Not even the most famous singers of all time were immune to vocal health problems. Elvis Presley performed dozens of nights in a row in Las Vegas, causing harm to his vocal cords. Frank Sinatra once took a month-long vow of silence to help his voice repair itself. And Luciano Pavarotti believed his career was finished prematurely due to damage caused by vocal cord lesions.
Any singer wanting a lengthy career needs to take care of their voice. Just as a musician might care for their piano or guitar, a singer’s instrument is their voice. Without proper care, a singer can lose the ability to hit their full range and even result in a vocal disorder.
What health problems do singers face?
Like anyone, a singer can be susceptible to sore throats, colds, and infections. Allergies such as hay fever or sinus infections can lead to a build-up of mucus that will affect a singer’s vocals.
Infections can also lead to post-nasal drip, which will impair a singer’s ability to perform. Avoiding smoking and staying hydrated will help to decrease vocal mucus, but vocalists can face other problems too.
A sore throat is an inconvenience, but it will usually clear up relatively swiftly. But laryngitis can be far more devastating. Laryngitis can lead to a complete loss of voice. And vocal disorders such as polyps and nodules can affect a singer’s range and may even require surgery.
How can a singer keep their voice strong and healthy?
It can be difficult for professional singers not to overuse their voices when performing. A succession of live performances will take its toll, but there are ways to avoid overuse and reduce the chances of vocal damage.
Professional vocal coaching
A professional vocal coach will teach any singer the importance of not straining their voice. Through exercises and guidance, a vocal coach would help you to extend your range and perhaps add an octave, but without straining.
Vocal coaches teach posture and proper breathing techniques. While a vocal coach will aim to improve a singer’s voice, they also teach their students how to look after their vocal cords.
When someone has had a vocal health problem, it is important not to rush back to singing. But, vocal therapy can help treat disorders, including laryngitis. Interestingly, vocal therapy can also help to prevent some voice disorders too.
And voice therapy uses exercises to treat damage caused by illness or smoking, for instance.
Vocal therapy includes exercises for:
- Posture and movement
- Mouth and jaw muscles
Try to sing quietly
If you can learn to sing quieter, you will not only make your neighbors happier, but you will avoid straining your voice.
Singing quietly isn’t about just reducing volume, it’s about not straining your voice. As long as you continue to practice proper singing techniques, your voice will develop better than if you were pushing maximum volume.
Proper breathing when singing and talking
Whenever you are singing, it is important to breathe correctly. Following breathing techniques shown to you by your singing teacher is essential. Your tone will be rounder, and you will be able to project sound without straining.
Rest is as important as practice
After all that practice, it is time to rest. Frank Sinatra became acutely aware of the importance of rest after his vocal disorder diagnosis. There is no need to take a month-long vow of silence, but rest is important to vocal health.
Improve your sleep
When you get tired, your voice will be as well. You can damage muscles if you push too hard when tired. The same can happen to your voice.
Following certain activities to improve sleep patterns can result in better rest. This will help your vocal health and keep your voice strong.
Home remedies and over-the-counter medications
Be careful of anything that masks pain, as you could be letting a vocal problem go undiagnosed. But items such as throat lozenges and honey can help to soothe vocal cords and are safe ways to medicate at home.
Room-temperature water with some fresh lemon squeezed into it is a good way to stay hydrated but avoid too much caffeine.
Use a microphone where possible
If you have any interest in recording and promoting your music invest in a microphone. Using a microphone will also help you avoid pushing your natural volume too much.
Avoid singing if you are unwell
If you have a sore throat or infection, then rest your voice. Of course, practice is important for singers, but you won’t make any progress singing while unwell. If you sing when you are ill, you are likely to exacerbate symptoms and possibly cause worse damage.
Warming up and resting your singing voice is as important as practicing. As a singer, your voice is your instrument, and it needs proper maintenance. Keep hydrated, and avoid caffeine and cigarette smoke. And use honey and lemon to keep your vocal folds soothed.
Vocal coaches and therapy can help individuals with voice disorders and illness return to health. And vocal coaches can help singers avoid some of the health problems that vocalists face.