Head of Singing, Bernadette Doyle tackles the issue on many singers mind this time of year: keeping our voices healthy through the cold winter months.
During this time of the year, I receive lots of emails from students looking for advice on vocal health and maintenance during the winter months. The cold weather can often take its toll on people’s voices and adding to the mix viruses, christmas parties, central heating and hectic performance schedules can mean we need to take extra care to ensure our voices are preserved. With the party season in full swing, here are some key points I always recommend to students to ensure you look after your vocal health in the winter:
1. Stay Hydrated
A vocal steamer is a singer’s best friend and can ensure you get hydration directly to your vocal folds, keeping them supple and hydrated whilst soothing irritation. Steaming twice a day for a few mins will help keep your voice in tip top shape. There are plenty to choose from on the market. Check out Amazon for some good options, including the Dr Nelson Steam inhaler.
Alongside this, make sure you drink at least 6-8 glasses of water daily to fight off infection, stay supple and ensure you keep hydrated.
2. Vocal rest is key
For anyone suffering from a winter bug, it’s important to ensure you give yourself as much vocal rest as possible. This can be difficult leading up to shows but I always advise singers to attend rehearsals if possible to record the parts and stay on top of everything.
Physical rest is also hugely important so try to ensure you get at least 8 hours sleep a night to recuperate your body and fight off any infections. Always listen to your body and avoid vocal overuse where possible as you can do more damage.
If you do have any ongoing vocal problems, please do to seek professional advice from your doctor who can assess and diagnose the problem and offer you advice on any forthcoming show commitments you might have.
3. Rehearsal room habits
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when practicing or about to perform but always ensure you do a warm up and help avoid any vocal strain.
Where possible ensure you can use a microphone at rehearsal to avoid strain and hear yourself so you don’t overcompensate. It’s important to know your limits in rehearsals and never push yourself especially if your voice is tired.
4. Watch out for...
Unfortunately things like dairy, alcohol and spicy food (all the fun things which surround us this time of year!) can irritate our voices further and cause acid reflux. Eating a balanced diet ensures you get the nutritional benefits and gives you the energy you need to perform.
Also try to avoid smoky atmospheres as this can dry out your vocal folds, causing irritation and limiting your range. If you do have a cough or cold, try to avoid clearing your throat and coughing as much as you ca as this can irritate your vocal folds causing more swelling and discomfort.
Be aware that certain cold and flu medications can dry out your throat so always read the packets and consult your doctor.
5. Warm drinks
During the cold winter months, warm drinks can provide relief and help keep your throat warm and supple. Ginger is fantastic. Try a warm tea with ginger and honey and remember to avoid caffeine as this dries out your voice.
Practising good habits and looking after yourself is key during this season. Always ensure you seek professional medical advice if you do have any ongoing issues and I hope you really enjoy this winter season with a healthy and happy voice!