Vocal health is important all year long, but the winter brings many factors that make it imperative to stay vigilant so you can stay healthy and keep singing! Here are a few tips to keep your voice feeling performance-ready all winter long.
1. General Health
Every musician must take care of their instrument. For some it may be replacing strings, getting a bow re-haired, cleaning out valves, or replacing old reeds. For others, like vocalists, it looks like eating a well-balanced diet, adhering to a regular sleep schedule, exercising, and managing stress. If that sounds like you’re just taking care of yourself, then you’re right! As singers we must remember that our body is our instrument. General health is vital to your vocal health and success as a singer. I’m not saying that you have to become a health-nut, but if you do what’s right for your body, you’ll do what’s right for your voice. Winter is hard on the human body, making it more susceptible to fatigue and illness, so it’s even more important this time of year to make sure you’re putting your health first.
Drinking water is essential to your general health, but it is especially important for singers to stay hydrated. Water has benefits other than hydration, such as cleansing your body of toxins. This natural “detox” takes a load off of your immune system, helping it battle the external threats that come with winter such as bugs or viruses. The more you can do to reduce your chances of getting sick, the more time and energy you have to sing. Drinking the recommended 8 cups of water a day will keep you in tip top shape for life and for singing!
Cold weather means heaters are on, which can make indoor spaces particularly dry. Use a humidifier in your bedroom and practice space to make even the air you breathe hydrating. Remember to clean your humidifier regularly so you aren’t breathing in any unwanted mold or mildew.
3. Staying Warm
We all know the stereotype of the singer bundled up in a giant scarf and toting around a tea mug at all times of the day, but I must admit there is something to that! Keeping your throat warm with a scarf or turtleneck will help regulate your body temperature when the air around you is bitterly cold. This regulation helps your immune system, letting it do all the other things it needs to do to keep you healthy. Plus, when your neck and throat are warm, your vocal folds are more likely to be warm too. That can only help you when you get to your vocal warm-ups!
And who doesn’t love a nice, warm drink? The closer the drink is to your body temperature, the sooner your body can use it to hydrate itself. Plus a warm drink on a cold winter day is like a hug from the inside out. We can all use a few extra hugs during the winter. So go ahead and embrace the stereotype! You’ll see me donning a scarf almost every day from autumn to spring. I love a good accessory that keeps me healthy too!
As I mentioned earlier, a regular sleep schedule does wonders for your general health. But your voice needs sleep too! Your vocal folds are muscular tissue. Just like your biceps need to rest after you hit the gym, so does your voice after use. You probably use your voice frequently throughout the day even if you haven’t sung at all. Normal speaking in everyday conversation is muscle use, and your voice needs to recuperate at night. A regular sleep schedule will help your voice get the rest it needs to feel fresh and ready to sing.
If your voice is feeling particularly fatigued after singing, you feel hoarseness in your sound when you speak or sing, or you can’t make any sound at all, you might need some dedicated vocal rest. I am by no means a medical professional, but I have found in my own practice and for my students that vocal rest can prove to be an effective way to get your vocal health back on track. Vocal rest is the process of not speaking or singing for a set period of time, actively allowing your vocal folds to recover from physical stress or damage. This damage can be caused by overexertion during speech or singing, or from contracting a viral infection that affects the respiratory system, which is more likely to happen in the winter season. Coughing is one of the most common symptoms of a respiratory infection, and can cause pain and swelling of the vocal folds. If you are sick, avoid singing and speaking as much as possible. If you feel pain in your throat when you attempt to use your voice, seek professional medical help.
A body in motion stays in motion, and a voice in use stays in use. If you’re like me, the cold of winter and the season’s jarringly short daylight hours might make you feel more tired than usual. This probably means you won’t feel up to singing and practicing much during the winter months. But, the best thing you can do for your voice when you feel that way is to just keep singing. Something as simple as a 10 to 15 minute warm-up once a day can keep your voice in good shape. Remember to always approach your practice sessions with a positive mindset and you will enjoy it tenfold. Let that 10 minutes a day be the sunshine you need on the coldest, darkest winter days!
I hope these tips help you take care of your voice, and yourself, this winter. See how many of these you can incorporate into your year-round vocal health too. Stay warm and happy singing!
By Veronica Nguyen, Center Stage Voice and Piano Instructor