- Urmi Battu
How to maintain a healthy voice
For a singer, the voice is the medium of musical expression. It needs to be taken care of, and maintained, to produce good music. Here are some helpful guidance for maintaining a healthy singing voice.
Singing requires energy and vitality. For that, it’s important to take care of your overall health. Make sure you have well balanced meals, get proper sleep, and moderate exercise to stay healthy. Indian music in particular is spiritual. Integrating yoga, pranayam and meditation into the daily life helps in aligning the mind and body towards the pursuit. Pranayam also helps in disciplining the breathing, which is very important for singing.
When we sing, the sound is created by vibration of the vocal cords, as it modulates the air being expelled from the lungs. To be able to sing well, we have to keep our vocal cords hydrated, clear, and free of inflammation. Diet plays an important role in this.
Keeping the vocal cords hydrated is very simple, just drink plenty of water at room temperature, all throughout the day. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol should be avoided as they have a dehydrating effect on the body.
Sometimes, if there is excess mucus build up, it interferes with our singing, and we have to constantly keep clearing it. Clearing the mucus irritates the vocal cords and causes inflammation. If there is excess mucus, clear it by drinking water, or try to sing the mucus off. Certain foods, like dairy and red meat are known to cause excess mucus, and they should be avoided.
Singers are prone to acid-reflux, which can cause reduced range in singing, throat irritation, inflammation, and a raspy voice. In that case, one should avoid food that causes acidity – like caffeine, alcohol, high intake of salt, spicy or oily food, carbonated drinks, acidic fruits and juices. It is also good to have early dinner so that the body gets enough time to digest the food before bedtime.
Smoking is known to have damaging effects on the vocal cords in many ways. It can change the voice quality, reduce the lung capacity, and cause permanent damage to the vocal cords.
We use our vocal cords not only to sing, but also to talk. Singers should always be conscious of how much they use their voice. Overuse can tire out the vocal cords. Yelling, talking over background noise, or even talking at a low voice, or whispering, puts more pressure on the vocal cords. It is important to give the vocal cords rest as much as possible. That means no talking and no singing. The vocal cords need time to regenerate, so the longer you rest it, the better.
Vocal warm-ups are very important. Warm-up exercises prepare your vocal cords for singing by stretching the vocal cords, and helps to clear the throat. Even if you don’t plan to sing, daily warm-ups will give the vocal cords the muscle tone you need for singing. Just try to find some time every day for vocal exercises to maintain your form in singing.
These are the general guidelines for maintaining a healthy voice. All bodies are different, and react differently. Listen to your body, and avoid anything that causes you to lose or damage your voice. If your throat hurts, it’s your body’s way of telling you to STOP. Give your voice some rest, get some extra sleep to take care of your tired voice. Do not push through if there is pain. You can seriously damage your voice by singing when your voice is strained or your throat is hurting.
Voice is a gift of nature, unique to every individual. It needs to be nurtured with care and developed with practice. Hope these suggestions will help you in maintaining a healthy voice.