#lifehacks[1]: how a singer-wannabe protects her voice

On the eve of performance the singers are not having practice, because we are protecting our voices for tomorrow. Being in the singers’ team for nearly 5 months has taught me that good singing is really way more than just sounding nice, hitting the correct pitch or having a good sense of rhythm. It requires a high level of discipline, in displaying teamwork with your fellow singers to make sure you all are in harmony, and also in taking extra measure to make sure your voice is all ready for the actual performance.

Some of my friends would know that I have been staying away from fried food for nearly two weeks now. (last day of no fried food YES I can do it! After that I can go KFC/Burger King for lunch MUAHAHAHAHA alright that aside.) The main reason is that knowing my own body, I am very much aware that my throat becomes dry and accumulates phlegm really easily. So to avoid affecting my voice quality for the performance, why not avoid heaty food (which comes in great abundance here in the form of fried stuff)? And anyway, not eating chips for a few weeks has made me feel healthier 😀

Since tomorrow is the big day (so excited!!!), I decided to scour for a list of ways to protect your voice for singing. Most of the following are adapted from various sources across the net; some are my personal experience. Hope this would be useful for all my friends out there who love to sing. 🙂

A singer-wannabe’s guide to protecting your voice:

1)  Hydrate with plain water. If I have to choose the most important tip among the list, this is definitely the one. Seriously, drink lots of (or at least enough) water. You need your vocal cords to be well-hydrated and well-lubricated for good singing. This is especially important for fellow SE Asians who come from humid countries, because our bodies would find the air here too dry and thus we get dehydrated easily.

And when I say water, I mean plain water – not soda, orange juice, honey lemon tea, coke, etc. (list of foodstuffs to avoid are somewhere below.)  The temperature of the water is important as well – go for room temperature or lukewarm water. Hot water (around 70C) is fine but take it slowly. Important: avoid cold water right before a singing session! Cold water would constrict your vocal cords, making it harder for you to sing.

2) Voice warm-ups before singing. Put bluntly, no one in the singers’ team likes voice warm-ups. But we still do it and we spend a good part of each training session (around 15 minutes) on it. The reason? Similar to why you should warm up before physical training – you don’t want to injure your vocal cords while singing. Jumping straight into a prolonged singing session without proper warm-up would increase your risks of damaging your vocal cords. (which also means, you might want to do voice warmups with your friends before kbox sessions. Brings alot of fun too because you get to see your friends do stupid stuff XD)

There are loads of voice warmup guides lying around, but to be sure consult your friends from choir or acapella teams, who would have undergone formal vocal training. (I picked up mine from my choir conductor and vocal coaches)

3) Limit your intake of tea, coffee and alcohol. I am still having a hard time staying off tea and coffee but for tomorrow I will not touch them! The more obvious one is alcohol – it dehydrates your throat and restricts your voice range (usually cuts off a few notes from the upper range). This is why our choir conductor reminded us explicitly not to go for any Friday night parties before a Saturday evening concert.

Tea and coffee are probably less well-known. The main reason is the caffeine, which dehydrates your throat. Coffee further constricts the muscles around your vocal cords and restricts your voice range. Furthermore, for people like me who love to take their caffeine dose with milk, that would have the additional effect of simply annoying and itching your throat (more details below). Tried and tested – I once drank coffee before a choir practice, and halfway through the singing my throat started itching like crazy. 

4) Avoid milk (and dairy products). I did not believe in this until quite recently, when our vocal coach told us to prevent phlegm accumulation by avoiding dairy. Indeed, what lactic acid does is to form a thick layer of phlegm in your throat, making your voice obviously nasty. By personal experience, milk can itch your throat as well, so it’s an absolute no-go. Small amounts of milk are fine, but flush it down with plenty of water after that. And of course, don’t go around guttling down a glass of milk right before singing.

5) Avoid citrus. Orange juice annoys the throat as well.

6) Get enough sleep.

7)  Do not overkill. Your vocal cords need sufficient rest too to do well for the actual thing. Avoid excessive rehearsing right before the performance as well.

8) Avoid coughing/clearing your throat. Such actions exert large forces on your vocal cords; every time you cough, you are injuring your vocal cords a little. If need be, drink water or swallow your saliva until the phlegm is gone, or clear your throat gently.

 

Shall sleep soon. Hooray for reading week next week 😀 And ALL THE BEST FOR TOMORROW!!

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