21 Tips For A Healthy Singing VoiceDevlon Jarrod Horne
I often get asked how I keep my singing voice in a healthy condition if I’m singing in the studio every day or I’m teaching students all day every day. So, what I did is come up with a list of helpful tips for some of my students to refer to.
Some tips for keeping a singing voice healthy include avoiding substances, resting often, avoiding singing when sick or sore, warming up and cooling down, practicing the correct vocal techniques and exercises, singing in your range, not misusing the voice, eating the correct food and keeping your voice hydrated.
I came up with 21 incredible tips that you as a vocalist beginner or professional, on tour or just practicing can use to keep your singing voice healthy. You might know aa couple of them but there are one or two jewels in here that I’m sure you did not know or never came to realize how important they actually are for keeping your singing voice healthy. Let’s get into it.
20 tips for a healthy singing voice
Do not drink
Drinking causes the vocal folds to dehydrate and then lose elasticity. In turn, the blood vessels widen and this can possibly result in an abnormal accumulation of blood in the vocal folds. This could lead to vocal fold hemorrhage. The drinking of alcohol causes a decrease in your fine motor skills and inhibitions. In turn, you tend to push and strain your voice rather than sing comfortably.
Watch Dr. Dan explain the effects of alcohol on the voice.
Do not smoke
What can happen to the voice is that for a woman the voice will tend to drop and become deeper and for men, the voice can become raspy. Smoking can cause what is known as “smokers’ polyps”. This is swelling of the vocal cords due to the build-up of fluid within the vocal cord mucosa. This condition is predominantly found in singers who use there voice a lot and who have been smoking long-term.
Watch Ohio State Wexner Medical Center explain the effects of smoking on the voice.
Do not take drugs
Taking drugs as with alcohol will dry out the vocal cords causing inflammation. It’s very difficult to sing under those circumstances. You think you are singing great but the actual fact is your fine motor skills and inhibitions have deteriorated and you will push and strain your voice.
Don’t sing from your throat
Singing from the throat is a quick way to damage the vocal cords. Most beginners do this when they try to go for the high notes. Remember that the power of your voice comes from your breath and not your throat. The power from your breath comes from your diaphragm. Learning to use your diaphragm with the correct breathing techniques will ensure that you do not push or strain the voice and that the vocal cords are nice and relaxed when you sing.
Don’t sing if it’s sore
Your throat could be sore for a couple of reasons. Some reasons could be that you have strained and pushed your voice. Another could be that you have a cold or infection. One other reason could be that you are constantly singing (this could be because of continuous practice or because you are on tour and have to sing every night). If your throat is strained because you use an improper technique or you have a cold, I would highly suggest that you stop singing and recover. If you’re on tour and you need to sing every night, I would suggest getting ample rest and not using your voice if you’re not on stage.
Singers hate to warm up, even though it is so crucial and so beneficial for your voice. You don’t see an athlete just jump into exercise; they warm up first. Remember that your larynx is comprised of your vocal folds which are made of tissue and then all the muscles that surround which enable you to control it. That is why you are also able to learn to sing because you can develop and train those muscles.
Warming up the voice loosens the vocal cords and makes them pliable. Remember that when you speak you are only using a small range of notes. For singing purposes, we need to get the blood flowing to the vocal cords. This will help reduce injury in your vocal cords as well.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a singer in all my years of touring, cool down their voice. Not cooling down your voice can actually have a dire effect if your singing constantly (on tour having to sing night after night). The reason you would cool down is to work the fluid and any lactic acid build-up away from the vocal cords. Remember, again, just like an athlete, after they exercise, they stretch and cool down for the exact same reason. By doing cooldowns you will increase the longevity of your vocal cords and promote good vocal health.
Watch Dr. Dan explain the benefits of cooling down the voice after singing.
Use a humidifier
There are many aspects that can plague your voice as a singer and some of these include sickness, fatigue, and vocal strain. Remember, the most important aspects of keeping your voice in a good condition are primarily that you sing with proper technique and you keep hydrated.
The next thing to consider is a humidifier or vapor inhaler if your voice is taking on heavy loads (if you are singing constantly and overusing your voice). Using a humidifier or a vapor inhaler encourages blood flow in and around the vocal cords and muscles. Higher levels of blood flow will decrease the recovery and healing time for your voice. Even doctors prescribe it and give it to their patients after vocal surgery.
Watch Dr. Dan explain the benefits of a vapor inhaler.
Save your voice for the stage
If you are performing and are on tour, most likely you will have to be singing every night. Saving your voice for just the stage can be very beneficial. This can give the voice time to rest and recover from one performance to the next. Combined with warm-ups and cool-downs it is probably the best way to ensure that your voice can recover and perform every night to the best of its ability.
If you need to use your voice for speaking during the day, I would suggest speaking in a low soft tone to save your voice. One thing to note is that there is a term for not speaking before and after performances, and this is known as “absolute vocal rest”.
Take “vocal naps” (rest the voice)
Muscles only recover when you sleep. Your larynx is mainly made up of muscles and you need to sleep and rest in order for those muscles to recover. Taking a nap here and there before a show can benefit your voice because it will give your voice time to recover and rest.
Resting the voice by reducing the vocal load and resting (sleeping or napping) is known as “relative vocal rest“. This means that it is a reduced vocal load relative to that of your singing vocal load.
Watch Dr. Dan explain the benefits of vocal rest.
Keep your voice hydrated
Dehydration from alcohol, smoking, drugs, not drinking enough water, and not eating the correct food can cause your voice to become less pliable and elastic. It is recommended that you drink at least 2 litres of water a day to keep your voice hydrated along with eating foods that keep the voice hydrated.
If your voice is not hydrated then more likely than not you can rupture or even tear your vocal cords. That is why it is always important to warm up and cool down and keep hydrated.
Watch Cherish Tuttle Music give you foods that help hydrate the voice.
Don’t sing if you’re sick
It is not recommended that you sing if you are sick. Inflammation, swelling, and soreness arise in the throat and vocal cords and if you sing when you are sick you are more likely to hurt and damage your voice. So, if at all possible do not sing is you are sick or have some sort of a throat infection.
Something to consider is that if you are a professional singer you are probably having to sing every night or every other day. Here are some tips by Madeleine Harvey on how to sing if you are sick. Remember only do this if you have to sing.
Don’t’ misuse your voice
It’s easy to forget that we use our voice throughout the day. Even when you eat or drink those elements go past the vocal cords. One thing to remember is that if you are not singing then don’t misuse your voice. This can come in the form of shouting or screaming or just talking too much.
Don’t overexert your voice or misuse it in these ways because these factors do put an unusual amount of strain on the voice even if you don’t think so. In fact, you could possibly damage your voice if you scream or shout.
Practice your techniques
One of the major causes of not keeping your singing voice healthy is that singers sing with improper vocal technique. Due to this fact, singers and most beginners usually sing from their throat and do not utilize the correct breathing technique which incorporates the diaphragm. This is a sure-fire way to hurt, damage, or even ruin your voice. There are many techniques and breathing exercises that a singer needs to learn in order to use their voice correctly which we will not go over in this article.
Use tongue trills, lip rolls, and raspberries
A great way to warm up and cool down is to use these vocal techniques that free up the voice. These vocal techniques take away the strain and pressure that can sometimes come with singing and they allow you to move through your range quite easily.
Jumping right into your vocal routine or jumping right into songs for practice and onstage performances without doing these techniques are another way that you may damage your voice.
Have a look at my free vocal course where I go over these exercises – here
Practice your exercises
It’s not enough just to sing and learn songs. You need to practice scales and arpeggios. Melodies that singers sing are built from chords and scales. If you learn to sing these chords and scales then singing definitely becomes easier because you are able to remember and hit notes easier. Exercises also help train your ear as well as your voice. Keeping a strict practice routine where you go over your scales and arpeggios are a great way to keep your voice in check.
Watch DR. Dan go over the best beginner exercise which is a 5-tone scale. You can purchase the 5-tone scale and all other scales and arpeggios from our store – here.
Also, take my free vocal course which goes over the major scale and major triads – here
Then have a look at our store that has over 100 exercises comprising of scales, arpeggios, melody riffs, and more – here
Do physical exercise
Your body is your instrument when it comes to singing. Exercise promotes a healthy body, voice, and lifestyle and is very beneficial when it comes to keeping your singing voice healthy. One thing to note is that lifting heavy weights is not recommended because what happens is that you start to strengthen and tighten your neck muscles (the extrinsic muscles of the neck).
As you know the larynx sits in the throat of the neck and as singers, we want to be able to have control, flexibility, and have almost no tension in the neck when we sing. Lifting heavy weights can cause us to lose some flexibility when singing. If you are doing weightlifting then make sure your breathing technique is correct for exercise and you are in a continuous inhale and exhale motion. This will help serve the purpose to not put any strain on the throat muscles.
Cardiovascular exercise and light circuit training are highly recommended. You can increase your lung capacity as well as your physical fitness. This can help when performing or practicing.
Watch Dr. Dan explain the pros and cons of exercising for your singing voice.
Change keys of songs
Even rock superstars and pop stars change the keys of their songs when performing live, from the likes on Bon Jovi to Ed Sheeran and Whitney Houston. This does not mean they suck at singing; this means they are professionals and are aware that the voice is an ever-changing instrument and is not the same from one day to the next.
Practicing songs and singing them live in different keys can help you maintain good vocal health and create longevity in your voice. This tip is definitely one that is overlooked by most singers.
Sing in your range
I can’t stress this enough and I have said it time and time again. You have to sing in your vocal range, even if it means you have to take the song and shift it to a very different key. A Baritone can not sound like an alto and vice versa. There is nothing wrong with moving the song or singing in your correct register. It will sound much better than if you try to sing in a range you cannot.
Trying to sing in a range that your voice is just not suited for can and most probably will hurt or damage your vocal cords. Watch Dr. Dan help explain voice registers to you.
Also, try out our vocal exercises (scales and arpeggios) from our store. Each exercise has a female and male version and goes through their respective ranges with 5-speed variations. No matter your voice type you will be able to practice your singing.
Maintain a correct diet for a healthy singing voice
It is important to keep the voice hydrated as well as exercise. The other factor that comes into play is that you should also eat healthy to maintain a healthy singing voice. Remember that anything you eat goes down your throat and essentially past your vocal cords. Food can also help keep you hydrated as we have seen. Then it can also keep you energetic and vibrant depending on the type of food you eat. Eating lots of carbs will make you lethargic and eating light meals filled with protein will help keep you on your feet, which is great for your performances. Always just remember to keep a healthy and balanced diet, eat other things in moderation and you should be fine.
The same goes for beverages. Try to avoid beverages with high sugar content and beverages with alcohol as they can dehydrate the voice. Warm tea with honey is great and so is pineapple juice.
Watch Dr. Dan go over some examples of food and drinks that are great for singers.
Pace yourself when learning new techniques
Trying to keep your voice healthy and learning new techniques and exercises to quickly can cause harm to your vocal cords. Each exercise and technique should be practiced thoroughly, and I don’t mean a day or two, I’m talking weeks and possibly months.
One of the quickest ways to hurt your voice is to learn a new technique or exercise without mastering the previous exercise, or just disregarding beginner and intermediate exercises and techniques and jumping right into advanced ones. Remember to take things slow and progress at a natural and steady pace and you will be sure to keep your voice healthy and in tip-top condition.
In our conclusion, we find that there are a lot of tips to keep your voice healthy and can help it to prevent and sometimes cure sore vocal cords.
If your vocal cords are continuously sore even after using these tips then I would advise you to see a medical professional.
You don’t have to memorize these tips but rather just be mindful and keep your logic close to you. Remember to avoid harmful substances that can damage or ruin your voice. Warm-up and cool-down before practicing or a show and then just give your voice sufficient rest between practice sessions or shows.
The last main factor to remember is learning the proper techniques and try not to strain your voice.