Ten Ways to Avoid Vocal Injury

Passionate Singer and Microphone.
Voice Therapist Jackie Presti shares essential tips on lessening your chances of a vocal injury.

Applying theses actions can lessen your chance of a vocal injury:

1. Hydrate. You’ve heard it before, so hear it again. Drink water! Lots of it! 8 glasses (64 oz) is what the Docs say, but if you’re in a really arid climate, dry room or sweat a lot, you might think about drinking more than that. Also under this topic is steam (great for thinning out mucus on the cords, easing a cough/cold) I have more to say about this at the end!

2. Mind Your Neck Muscles. When they are in a permanent state of contraction and stress, your vocal cords are not able to vibrate easily, thus creating a larynx that is immobile and inflexible. This makes your singing more labored; you end up relying on muscle tension to create sound. I have more to say about this at the end.

3. Don’t smoke anything. Smoke dries out the protective lining that covers your vocal cords. This lining needs to be moist and flexible. Smoking AND alcohol (see below) is particularly damaging to this lining. Look at some pictures of vocal cords with cancer. Might help you to put down that cigarette or joint.

4. Limit Your Alcohol Use – if you do have a drink, you can counter its dehydrating effect by drinking some water very near to the same time you drink. Refrain from all alcohol when you are actually singing!

5. Investigate Your Meds check out all the medicines you take and any side effects they may have on your voice. Not all doctors have extensive knowledge about the detrimental side effects that some prescription and non-prescription medications (the ever-controversial Ibuprofen) can have on your voice. A good source for investigation: the National Center for Voice & Speech.

6.Pay Attention to Your Speech Quality. Lots of singers sing well and speak horribly! That creaky, vocal fry voice production that sits low in the throat with lots of rasp and noise is not healthy for your vocal cords. If you’re speaking all day with this voice quality, you’re creating extreme tension that can affect the quality of your singing.

7. Invest in a Great Microphone and Monitor. (standing or in-ear) if you front a loud band or sing in rooms with poor acoustics. When you have a good, clear audio signal you will find that you don’t need to crank the volume up. Your ears will love you for this.

8. Avoid Loud Places – prior to performances or extensive singing commitments. Many of us are simply not aware of the strain we put on our voice when we are in loud social settings.

9. Wash Your Hands Frequently – and don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth. Avoid kissing lots of people at parties. (only to hear someone say; “I have a terrible cough/sore throat/cold”) and keep your cell phone clean!

10. Find a Good Teacher that is simpatico with your vocal style. Become educated about how your voice works, learn how to practice, warm up and optimize your range, stamina and health!

Two actions to consider:

1. Get a cool mist humidifier. You need one of these when you wake up in the winter with the heat pumping and your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth and your nose gets so dry that it starts to bleed… Oh, be sure to keep your steamer or humidifier really clean so they don’t get moldy and create other problems.

2. Massage those neck muscles. Remember, “muscling” will incapacitate the coordination of your breath and resonance (vocal efficiency.) Massage them, get acupuncture on them, pay attention to not using them while lifting heavy weight and always treat them kindly.

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