in low humidity climates like the forced air on planes and air conditioned cars or buses, or in air conditioned or heated rooms. To help counter the dryness you can use a humidifier.

Acid Reflux

Another threat to vocal health that can be especially irritating is acid reflux. It can cause hoarseness, a chronic cough, and frequent throat clearing. Acid reflux often leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, especially upon waking and can prompt asthma-like symptoms because the mucous gets into the bronchial tubes. Hitting high notes can sometimes be especially difficult because of the repeated wear and tear from acid reflux. In fact, repeated bouts with the disorder can cause a sore throat, a feeling of something stuck in the throat, as well as difficulty swallowing.

Calli Tea + Stevia

Brett recommends Calli Tea with Stevia for cleansing and clearing out excess mucous from acid reflux. For more chronic issues with the disorder, a variety of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors can be prescribed. For those who face repeated bouts with acid reflux, you should see your doctor. In our next segment we’ll focus on dietary issues and the impact of medications on vocal performance and health. So, in the meantime, get more rest, reduce stress, stay hydrated, avoid shouting, and limit throat clearing to a gentle process. Get acid reflux under control. Avoid unhealthy behaviors, like smoking and too much alcohol or caffeine that tear down the body, compromise the voice, and limit any potential for your singing success. To find out about the latest vocal health care products available through Brett Manning Studios and Singing Success call us at 888-269-7758 or send us an email at