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9 Ways to Save Your Voice

9 Ways to Save Your Voice
“There are only two things worthy of your paranoia and that’s your left and right vocal folds. Here are some strategies to keep them happy.” –says Lisa Popeil

You’ve got a gig coming up and in the back of your mind there is a lurking fear: “What happens if I lose my voice?”

This is not necessarily the phobic mind game of an insecure divo/diva, but a very real, potentially gig-cancelling concern.

Without getting all medical on you (and I’ve amassed lists of supplements which may boost your immunity), here are some ideas to help ensure your gig goes off without a vocal hitch.

Your 9 Fail-Safe Vocal Strategies

  • 1. Add Moisture.

    That means more than upping your water (not coffee) intake daily. The vocal cords must be wet and spongey, like the inside of your cheek. Consider investing in an inexpensive nebulizer, like the Omron NE-C801, putting 2-3 milliliters of saline (I use Ubimed Cleanoz Nasal Saline Solution) in the mouthpiece and inhaling the cooling, moisturizing goodness before a rehearsal or show and afterwards as well. In only 3-5 minutes, you should find that your vocal folds are refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready for another round in the ring.

  • 2. Don’t Talk.

    Though that may seem like an impossible request, it’s a good thought to hold. You are not like the others in your band – they can play half-dead. You can’t. Other helpful thoughts regarding wasted voice use are “Save it for the stage” and “Don’t sing unless they’re paying you.” The point is to minimize your voice use and absolutely no screaming or yelling (unless it’s onstage and that’s your schtick.)

  • 3. Minimal Partying.

    Aw… this is sounding less fun by the minute. I’m not saying you’ve got to be a total monk, but don’t forget that sleep is your friend. Getting exhausted and dragging yourself like a dead horse from city to city is actually not as much fun as it sounds.

  • 4. No Smoking.

    But you knew that. If you must alter your consciousness, consider a vaporizer, but never, ever fry your vocal cords with hot smoke. If you do, they’ll take your singing license away.

  • 5. Don’t Over-Warmup.

    This is another “save it for the stage” idea. In my experience, there is no set time to warm up prior to a gig. Your vocal readiness to perform depends on several factors and sometimes less warming up is actually better than over warming up. I’ve seen too many people who swear by their 30-minute warmup regimen and are noticeably fatigued when they hit the stage.

  • 6. Don’t Rely on Throat Sprays.

    If you have your favorite “remedy” and it makes you feel better psychologically, then by all means, spray away. But you should know that throat sprays don’t touch your vocal folds, they simply moisturize and/or deaden sensation in the back of your mouth.

  • 7. Grab Your Immunity Potions.

    Some singers up their Vitamin C intake massively for touring. Others like garlic, beta glucan, colloidal silver nasal spray, zinc tablets, homeopathic preparations for flu, NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) for mucus thinning and vocal fold tissue health, Neti pot for saline nasal irrigation, frequent hand-washing, and daily probiotics.

  • 8. No Eating Before Bed.

    Don’t eat or drink right before sleeping. Stomach acid coming up and burning vocal folds while sleeping (called “reflux”) is the bane of singers.

    No big glass of water before bed, kiddies!

  • 9. Control Your Positivity.

    Stress makes humans sick and there’s plenty of that in the time just prior to your performance. Make sure you take time out daily to calm your mind, whether that means meditating or taking a walk. Enjoy this time as a dream come true. When you’re living the dream and appreciating every moment, the small, though very real, annoyances of a performing singer’s life will take a back seat to the glory of your rock star reality.

The REAL Thing to be Concerned About

Unlike a guitar player who carries spare strings, for singers, there are no body part replacements possible.

Before you over-worry by imagining that every part of your vocal mechanism is ripe for harm, keep in mind that there are only two things worthy of your paranoia and they are your left and right vocal folds.

The normally healthy state of your nose, throat, and chest shouldn’t affect your vocal performance too much.

But you have gotta watch out for the two tiny flaps which together measure about the size of an American penny; the health of your vocal folds makes all the difference.

When they swell, they’re not happy. And, when swollen, you’ll hear hoarseness, whether or not you feel pain.

Gina Latimerlo’s Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Martin Doughty Martin Doughty – “No More Nights”

You use your voice very well. It has a bright, strong tone, and you clearly have wonderful control over your breath, support, resonance, and vibrato. Your larynx is dipping too low on the lowest notes in the earlier part of the song. Stabilize the larynx by keeping it in a “speech” position (talk, feel where it is, then sing the low notes while maintaining that position), and you will better match the rest of your vocal placement. Also, follow the lead of the song in terms of authentically building emotion — it felt like you were working too hard in the more tame, beginning section.

Alex Katsi Alex Katsi – “If We Get Out of Here” (Original)

The video is well produced, and the song has a nice drive to it. You are talented as a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. It’s clear that you live your music and that it is really important to you. In the first verse (especially), I would suggest allowing your voice to be more legato – connect the words into a smoother melody. That way, the line will feel more like a sentence (not broken up parts) and you’ll both communicate more effectively and create a more rich auditory experience (the instrumentals underneath are so staccato there that singing staccato there as well feels redundant).

If you’re signed up to VoiceCouncil’s Peer-Review, you’ll be receiving unique coaching insights from Lisa Popeil for the next 4 weeks. Co-author with Lisa on Sing Anything – Mastering Vocal Styles, Gina Latimerlo, will be providing feedback on our Peer Review Videos. You can sign up now.

Lisa Popeil

Lisa Popeil is one of LA’s top voice coaches. She is the creator of the Voiceworks® Method, the Total Singer DVD, and the ‘Daily Vocal Workout for Pop Singers’ CDs, conducts cutting-edge voice research, lectures internationally and is a vocal health consultant. Lisa is a voting member of NARAS, the Grammy® organization, ASCAP, SAG-AFTRA and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. www.popeil.com

Gina Latimerlo

Gina Latimerlo is a polished performer of over 20 years. Her students have performed on Broadway, in touring companies, and have signed with talent agents, record labels, and national producers. The Latimerlo Studio also oversees singing classes in over a dozen cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her book with Lisa Popeil, Sing Anything – Mastering Vocal Styles, has sold internationally and throughout the US. Sign up for Peer Review.

  • mfguitar11

    I recently played a 3 hour gig that turned into 4 hours thanks to a great crowd. However, I knew that the 4th hour was going to be rough on my less than healthy voice (on the back side of a sinus infection). Beyond the tips above, what can you do when you know you’re voice is almost done, but the crowd (and bar manager that is happy to see more drinks being ordered) wants to you stick around for a few more songs?

  • Marina V

    Very cool article, thank you for sharing! :)

  • Mia Alvarez

    Thanks for the tips! I’m a student with a good voice and I’m always trying to make it better for choir class