As a classical and cabaret singer, caring for my voice has been of the utmost importance before performances, especially operas, and during rehearsal periods. Now that I also have an active voice teaching studio, I am speaking much more often, and as a result, I need additional ways to care for my voice in order to avoid vocal fatigue. Here are a few helpful tips that can be used by anyone who finds themselves talking more and experiencing vocal fatigue throughout the day.
Hydration is a must. I recommend drinking 64 oz of water per day to keep the area around the larynx – the throat, the pharynx, and the mucous membranes continuously hydrated.
If the voice itself feels dry, the only thing that will get to the actual vocal folds is a good steam since the folds are housed inside the larynx in the windpipe. Unless you swallow wrong, water will never touch them. A handheld steamer is a convenient choice for regular steaming, but you can just as easily boil a pot of water, let it cool a bit, and stick your head under a towel over the pot for 10 minutes while inhaling through the nose and mouth for maximum steam relief. (*Be careful not to burn your face if you use the pot of water method.)
Warm Up/Cool Down
If you plan to speak most of the day, it is a good idea to warm up the voice beforehand. There are several simple exercises that can be done to achieve a warm up. One of my favorites involves taking a straw, putting it into a glass with 1-2” of water, and then singing into the straw. The singing pattern doesn’t need to be fancy, but it needs to be consistent. Blow bubbles in the water while you sing trying to keep the bubbles from getting bigger as you continue to sing a phrase. Alternatively, you could try a lip trill which is similar to a raspberry or motorboat sound but with pitch. Sirens are also helpful. These are like long sighs that go from high to low and low to high.
At the end of a long day of speaking, a cool down of the same exercises will help the voice to relax and reset.
Consistent Pitch Center
When speaking, it is important to be aware of one’s pitch center and avoid speaking too low. When we speak too low, it is possible to put too much pressure on the vocal folds which can then lead to hoarseness and potential injury. Consistently speaking at a higher pitch (as long as it is comfortable) will keep the voice from getting tired too quickly and allow the speaker to more comfortably present papers, sales pitches, closing arguments, lessons, etc.
Just as the Warm Up and Cool Down are effective and essential for a healthy voice, the vocal reset can be helpful in the middle of the day. This can consist of a 2-3 minute rest period between phone calls, zoom meetings, or in-person client meetings to hydrate, breathe, and do a few deep sighs, as well as realign the posture of the upper body. Inhale slowly on a count of four and then exhale slowly on a count of six. Repeat two more times. Inhale and do some voiced sighs. Doing this should help to re-center the voice and relax the body.
If your job involves talking on the phone, holding in-person client meetings, spending long days on zoom, or teaching on google meet, these vocal techniques are a must to keep your voice healthy. They have made quite a difference in my own voice, and I am sure that they will for you. If you have questions, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s to a vocal health throughout the day!
Content provided by Women Belong member Jennifer Blades