If you want to become an amazing singer, learning how to avoid losing or damaging your voice is essential!
As singers we are in a very unique position where our instruments are housed within our bodies.
We need to pay extra attention to how we look after ourselves. This includes how we use our voices, on and off stage.
In this video I share tips on how you can avoid losing or damaging your voice:
- 00:00 – Intro
- 02:01 – Release tension
- 07:59 – Look after your vocal health
- 11:52 – Learn singing techniques that look after your voice and help craft your signature sound
- 14:05 – What to do if you lose your voice
I know it sounds obvious, but tension is the enemy of the singer. You need to be able to relax your larynx and body so the right muscles can engage to make sound.
The main function of the larynx is breathing. We’ve evolved over time to engage our true vocal folds to produce sound.
We also have false vocal folds (above our true vocal folds) which act like a protective layer.
They tend to engage when we do anything primal that needs a buildup of energy. When picking up something heavy, coughing, sneezing, bearing down to give birth or pushing out a poo.
These primal actions correctly trigger the false vocal folds into protective mode. They close up so that you can create a build up of pressure. This then assists you lifting something heavy or when bearing down.
Pretend like you’re going to pick up something heavy. Can you hear that grunt-like sound? That’s your false vocal folds closing or constricting.
You often feel it in other areas of your body as well, specifically your abdominals, which can be triggered by this same action.
When you need to exert energy, engage the correct muscles for the task at hand. For example, engaging your core, glutes and thighs when lifting a heavy object.
Or your true vocal folds (not eyebrows! 😂) when singing.
Minimise tension by monitoring your effort levels in your throat when speaking and singing.
Release tension, firstly, at the source of the sound (the larynx/true vocal folds), but also mentally and physically. You can certainly go for a walk to engage your breathing muscles and make sure they’re relaxed.
These tools are a great way of avoiding excess or unnecessary tension that can cause muscles to overwork. This tension can lead to you losing your voice.
NB: Please be aware that consistent voice loss or hoarseness can be a sign that something needs attention. Look out for regular throat clearing. Or any discomfort uncomfortable and soreness in your throat. If any of these last for two weeks or more, you definitely want to see a specialist.
Ideally, you would visit a Laryngologist. This is a doctor that specialises in the larynx. Find one that understand high voice users, specifically singers or anyone that uses their voice often.
You might need a referral from your general practitioner first.
Look after your vocal health
Because your instrument is housed in your body, you want to be looking after yourself. You also want to be looking after the specifics of your vocal health.
I look at this in two ways. You can be active and reactive.
Active vocal health involves daily vocal care habits, little things that you can do every single day.
I do Sirens when I wake up in the morning before I start speaking.
Next up are Singers Stretches. These are very basic stretches, but targeted towards the muscles that often hold most tension and impact our voices.
Lastly, being mindful of your speaking voice throughout the day. Whether you’re about to practice, sing, rehearse, perform, or not, aim to look after your speaking voice.
Our speaking voice is the one we use the most, and of course, it’s the same mechanism for singing.
However, sometimes when we speak, we’re not quite as mindful as we could be. We’ll use the extremes of whispering and shouting, and that’s what you want to monitor.
Especially if you’ve got an important performance coming up in the next three days.
The reactive tools are ones you you can add in like steaming, salt gargling, laryngeal massage and nasal irrigation.
Learn singing techniques that look after your voice and help craft your signature sound
Know how to warm up, workout and warm down your voice effectively. Use an effective practice plan. These are the first techniques you can add to your Singers Technique Toolkit.
Learn how your voice produces sound. Seek out singing techniques that help you to make the sounds you want to make, safely and consistently.
You need to understand what the individual moving parts are, like ingredients in a recipe. You can then craft your own “sonic recipe” or signature sound.
Not only are you avoiding damaging your voice, you’re learning some great skills. Skills that help you to be unique as a singer. How to craft your own unique storytelling, because essentially singers are storytellers.
If you’ve got a compromised instrument, it’s a lot harder to tell the stories that you want to tell.
You’re hamstrung by the restrictions of your voice. Look after your voice. Make sure you don’t lose it or permanently damage it through any actions that you have control of.
However, I have a disclaimer. When you get sick, you get sick.
There’s very rarely anything you can do about it. And if you do lose your voice because you’re unwell, I would highly recommend that you avoid singing. Get some vocal rest in and if you can, move the gig.
Alternatively, if you are in a position where you have vocal tracks, you can add them into the mix. Mime the show and just hit your mark from a performance perspective.
Vocally let the tracks take care of you. This is done all the time. It is not a cop out. This is you being strategically conscious of the long-term efficacy of your voice and your performance abilities.
Proactively, do what you can to look after your vocal health. Look after your body as best you can, because it houses your instrument.
And I’m not talking about like getting on the shred or anything like that. I’m talking about the basics of immunity and hydration.
Get enough sleep and be mindful of your speaking voice. Make sure you move your body through stretches and release tension to avoid losing or permanently damaging your voice.
Understand how your voice works and which techniques you can use to make that really efficient and safe sound.
If you have any questions about voice loss or damage, please comment below.