The life of a musician is often busy and itinerant, meaning you can neglect your health and wellbeing at times. So what healthy habits should you be adopting as a singer, and how can you incorporate these into your daily life?
Vocal health, for singers – whether solo artists or backup musicians – is very important. Adopting healthy habits for your voice need not be time-consuming, expensive or inconvenient.
Read our guide to 11 healthy habits for your voice, which provides easy tips to ensure your vocals stay on top form. They’ll help transform your vocal health and make you feel great in the process.
How can I take care of my voice?
Protecting your vocal health
Vocal health for singers: We speak a lot about good health and keeping well. But do you ever think about your vocal health specifically? For a singer, the voice and vocal cords are the most important part of their body.
Like a footballer’s legs, Without protected vocal cords and without good vocal health a singer cannot experience vocal damage and be unable to perform for periods of time.
But it’s not only about keeping you performing, but it’s also about keeping you performing at your best – and making sure you feel on top of the world while you’re at it.
So how do you go about improving your vocal health specifically? What are the steps you can take to improve your longevity and effectivity as a singer and where do you start with them?
Here are 11 healthy habits you can adopt in your life today.
#1 Protecting your vocal cords when sick
When you’re tired or unwell, it’s important to know how to care for your voice and its vocal health. It’s also just as important to know how to warm up correctly before performing in front of your audience to not damage your vocal cords!.
What if I’m feeling unwell but still considering singing?
When feeling unwell, always keep your fluid levels up by drinking plenty of water. Taking cough medicine to stop excessive coughing will help to stop any further damage and manage your vocal health. It’s not good to take this long term however, so once you’re feeling better again, pop it straight back in the medicine cupboard.
Boosting vitamin C levels reduces inflammation and sitting with your head over a bowl of steam eases congestion and provides hydration to the vocal cords.
If it is necessary to perform whilst you’re still feeling unwell, make sure you do a longer and gentler warm–up than usual to help prevent further damage. Warming up before any show is essential to keep good vocal health.
#2 Vocal health tips: Vocal warm-ups
Just as you are likely to pull a muscle without warming up before exercise, the same is true with your vocal cords and putting extra strain on your vocal cords without a warm–up can cause permanent damage.
To warm up your vocal cords make sure you are in good posture, release any tension in your jaw and make sure you breathe deeply. Do some scales and tongue trills to relax your tongue. Similarly, you should cool down after singing. For this, you can reverse your warm-up in brief.
To be keep your vocal health safe, do not ever try to sing if it hurts or feels difficult in any way and seek medical advice.
#3 How to take care of your vocal cords for singing rock
Your lifestyle can affect your vocal health You should try to avoid screaming and shouting loudly where necessary. This causes the vocal cords to squeeze together, creating trauma. The same happens when you whisper.
If you sing rock genre music, you may need to incorporate a raspy sound into your style. It’s important you work with a vocal coach to perfect this technique – getting it wrong can result in vocal damage.
So if you’re using screaming, or a gravel/scratch sound in your music and you haven’t worked on correct technique to do so, stop now. Go back to basics and spend a lot of time studying via online tutorials, but ideally with a coach before you continue. Halting any potentially damaging singing styles until you know how to do it safely, will go a long way to protecting your vocal health.
#4 What is the best drink for your singing voice?
Water, water – and more water. It’s free, takes seconds to get a glass and is good for you. Keep your vocals hydrated. It’s the simplest of all our tips and will have a big impact on your voice and physical wellbeing.
Drinking two litres of water a day is what is recommended for a good vocal health. Within two hours before performing it’s important to drink plenty of fluid to lubricate the vocal cords. Keep the fluids at room temperature if possible; icy cold water or boiling hot tea isn’t what you want to be dousing your vocal cords with.
Try to also avoid dairy products, citrus fruits/juice, fizzy drinks, coffee or alcohol especially on or before the day of a performance. Anything with caffeine in it will dehydrate the vocal cords and lead to poor vocal health.
#5 How to keep your throat healthy for singing
Don’t smoke. Smoking is an absolute no–no for singers! That includes pipes, cigars and vaping. This will save you money and takes no time at all to implement. Just a lot of willpower – and we don’t underestimate this, we know it’s hard, but it will definitely be worth it. Buy yourself treats or do something with the money you’re saving as an added incentive.
As this will most likely be the most difficult habit to change, you might want to consider nicotine patches or get help from a local NHS Stop Smoking support group.
If you’re not a smoker, still make every effort to stay away from cigarette smoke. If you inhale too much, you may be passively smoking. So keep a distance and don’t loiter in the smoking areas. Singers used to have to contend with performing in smoke-filled rooms. Fortunately these days smoking is banned indoors, so that’s a thing of the past.
#6 Mental, physical and vocal health for singers
Avoid stress and stay relaxed especially as you’re leading up to a performance. Anxiety can impact the voice, making it sound shrill. Try taking a big breath in, then breathing out slowly to a count of five increasing the count each time you do it, as far as you can. Calm, long exhales help de-stress the nervous system.
Make sure you also get plenty of sleep. If you’re pulling in some late-night gigs as well as holding down a day job, you may be burning the candle at both ends. Catch up on sleep on your days off – have lie-ins whenever possible. Don’t party too hard and take power naps in your lunch break or before a show, to boost your immune system. Or you could try a yoga Nidra guided meditation for deep relaxation when you need rejuvenating fast. These can be downloaded for free on apps like Spotify, Podbean and iTunes.
Try and keep your physical health in check too, especially if you intend to perform dance routines as part of your set and use the full space of the stage with energetic movement. Being fit will help you to avoid becoming too breathless which may affect your singing when performing.
Activities that work on core strength are excellent too. This might be the time to join a gym, take up hiking, dancing, martial arts, or sign up for a run with your mates. With so many options to get fit and work out, there’s no excuse not to maintain your physical health – and in turn, that’ll support your mental health.
#7 Singers diet for a healthy voice
Foods that are good for your singing voice
Eating well with a balanced and healthy diet will also help you to keep fit and strong so don’t underestimate its importance. Thinks lots of fresh fruit and veg, oily fish, chicken, and mineral-rich foods. Manuka honey is pricey but great for protecting against viruses and soothing the voice after singing. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, make sure you still get plenty of protein. Beans and seeds are an excellent healthy source for this.
We’re often asked what the best foods and drinks are for singers. You can read more of our articles dedicated to the topic of diet.
#8 How to make your voice clear for singing
A healthy voice is a pleasant-sounding voice. If your tone lacks clarity you may be singing through your nose. Instead, make your voice clear for singing by opening up the throat and supporting the breath.
#9 Vocal naps for vocal health
We’ve talked about sleep naps, but did you know about vocal naps? A vocal nap is when you take a break from all singing and speaking for a period of time to completely rest the voice.
If you’re doing a lot of singing, make time for these vocal naps throughout the day. And sleep naps double as vocal naps since you’re not speaking or singing when sleeping (unless you do some serious sleep talking) – so you can achieve two goals in one.
Welsh songstress Katherine Jenkins takes this one step further. When she’s on tour, she doesn’t utter a word or note between shows. Everything is written down, so her vocals receive sufficient rest before the next gig. This might seem extreme. But when you tour by yourself and your voice is your career, it’s well worth taking care of it. Many singers take out insurance policies against voice damage and voice loss too.
#10 Kick the throat-clearing habit
Part of developing good habits is kicking those old bad ones out. Many people clear their throat when they’re nervous, often repeatedly, before singing or speaking in public. You may notice this happening when someone is giving a speech at a wedding, or work meeting.
This becomes an affectation and the more you do it, the more you feel you need to do it. Unless you have a tickly cough, there really is nothing happening in your throat making you want to clear it. So you need to remind your brain that.
Instead, sip on water and swallow. Once you get into this habit, the need to clear your throat will go, over time.
#11 Amp up your vocal health
Another cause of vocal strain is trying to fill a space that’s just too big or cavernous for your voice. This is easily solved. Get a good microphone and amp. This will also enable you to bring light and shade into your performance rather than having to focus on just being loud enough to be heard.
If your amp is too powerful you can always turn it down, but if it’s not loud enough at max volume, you’re stuck. So get something with enough power, and if the venue is providing your kit, ask them to up the levels enough that you don’t need to strain.
Unfortunately, this is by far the most expensive of the habit changes. However, it is a necessary one if you’re going to be performing at all sorts of locations – including busking and at outdoor events. The good news is that the money you earn doing these gigs should cover the costs and some, over time.
These are all important tips to keep your vocal health safe. So follow these 11 healthy habits for your voice and you’ll hear and feel the difference when you’re singing, before, during and after your shows.
- What determines your vocal range?
Your physiological makeup will affect and set your vocal range – and that is determined by genetics such as the shape of your vocal folds and throat/nasal cavities and environmental factors. But you can develop on this, so the work you put in will also determine your vocal range in the long run.
- Is it possible to increase vocal range by an octave?
How much room you have to increase your range will again depend on what mother nature gave you in the first place, but in theory, it is possible. You can do this with a vocal coach, or at home with consistent practice of exercises and techniques. Find out how to increase your vocal range here.
- How can I make my voice better for singing?
The first place to start on improving your singing voice is actually your diaphragm and breath control. This provides the support and in turn, has a huge impact on the quality of sound you make. Beyond that, it’s a case of working on technique, practising and building experience singing live.
Do you have any hot tips on vocal health for singers? What healthy habits have you adopted? Tell us about them in the comments below