Not many people worry about their voice, but for singers, actors, and even teachers, the voice is an instrument used to do your job with. Maintaining good vocal cord health is if you are going to protect your vocal folds from damage.
Here are 7 simple rules and tips if you want to keep your vocal cords happy and healthy.
1. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water not only benefits your overall health, but it's crucial in keeping your vocal cords lubricated and nourished.
The amount of water you drink will depend on your activity level and how much you use your voice during the day. However, to keep your throat hydrated, drink at least eight cups of water per day.
You can also eat foods like watermelon, grapes, and apples, as it contains lots of moisture and will help to keep your vocal cords hydrated. Having a proper water balance keeps your vocal cords in optimum condition.
2. Get Enough Rest
To successfully build bigger muscles and get stronger, you need to rest and give your muscles enough time to recover – which also goes for your vocal cords.
Like an athlete should rest before a big game, you need to rest before major performances or events.
Maintaining your vocal health relies on you treating your voice as any other muscle and giving it a well-deserved break.
Always make sure you catch up on your sleep and allow yourself ‘vocal naps’ during the day ( short periods of time where you avoid speaking).
3. Don’t Abuse Your Voice
Abusing your voice is more than just screaming at the top of your lungs. It also refers to your diet, drinking alcohol, and smoking habits.
Studies have shown that singers tend to have a higher risk for acid reflux than the average person.
The way a singer uses their voice can cauuse big pressure changes inside the body and can contribute to acid produced by the stomach.
By avoiding spicy foods or citrus fruits, as well as limit your alcohol intake, you lower your risk of acid reflux.
Smoking is, without a doubt, the biggest culprit of abuse. You may go through life smoking and never get cancer, but it does tremendously increase the risk. Remember, every time you inhale smoke (including secondhand smoke) you dry and irritate your vocal cords.
4. Avoid Throat Clearing and Harsh Coughing
According to the Texas Voice Center, throat clearing and harsh coughing can cause great damage to your vocal cords. Imagine clapping your hands as hard as possible over and over again. After a while, they become red, swollen, and sore. This is exactly what happens to your vocal cords when you cough or clear your throat.
When you feel the need to cough or clear your throat, adapt to a safer way by giving a gentle, breathy cough. Before you cough, take a deep breath and hold it for a moment. As you release the air, produce a more silent and sharper “H”-sound.
5. Do Relaxation Exercises
When you overwork a muscle, it tends to get sore and stiff. This is why stretching plays an important role in relaxing muscles and preventing injuries.
Inappropriate technique and stress cause tension in your throat and neck, which can limit your vocal range. By doing relaxation exercises, you help keep the muscles relaxed and use your voice in its optimum condition; getting maximum output with the least amount of effort.
If you experience any tension in your jaw, throat, or neck, hold your hands together and stretch your arms as far as possible above your head. Take numerous deep breaths as slowly as possible and for as long as you can.
When you include different stretching and breathing exercises into your routine, your body will release hormones that trigger a relaxation response, calming your body and mind.
6. Develop a Proper Speaking Technique
Whether you’re a singer or a public speaker, you must pay attention to how you speak every day.
It’s important that you take deep breaths and keep your voice at your natural register. Make sure you don’t speak in an unnaturally high-pitched voice while restricting your breath flow, and you may even avoid crowded rooms on occasion so as not to speak in an elevated tone and strain your vocal cords. In other words, talk calmly as much as you can.
7. Always Do Warm-ups
Never skip a warm-up before a performance or an event. Consider your voice as an important instrument and make time for a warm-up routine. By including relaxation exercises and warm-ups in your routine, you're giving your voice a head start.
Start your session with a few deep breaths, followed with any of these easy warm-ups:
Sing a vowel, moving it up and down between your bottom and top ranges. Be careful of going to high the first time round. Rather add a bit more with each scale as you feel your voice is warming up.
Humming is also a great option if you don’t like doing scales. By humming your favorite song, you will warm up your voice without straining it like singing can.
Lip trills, also known as horse’s lips, teach you to relax your lips and tongue, while stil controlling your breath. This powerful exercise also strengthens your vocal cords and eliminates tension.
Before starting this exercise, make sure you loosen your lips and let them hang free. Then you take a deep breath and release the air between your lips and let them vibrate. At the end of the day, you need to look like a horse blowing air through its lips.
Use your voice to make like a siren by using the “e”-sound and sliding it up and down your vocal range. To keep your throat and neck relaxed as you do the siren, toss your arms up and down in a circular motion.
Are You Serious About Vocal Cord Health?
Taking care of your voice and maintaining vocal cord health may seem like a lot of work, but if your voice is your career it will be worth it. You need to keep it healthy in order to sustain its quality, so focus on following the tips above, and keeping your vocal cords healthy will soon become like second nature.
About the Author: Julie Adams
I am a mom, a music lover and teacher from Tampa, FL. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Performance Arts, I traveled for several years before returning home where I started offering private piano and singing lessons as extra income. I met my husband in 2009 and 2 years later moved to Dallas where we settled down and I started focusing on vocal training to aspiring singers and performance artists of all age groups. I still enjoy playing the piano very much, and in my spare time you will catch doing some horse riding, drawing, doing some light reading, or just spending quality time with my family.