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How’s that you say? (Part Two) A further look at vocal health

Edge Studio

NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one.

Last week we discussed hydration and how much to get of it. This week, let’s look further into the issue of vocal health care. Some of this may seem obvious to you, but – like hydration – it’s news to many people, and important for all to remember.

3. Avoid stress and get enough sleep.

In addition to helping you read in a relaxed and “vocally free” manner, it promotes health overall. (What good is vocal health if the rest of you is laid up?)

Following a dictum to “reduce stress” maybe harder to follow than getting regular and sufficiently long nighttime rest, but there are some things to explore.

Consider various relaxation techniques. Some people are able to take a 20-minute nap and it works wonders. Others find that a short nap just leaves them tired and likely to sleep much longer.

And alternative choice might be yoga, meditation, Alexander Technique, Buteyko Method, or some other discipline. We’re not recommending you go off the deep end with any of these, at least not till you’ve gotten your feet wet. Online you’ll find lots of good introductions to each, and there are also good introductory books. In the course of your investigations, you might find some “tricks” that work for you and simply adopt those. But some people say that to get the full benefit of certain disciplines, it’s important to work with a coach. See what works for you and how much training you’ll need.

While yoga in particular is time-honored and widely recommended, Alexander Technique is also of particular interest, considering that it was developed by an actor (about a century ago) who had lost his voice. In devising an enduring cure for himself, he developed this technique for coordinating the mind, movement and carriage to promote health and performance skills. There are some well-reviewed introductory books, one of which you might try; some are recent, some you may need to find at your library.

4. Consider using a “neti p*t.”

This is a small p*t that looks like a teapot, used to pour water into your sinuses, clearing them out. (There is also a bottle-shaped device that does the same thing.) The effect is like when you swim underwater. Some people use this regularly, others only when needed (e.g., for nasal allergies). We suggest speaking with a medical professional about usage.

But one thing is VERY important: follow the instructions, which will say to boil tap water (and letting it cool, of course) before this adding saline powder (probably included) for use. Your sinuses are very close to the brain, and tap water potentially has microbes that you don’t want anywhere near it. We understand the boiling process is sufficient precaution, but if that’s too inconvenient or if we’ve been too scary, ask your friendly neighborhood pharmacist about sterile prepared saline solutions and other sorts of applicators you might prefer. Some are sold by the same brands that make neti pots.

5. Use good vocal technique.

Ordinary people – probably most – tend to speak from the top of their throat. It may be worth a few lessons to learn how to vocalize without straining and speak (or sing) from the diaphragm. Not only will it increase the range of your performance capabilities, it is easier on your speaking apparatus.

7. Avoid shouting in cold weather.

If you must, be brief. This is another situation where it helps to bellow from the diaphragm, but don’t push it. Come in and warm up your pipes if you can.

6. Beware of loud environments.

Edge Studio founder and producer David Goldberg wears sophisticated earplugs when attending rock concerts. At a noisy party, take similar care with your throat. It’s a situation where projecting from the diaphragm helps!

7. Before performing, do vocal warmups.

Also, practice reading aloud at least 15 minutes every day. When you speak without straining, you help avoid harm. And to avoid straining, you need vocal strength and stamina.

8. Eat healthy and regularly.

Rather than one or two huge meals per day, eat regularly throughout the day. In addition to assuring your body is well fortified at whatever moment you’re exposed to a virus, it might help you lose a few pounds.

9. Practice good oral health.

Dental bacteria and other oral problems can be the source of many seemingly unrelated maladies, including sinus infections.

10. Wash your hands especially after contact with the public.

To such advice, which may seem a bit obvious, dare we add, “stand up straight, put your shoulders back, get fresh air every day and listen to your mother”? This would seem a good point to deliver those links we promised.

Here is a list of other vocal care resources. They have lots of details, additional recommendations and more. The Edge Studio Vocal Care Chart, which is by Edge Studio coach Lara Hirner and Dr. Scott Kessle, will be especially helpful in filling out this list.

The Voice Over Vocal Care Chart
A full range of tips for keeping your voice and overall health at its professional best. Information from Lara Hirner, Dr. Scott Kessler, and Edge Studio.

Lara Hirner, Vocal Care Consultant and Speech Pathologist
Lara is an Edge Studio coach specializing in vocal care, via Skype or telephone. Other Edge Studio coaches also teach vocal health and warm-up practices.

Edge Studio Talk Time on Vocal Health Dec 29, 2013

  • How do people manage anti-allergy side effects?
  • What products do folks use(e.g., Throat Coat tea, Biotene, etc.)?
  • Voice changes commonly associated with aging?
  • “Activate Your Voice” — a 99-cent warmup checklist app to strengthen and refresh your voice

What Is “Vocal Fry?”

What Do You Do To Stay Healthy For Voice Over?

Tips from several VO professionals


Do you really need to drink eight cups of water a day?

Activate Your Voice

Sinus infection facts

Alexander Technique

Buteyko Breathing