This spring, I have been conducting weekly coaching sessions through Zoom with Adam Roberts, a vocal coach who, in addition to working with singers, also helps high-performing thought leaders and CEOs to empower their voices in a healthy and sustainable way. His training in vocology, the scientific study of the voice, and vocal empowerment, gives him unique insights into the dos and don’ts of caring for your voice.
We’ll get to the details, but first: why should we pay more attention to our vocal health? Roberts says that vocal health is not specific to professional vocalists like singers and actors. He says: “Even in people who may not be very dependent on their voices from a professional point of view, the vocal cords can vibrate hundreds of thousands of times a day! That’s a lot of back and forth, so it’s important to keep your vocal mechanism healthy. “
We have all experienced hoarseness from time to time, but according to temporary researchers from the Cleveland ClinicAlmost 20% of the US population has some degree of chronic voice dysfunction.
And in voice-intensive occupations, like school teachers, that number is even higher. As someone who uses his voice a lot, both personally (as my husband will attest, haha) and professionally, I’d like to keep mine as clear, expressive, and effortless as possible! The good news? Many of the things we can do to keep our voices in tip-top shape are the same things that help keep our minds and bodies generally healthy.
So you wonder how to take care of your voice? Read on for Roberts’ recommendations on practical lifestyle choices and the tools we can use to immediately improve our vocal health.
Thurs: Stay hydrated
H20 is incredibly important for the smooth operation and long-term maintenance of the voice. If you are a teacher, a member of the clergy, a minor league coach, or anyone else who can use your voice to a greater degree than most, consider investing in a personal steam inhaler. Steam offers a more direct route to the vocal cords than water in liquid form (although that is very important too!);
While it may be tempting to cheer on your favorite team under the lights on Friday night, the fun shouldn’t result in hoarseness (or worse, a total loss of voice). Maintain your rhythm, support your voice, and try to “shout” instead, as if you are echoing through a mountain. Avoiding harsh and overproduced “screaming” sounds will help ensure that you can be a fan for life, not just for a season.
Do: focus on flexibility
Literally! Remember that vocal health doesn’t stop inside your throat; it is a proposal for the whole body. People often ask me “If there was one thing I could do to improve my voice, what would it be?” My answer? Yoga: or other physical practice that promotes a connection between flexibility and breathing. You can delve deeper into a particular practice that I use with clients called The Alexander Technique, here.
Don’t: Breathe shallowly
It’s truly amazing what it can do to take a break during the day to take a deep breath. We want to avoid clavicular breathing (breathing heavily from the shoulders up and down) as much as possible. At the beginning of each day, allot 30 seconds to look in the mirror and take a few supported breaths arising from your abdomen rather than your upper chest. Check your shoulders in the mirror to make sure they are not contributing extra movement to the process.
Do: Take time to rest your voice
Interestingly, some recent research suggests new considerations for vocal rest after an acute injury or voice surgery. However, for day-to-day maintenance, it is always a good idea to plan short vocal break periods during days when you have several long meetings or other circumstances where you will be talking a lot. For example, it’s a great idea for teachers to try to use their planning periods to rest their voices while catching up on work, particularly when those “downtimes” occur later in the school day.
Do not smoke
It probably goes without saying, but smoking is a big no-no when it comes to the health of the vocal mechanism (and the rest of our bodies, of course).
PHOTO: Image of Riley blanks
Do: use pills
The pills are great! I really love Pills for dry mouth Fontus, which were developed by my friend and colleague Kailtin Hopkins, a musical theater performer and director of the musical theater program at Texas State University. Kaitlin came up with the idea for these pills because of the dry mouth symptoms experienced by a family member with Parkinson’s disease, and they are now used by artists and speakers around the world.
What to do: Try a personal steam inhaler
As I mentioned earlier, a personal steam inhaler is a great tool to have on hand, especially if you are a professional voice user. These come in a variety of price ranges, sizes, and handheld or tabletop options. This is one I recommend it.
Do: practice self-awareness
The absolute best tool to have in your personal care toolbox when it comes to voice is awareness. Know the situations that make your voice feel particularly tired. Tune in to the circumstances that tempt you to yell, yell, or yell, and make plans to avoid that temptation. When do you feel especially tense? That tension is probably affecting your voice in a big way too. By adding awareness to your kit for the day, you’re doing your voice a huge favor!
Many thanks to Adam for sharing these tips on how to take care of your voice and stay tuned for more of his vocal tips. Next: how to speak with confidence.