I’ve read your column now for several months and there is lots of excellent advice. But, to be honest, I’m grossed out by the thought of nasal sprays and sitting around with a steamer doesn’t fit my sense of how I want to spend my evening. Are these things really necessary to get the most out of my voice?
I appreciate the sense of your comments; it is not my intention to suggest that good singing necessarily requires elaborate rituals of daily hygiene. And the truth is, many singers, especially in the non-classical genre, just sing, taking their voice for granted as a god-given talent. So if you are a singer who sings consistently well by dint of natural ability and hard work, the last thing you want to do is to fuss and obsess with your voice! But if your voice is your lively-hood, you need it to be good and dependable – not now and then, but every time.
There are only a few professions where your reputation, and your paycheck, are on the line every time you do your work – singing is one of them. Think of your vocal apparatus as your car, a machine that you drive hard, day after day. You can maintain it, or you can fix it. The one thing you can not do, in this case, is trade it in! – you’re stuck with this one car for the rest of your life. If you want it to dependably take you where you need to go, ongoing maintenance is the obvious answer!
It is inexpensive and harmless to maintain your voice, although, I agree, a bit boring. Steaming, drinking lots of water and periods of voice rest are not sexy. But trying to fix the voice once it’s broken is not only more expensive but also unpredictable. Either way, it’s the one voice you have. As a famous throat specialist said once, you should always sing on the interest, not on the principal. Don’t “spend” your vocal capital, because once it is gone, once you have run out of ways to compensate for a voice that is irretrievably damaged, you may be stuck.
-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)
This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.
Dr. Jahn is an internationally renowned otolaryngologist based in Manhattan with a sub-specialty interest in the professional voice. His practice includes classical and popular singers. He holds academic appointments at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He is Medical Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and former Director of Medical Services at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Dr. Jahn has published several books for vocalists, including “Vocal Heath for Singers” (Singdaptive) and “The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health” (Oxford University Press).