Warming up and down:
Always warm up the body with stretches and wake up the breath BEFORE vocalising. Aligning the spine, releasing the knees and pelvis, followed by releasing tongue, neck and jaw tension should all be included in the warm-up.
After intensive vocalising, be quiet for a while – don’t go and party!
Check if certain foods (dairy produce and wheat are the most common examples) are increasing your mucus production and if so, try to avoid them.
Get plenty of sleep.
Avoid speaking in loud environments.
Drink plenty of water and cut down on very cold or sugary drinks.
Cut down or ideally stop all smoking.
Avoid excessive coughing or throat clearing: instead, try gently lengthening the back of your neck, keeping your chin level, and swallow slowly.
Indications of voice strain are:
Throat pain when you speak or swallow; a sore throat in the morning which disappears as your voice warms up; a hoarse, tired voice in the evening; an increase in mucus especially if it’s not discoloured; rapid changes in pitch or loss of control of your voice; vocal tiredness after just one rehearsal.
Rest – a day or even a few hours are sufficient for basic voice recovery. However, don’t go back to work or to singing too soon, but give your vocal cords at least another 24 hours’ rest or you could end up with longer term vocal problems. Regular voice strain indicates the need to re-educate yourself about voice technique.
Never use sweets or medications intended to reduce throat pain just so you can carry on singing or talking; this is a safety precaution as a singer needs to be able to feel full sensory feedback all the time. And lastly, never whisper.
Voice loss and persistent problems:
Persistent hoarseness may be a side-effect of medication that you are taking, so ask your GP for alternatives. You MUST ask your GP for a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat consultant for appropriate help if:
- you are hoarse for more than two to three weeks
- you have regular hoarseness or voice loss
- you are constantly aware of vocal fatigue
- your voice quality changes significantly
- you have pain or difficulty swallowing.
If using your voice is part of your profession (singers, teachers, barristers) you can sometimes ask for a fast-track referral and jump the queue.