Four Steps to Care for Your Voice
by Sheri Gould,
BASIC HEALTH CARE FOR YOUR VOICE: PREVENTATIVE
Taking care to NOT injure your voice is the first and best thing you can do for your vocal longevity and effectiveness. There are many things that you do during the day that you may not even be aware of that can cause vocal strain or fatigue. Let’s look at some of them.
Overuse and Abuse
There are many ways that we abuse or overuse our voice. Simply talking for long periods of time can do this. Especially if you are speaking at an elevated level like when you’re at a wedding reception and the band is playing loudly. Most weddings occur on Saturday and if you talk your way into the night at the reception, you may well find your vocal cords swollen and tender in the morning. Not the best thing for your Sunday morning service!
Yelling at the kids (or spouse-yikes!) can be damaging as well. Any strain on the cords will eventually cause you problems.
If you find yourself constantly dealing with throat issues, you may well need an overhaul on the lifestyle. Perhaps the way you speak is causing strain, or the way you sing.
Allergies are also really hard on the vocal folds. Post nasal drip is very irritating to the cords.
Coughing/Clearing Your Throat
Both coughing and clearing your throat are very abrasive. I frequently give the illustration that clearing your throat is akin to scratching the vocal folds with sandpaper.
My ear, nose and throat doctor has told me that you can cause your cords/folds to BLEED simply from clearing your throat too rigorously. So what is a body to do when there is that annoying phlegm riding on the cords/folds?
First of all understanding WHY the phlegm is there in the first place may make a difference in how you choose to manage your phlegm in the future (pleasant subject huh?).
Phlegm is nature’s way of providing protection for your vocal cords/folds. If your cords have experienced any type of trauma, your body is designed to provide a bandage (protection) to prevent further damage. So first of all note that IF you have phlegm, THERE IS A REASON.
Solve the root of the problem FIRST to avoid further phlegm. Simply clearing your throat may seem like the most expeditious thing to do, but ultimately it will only exacerbate the problem. When you ‘clear’ your throat, you scratch your cords and ‘voila!’ your body sends more phlegm! So avoid this at all costs. Ask yourself first, “Why did I get the phlegm in the first place?” Then try to solve THAT problem (we’ll discuss some of the possible reasons later).
Ridding yourself of the phlegm can safely (albeit not as quickly) be done in a number of ways. What you want is to GENTLY vibrate the cords so that the phlegm “falls” off and is not SCRAPED off. This can be done by swallowing, talking or humming.
The fastest way may be humming in the lowest part of your range, therefore providing the largest vibrations. You can also talk through your phlegm. But I personally find this difficult to listen to! The sound of phlegm rattling while someone talking causes ME to want to clear my throat! So be careful when you choose THIS option, (I’d rather listen to fingernails on a chalkboard).
Humming is a great choice provided you can do this inconspicuously. Continuing to swallow repeatedly will also eventually work. You may have to be patient but it will be worth the effort because when it’s gone, is GONE. If it DOES come back it will be slower to recur and will not likely be as much.
So take your time in dealing with this “blessing” that God has given us to protect our cords.
Avoid Stressing Your Cords While Singing
Many times we stress our cords simply by not warming up properly. Just like an athlete needs to stretch and warm up before playing a sport, you need to stretch and warm up your vocal cords as well. Trying to sing with a full voice or at the outreaches of your range too soon can be one of the culprits of unnecessary stress and of course phlegm.
Start your singing day out slowly. Warm up by gently ‘waking up’ your cords through humming. Any warming up you can do in the shower will be extra great as the moisture will help lubricate the cords (you always sound great in the shower too!). Then continue your warm-up routine being careful not to talk too much or too loudly first thing in the morning. This will pay off.
Many of us rush to church on a Sunday morning, grab a microphone and start wailing away in our ‘belt voice’ and then can’t figure out why we’re hoarse and sore after the service(s).
Many singers end up stressing their cords during singing simply because they do not understand the basics of proper singing. It’s so important to understand how the vocal mechanism works and to work WITH your body and not against it.
If your throat is sore after you sing, take heed! There is a reason for pain. It’s a warning. If you experience pain on a regular basis when you sing, then you need to figure out why. Getting some good vocal training is invaluable in terms of saving your voice from harm.
Some basic things to look for in your body are: any kind of strain or muscle tension in the throat or facial area. When you sing, you need to be completely relaxed. When you start seeing or feeling tension, that’s when trouble can start. A good vocal coach can help you to see this in yourself and teach you how to avoid further vocal strain.Four Steps to Care for Your Voice Click To Tweet