Struggling to Hit the Notes? Perfect Vocals in 5 StepsBy
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Don’t hate me, but it seems that the life of a serious vocalist—whatever your genre—is less the Hollywood portrayal of all-night partying (and all that comes with such a scene) and more of self-control and pampering. I mean, the things it takes to really care for the vocal instrument seem, ahem, a little nerdy—or boring, if you like. But, please don’t let a little boring deter you, because this is serious stuff. It’s not like you can pack your vocal chords up in a nice little case and put them away for safekeeping, like most instruments.
So, what are some practical ways in which you can care for your voice box (also known as your larynx, which houses your vocal chords or vocal folds)?
Hydrate. With Water.
This step is something that you can do pretty much anytime, anywhere: drink lots of water. The reason for this? The more water you drink, the thinner the mucous on your vocal chords will be, which means less vocal interruption for you.
Make sure you are well hydrated by drinking the recommended 64 ounces per day. If you have an affinity for dehydrating liquids (such as alcohol or caffeinated beverages), you’ll need to up your water intake even more; a good rule of thumb is to drink at least as many ounces of water as you are the dehydrating beverage in addition to the daily recommended amount. That’s a lot of water! To help get you in the habit, have a water bottle (or two) with you at all times, especially when you’re performing.
Another great way to keep your vocal chords hydrated is to steam. You can do this by using a facial steamer or by boiling a pot of water and breathing in the steam. Do this two to three times a day for about 10 minutes, when possible.
Note: steaming can’t replace drinking water. Nice try.
Though some suggest drinking hot tea or water before a performance, it’s best to avoid boiling hot water as it can cause inflammation, especially on already fatigued vocal muscles. Ice water, which causes muscles to contract, is not your friend either, particularly after you’ve warmed up or during a gig, as it can significantly reduce your vocal range.
So, what do you do? Ideally, stick with lukewarm water. If you do drink tea—I like Throat Coat Tea—try heating the water and removing it from heat right before it boils. This way you get some warmth without doing damage.