By Cari Cole
1. Stop Shredding Your Cords.
The number one thing that shreds your cords when singing or speaking is slamming your cords together. It’s called glottal strokes or the glottal attack. Say “ah” and hit it hard – chances are your cords banged together – did you feel it? To avoid it, but an “h” at the front of the ah = “ha”. The air from the h keeps the cords from banging together. This causes inflammation, swollen vocal cords, vocal fatigue and eventual burnout.
2. Limit Your Speaking.
More problems arise for singers on and off tour from their speaking voices. Problems like lowering your speaking voice, monotone pitch and glottal attacks or tension add wear and tear to your voice. If you notice that your voice often hurts or is hoarse after prolonged speaking, the best solution is to limit your speaking especially when you are on tour. Then study with a speech pathologist or vocal coach who knows how to retrain your speaking voice so it doesn’t interfere with your singing. Schedule a Cole Power Hour with me and I can teach you exactly what to do in one hour.
3. Warm Up and Cool Down.
I’ll never stop telling singers to warm up – but with warm-up exercises that relieve tension (like mine here). Most warmups wear your voice out instead of warm it up. Click here for the best warmups on the planet. They also include cooldowns to use post-performance to keep your voice conditioned and lessening your recovery time.
If you want a voice that feels effortless, then drink 8 glasses of water a day – period. Your vocal cords need to be lubricated in order to glide through your range with ease and flexibility. But that’s not the only way to hydrate. For extra moisture, steaming before your performances will help hydrate your cords. Plus, run the shower in your hotel room or bathroom for extra humidity. 60% humidity is ideal for singers.
5. Sleep (7-9 hours).
Sleep is your friend. Performers must get a minimum of 7 hours and even better a luxurious 9 hours to function at peak condition. Get your zzzzz’s!
Vocal problems are also the result of tense overly contracted muscles of the tongue, jaw, neck and diaphragm area. Tension here causes vocal “gridlock” resulting in limited vocal function. Massage is not a luxury for singers, it can restore a lost voice, or free up your range and flexibility. In my Singers Gift Warmups, I show you a laryngeal massage that relieves tension and frees up your vocal instrument.
Stress causes vocal tension and contributes to wear and tear. Find ways to take the edge off the pressures of your career/life by using stress reduction techniques (my favorite is meditation). Or try taking long hot baths with bath salts at night and/or essential oils (lavender) on your pillow at bedtime. Other destressors are working out, yoga and finding a good therapist to talk to.
8. Your Vocally Fit Diet.
Singers suffer when they don’t eat right. Sometimes they don’t even know it except when they start losing their voices. The #1 cause of food-related voice loss is laryngeal reflux. Unlike GERD, laryngeal reflux is undetectable until you become sensitive to it. Stay away from marinara sauce, chocolate, peppermint, and don’t eat 2 hours before bed. Your best longer-term solution is to take a probiotic and eat more green food, as in vegetables, veggie juice and salad to heal up your stomach bacteria. Allergies also play a role in vocal problems and it usually goes hand in hand with reflux. Click here for all the details in my Vocal Road Warrior 3-part Series.
I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 16 and have found it to eliminate stress in my body and mind. Besides the amazing spinal column health and easing of pain in my muscles, it is a great way to keep your body supple, flexible and avoid injury. Given that your voice is an instrument inside your body, the effect on the voice is more ease and vocal freedom. Who knew that down-dog would help you experience a new level of vocal health!
10. Your Vocally Fit Diet.
Keeping up with your workouts releases endorphins, relieves stress, and helps to eliminate tension, keeping your voice supple and energized. Squats, pushups, overhead presses, lunges, pilates for your core and light biking or running keeps your body conditioned and ready for performance. Strength and cardiovascular health play a big role in vocal health and wellness. Keep in mind, that you don’t need a gym membership to work out, you can do it right in your hotel room, you can even jog in place (okay except for biking.)
Click here to get my Vocal Road Warrior 3-part audio series to experience optimal vocal health. Learn more about how to not shred your cords, discover the best holistic natural remedies and techniques to keep your voice healthy on and off tour!