Most of us use our voices all day long but only a few people are aware of how to take care of their voice to guarantee optimum vocal health and vocal power.
Whether you realise it or not, even what you eat and drink has a lot to do with how good you sound.
These simple vocal care tips will keep your vocal cords in tip-top shape:
Keep your vocal cords hydrated
A moist vocal tract will give you the best sound with the least amount of vocal effort. Vocal health experts agree that you should drink a minimum of eight glasses of water per day.
To keep your vocal cords functioning optimally, before and during an important presentation, anything you drink should be at room temperature or close to body temperature. Ideally, drinks should not be too hot or too cold because extreme temperatures can de-neutralise your sensitive vocal instrument.
On the day before and the day of an important presentation, try to avoid alcohol, smoking and second-hand smoke, antihistamines and chocolate. Note that penicillin and many prescription drugs also dry out vocal cords, so hydrate more if you are taking medication.
Prevent excess phlegm
Many coffee, tea and soda drinkers need to clear their throats frequently. Caffeine is also a diuretic and flushes water out of your body. Loss of fluid creates mucous and phlegm that is thicker and more concentrated, which makes you want to cough and clear your throat more often.
If you are a die-hard coffee or tea drinker, don’t despair. One or two cups won’t kill your voice but after that it’s best to switch to drinking decaf, herbal tea or plain water for the rest of the day.
Many people find dairy products phlegm-producing so, if this is an issue for you, avoid all dairy products. Also limit your sugar intake, including sugary drinks and fruit juices before performing or presenting.
Be selective about alcoholic drinks
If you need to entertain for work or fancy alcohol with dinner, the night before and the day of your presentation avoid red wine, grain alcohol, vodka and beer because they can sometimes spark allergic reactions that decrease your vocal power. If you must drink for social reasons or simply cannot abstain, choose white wine instead.
Women who are pregnant, lactating or menstruating will generally experience extra vocal mucous and vocal cord swelling. To manage this, simply take more time to warm up than usual and drink extra water to ensure your vocal cords are moist and flexible.
Coughing and whispering
Speakers often clear their throats as a nervous habit or because they have consumed too much caffeine. Try not to clear your throat too much. Instead, cough gently or silently. Then build up saliva in your mouth, lower your chin to your chest, and swallow.
If you are feeling unwell or struggling vocally, don’t speak with a forced whisper. The reason for this is that your tiny crycothyroid muscle at the back of your throat weakens and wears out much faster than if you just speak normally.
Soothing a tired throat
To comfort a fatigued voice, many people add honey and lemon to drinks. However, consuming lemon or citrus like grapefruit and orange causes you to salivate more and also produce excess phlegm, which makes you need to clear your throat more often.
Warm water and non-caffeinated teas (without lemon or sweeteners) are very soothing to the voice. Two of my favourite herbal teas are peppermint, which will give you energy, and chamomile, which will calm you.
If you need to suck on something to relieve your throat, lozenges with glycerin are the most soothing. Stay away from menthol flavours because they tend to irritate delicate vocal folds.
The best way to manage an ailing voice is to use your voice as little as possible or to give yourself complete vocal rest for 12 to 24 hours. If that isn’t possible, make sure you warm up slowly and gently, doing your best to keep any strain off your throat and voice. Only light and gentle vocal exercises should be performed if you are unwell.
Finally, ample sleep and complete vocal rest are the best solutions to heal an overly stressed voice.
Ensuring peak performance
Don’t drink anything carbonated before or during an important presentation because it could cause you to burp.
It’s actually best to stick with warm or room temperature water all the time for peak vocal performance.
If you are leading up to an important presentation and are in any way nervous about it, these simple vocal care tips will help you to feel more confident, keep your vocal cords in tip-top shape and put your best voice forward.