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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Key Elements to Vocal Health

It’s a common myth that some people can sing and others can’t. I’ve heard many people in the past tell me that they’ve never been able to sing or someone in their childhood told them they were no good. The fact is, unless you have serious health issues with your throat anyone can learn to sing, in as much as they have the ability to learn any instrument.
The difference between those who can naturally sing and those who can’t is that some people are born naturally innervated and the others must devote more time to practicing in order to  develop their voice initially. However, even the most beautiful natural voice requires proper vocal training and technique.
I have had many students who started out in very poor condition, the more work they are willing to put forth in lessons and practice, the faster their voice improves. Unless you take care of your voice, treat your vocal chords well and keep practicing regularly, things  just don’t magically come together. Just like anything else worthwhile in life, you get out of it, what you put in.

Warm-up
Every singer always needs a good vocal warm up before they sing, whether practicing or performing, a good warm up is vital. I suggest warming up for the day in the morning as a singer risks doing permanent damage to their vocal chords because they either couldn’t be bothered, or are unaware of the importance of doing a warm up before they sing.
Your vocal chords are muscles and need to be treated with respect to avoid damage. Damaging them can be extremely painful and even a minor injury to your vocal chords may stop you singing for a long time and sometimes may stop you singing altogether.  Really not worth the risk, for a few moments a day of warming up.
After a prolonged period of time, abuse can cause nodules to form on the vocal chords due to the excessive strain of  beating your voice without properly warming up.
If you were an athlete, you wouldn’t consider running a race without warming up first. You might get away with it for a while but sooner or later you are likely to pull a leg muscle or do permanent damage to your ligaments. The same goes for your throat and vocal chords.
You should spend a minimum of 10 minutes in daily warm-up although 15-20mins is better!
It is also important to practice properly, please read our post about practicing.
Smoking
Lots of famous  stars are considered to be great singers, but actually, many aren’t quite as good as they may seem. Many successful artists have relatively limited vocal ranges and tend to stay within the same octave or two throughout their careers.
When you stop smoking it seriously reduces the chances of developing lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer, gum disease, heart attacks, strokes and emphysema. You will feel healthier and able to conquer any vocal challenge.
Save yourself from yellow teeth, smelly breath, premature ageing and countless throat infections, colds and flu you might catch throughout the year. It is well known that cigarettes practically nullify all the vitamin C supplies in your body every time you smoke, so your body in no longer able to fight infection.
Alcohol
You don’t have to ruin your social life completely, but just tone it down a bit. Alcohol is extremely drying, and therefore is not a good performance enhancer.  It takes several glasses of water to account for every ounce of alcohol.
Hydration – Water
Keep fully hydrated at all times by drinking water. Your body will have all the water it needs to keep it’s organs and muscles working well and efficiently. As well as keeping your vocal chords fully lubricated you will find you have a greater sense of well being, general alertness and more energy than before. Try to drink at least two litres of water a day. Although your body gets enough water from the food you eat, keeping yourself well hydrated will help keep your vocal chords in good condition. Don’t attack vocal chords with freezing cold water when you’re trying to sing. Keep your water bottle at room temperature at least.
Foods to Avoid
 Coffee and tea are very drying because they both contain caffeine. Caffeine has a negative effect on the vocal chords, dehydrates your throat and stimulates the production of phlegm, especially coffee. Try not to drink either just before you sing. If you do, remember, for every cup of caffeinated beverage, you must drink 2 cups of water to re-hydrate.
Dairy products like milk and cheese coat your throat and the mucus membrane of your vocal chords, affecting your voice and making it much harder to sing. Make sure you limit them for a few hours before you sing.  It is also a good idea to avoid extreme spice prior to performance.
Take Care of your Body
It is important that everyone gets enough sleep.  Try and get 7 – 8 hours a night to keep your voice and the rest of your body healthy. Also, cardiovascular exercises like running and swimming will improve your lungs and breathing ability, enabling you to sing better.   Please remember to read Vitamins for Vocal Health
Be Clean
Brush your teeth 2 – 3 times a day, floss and upkeep them well. Clear but don’t rinse your mouth out after you have brushed your teeth. You will wash away all the protective barriers and fluorine in your toothpaste.
Taking off your shoes and washing your hands when you enter your house will effectively kill 90% of the germs you’ve picked up throughout the day and prevent you bringing them into your home.
They say a cash machine has more germs than a toilet seat, so do door handles, push buttons, and money.  Imagine how many public things you touch each day and how many other people with flu’s, colds and infections have been touching. Alcohol hand gels are handy and help kill bacteria.

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