How to Protect Your Vocal Cords and Keep them Healthy for Decades

Do you dream of singing with the stars? Do you dream of making your living as a professional singer? Or do you simply wish to improve your singing voice to impress your friends at Thursday night karaoke?

Whatever your goal, there are specific things you can do that will help you to get more out of your voice, avoid excessive wear and tear, and increase the level you hit on your “fun-o-meter!”

Anyone that sings, at some point, experiences a scratchy voice, vocal strain or even laryngitis. These steps will help ensure that you maintain your singing voice and keep it in the best condition possible.

While it’s healthy and advisable for all adults to drink a minimum of eight, 8oz. glasses of water per day (half a gallon), it’s absolutely essential for the vocalist, as this will maintain good hydration of your vocal cords.

It’s important to understand that water goes down your esophagus into your stomach, not down the opening that leads to your vocal cords and trachea. So the only way water affects your cords is by being carried to them through the bloodstream.

Also, learning to breathe properly will help you to sing your best. The simplest way to learn is to put your hands on your stomach and as you inhale imagine your belly is filling up with air. As you exhale, just allow your belly to fall back to its original position. Then try this as you sing a sustained note.

Quit YELLING!!! If you are in the process of taking voice lessons or teaching yourself to sing, take it easy on your voice when you can. Constantly beating up your voice with yelling, shouting or over-talking for no good reason causes wear and tear that will just make singing harder and less fun. This might mean that hanging out at the club and screaming over the DJ needs to be indulged in a little less often. Sorry!

Warm up your voice. Vocalize every day if you can. This will keep your voice healthy and responsive.

Sleep! For god sakes go to bed. Give up that last hour of channel surfing and let your body get the rest it needs.

Most people are aware that your diet affects how healthy your voice is? But there’s frequently confusion as to what in particular. Here are a few things you should know.

For instance, alcohol and sometimes – even mouthwash can contain ingredients that irritate the throat and dry the vocal cords. Foods that are really spicy can adversely affect your cords. Anything acidic can be problematic such as lemon (I know, there goes the tea with lemon and honey). And of course it’s commonly known that dairy can also cause a lot of problems. But each person’s body is different and if we wanted to avoid all worldly ills we’d move into a monastery. So just be aware and be honest with yourself if something is getting in the way.

Chuck that butt! Cigarette smoke, whether it’s first-hand or second-hand, not only will kill you, but it burns the heck out of your cords. Dries them out too. If you decide that your cool, hip style requires that you suck on a coffin nail just be aware and take it easy before you have to sing.

The bottom line is to simply be mindful of how these things affect your voice. And if you’re going to do them, do them in moderation. Take care of yourself!

Well now you know you want to sing and you know that taking care of your throat and voice is crucial. So what’s next?

Pick a card, any card! There are many different types of singing genres — there’s jazz, choir, gospel singing, and even throat singing.

Decide what type or types of vocal performances you want to focus on and move towards making that happen. Make sure you’re having fun. You’re going to make a lot more progress and faster if you love what you’re doing.

And if you’re just getting started, don’t pick Beyonce’s latest stratospheric opus as your first song. Find something that you can win at. You’re a lot more likely to stay motivated if you feel like you’re accomplishing something.

The best way to improve your singing voice? Practice vocalizing every single day!

Seriously, make it a point to practice on a regular basis either with a voice coach, online singing lessons, with your local choir or at amateur events whenever the opportunity arises. Make a demo to get some studio experience (and to show your friends how awesome you are!) Put yourself on the line. Nothing like a little pressure to push you to the next level.

But above all. Enjoy yourself!

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2 Responses to How to Protect Your Vocal Cords and Keep them Healthy for Decades

  1. Jett Monroe October 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Hi Steven,

    I went to the WCS conference and sat in on your class “Between the Songs” I am on the shy side and I don’t have a quick wit… When you told the class that it is okay to tell a rehearsed story in between songs. You took a load of worry off my back.. I am still scared as heck but. Also, So what!!! has helped me to lighten up on myself…..Thank you very much!

    Jett Monroe

    • Steven Memel November 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

      Hi Jett,

      So glad the workshop helped. I’m always hoping to ease not only performers’ work, but also their minds!

      Be well,