Caring for a Singer’s Voice

I talk to musicians and vocal artists all the time. They like to discuss their craft. Inevitably, they start to groan and grumble. They have their complaints about the industry and dropping revenues for example. They also bitch about agents and managers who pull too many strings and have way too much attitude, and most of all they complain about their health: those long days on the road with bad food and less sleep, those exhausting rehearsal sessions, and those hot stage lights. They need to be pepped up before they poop out, and we all know it.

Singers, for one group, have gripes about their precious throats, like when they get sore, or when they get raspy with laryngitis. It can kill a career mighty fast if it happens to often. The voice is an instrument that, like a plant, requires feeding and care. Singers all have their tricks of the trade to keep their throats lubricated. Some use expenses imported throat lozenges for example with special additives for maximum lubrication. They come from Switzerland, England, and France and cost a pretty penny. They swear by them, but I won’t divulge their secrets lest the competition gets word.

You can just rest your voice of course. In fact, it seems like the most natural and reasonable thing to do as often as possible. Too much partying is hard on your assets as well. Instead of alcohol, it is best to drink hot liquids like tea or cocoa that can coat the throat (there are actually some medicated brews just to do this job even better like, not surprisingly, Throat Coat). Maybe doing a little of all these remedies is best.

You don’t want to strain your vocal chords and have to have surgery or go on hiatus worse yet. It is a scary proposition with major risks for singers. Plus there are cysts and polyps to deal with that are not your fault at all. Anyone can get them. You would need state-of-the-art microlaryngeal techniques that use sophisticated instrumentation and laser technology to succeed. While no one wants to go there, this kind of surgery gets good results overall.

More serious procedures are reserved for vocal paralysis and voice box tumors, and they can affect singers and the general public alike. It pays to bone up a bit on all relevant symptoms if vocal work is your livelihood and profession. It is your responsibility and the primary focus of personal care.

Much overlooked is the need to drink a lot of water at all times through the day. Vocal relief can be enhanced by anything from flavored no-calorie drinks to sparkling mineral water. Then there is the plain spring source kind. Forget that chemical-ridden tap output and go for a good faucet water filtration system to obliterate impurities and maximize the healthful benefits of hydration.

A sore throat is the bane of a singer’s existence and getting enough rest and eating right help ward off disease and infection. Your filtration system is just not enough to ward off germs. It is about not taking care of your physical being and pushing too hard. You did that one extra set that night, you went out celebrating after entailing a bit of carousing, and you stressed your throat. If you are career-minded, it pays to put certain things first at all times.

The throat is pretty resilient and will repair itself from undue strain, but if you do it repeatedly, it will take its toll. It is interesting how some career artists can sing into their seventies well while others flounder a fifty. If you want a long career at the same level of performance, it takes giving up those wild enticing nights. I have actually heard of people who get vocal cord immobility and are completely terrified. Most, however, complain of hoarseness and laryngitis.

If you are not a singer, it could mean a benign growth such as a cyst, papilloma, or granuloma. If you are one, it is part of the job. The voice does change and age over time causing all kinds of conditions such as muscle tension dysphonia, scarred vocal cords, or laryngopharyngeal reflux (wow that’s a mouthful).

Whether you are a singer or not, it pays to seek medical care for any and all voice conditions. Prevention is great but if you do incur a problem, you will know where to go. Anyone who uses the voice beyond the norm should heed our advice, and practice good habits of care.

Posted under Sound Engineering