Updated: Apr 4, 2021
Students are wrapping-up final auditions, waiting for acceptances from remaining schools and likely in the throes of their spring musical. Even with all the hand washing, antibacterial product usage and preventative measures we're all taking, voices still get fatigued. A workshop I'll be presenting at the upcoming Florida State Thespian Festival in a couple weeks is titled, “Vocal Health for the Singer and Actor”. I thought I’d put a few of the key points down in writing as these tips may help students maintain their weary voices and thrive throughout the spring musical season.
Staying hydrated is one of the biggest keys to keeping your voice in its best condition. Two quarts of water per day is expected. One of the best ways to help develop the habit is to carry a refillable water bottle with you at all times. Caffeinated beverages dehydrate, so avoid them, especially during show periods. I’ve heard folks say one type of water (hot, iced or room temp) is best for your vocal mechanism, but suffice it to say, water in any form is better than not enough water.
Know Your "Phlegm-triggers"
Many singers avoid consuming dairy products, sugary drinks, chocolate or other foods they find tend to create phlegm. I’ve found that the reaction varies singer by singer, but listening to your body and paying attention to how your voice reacts when you’re not in performance mode can help you discern what foods work for and against you. This list of mucus triggering foods might be helpful. Keeping a food journal is tedious, but an excellent way to narrow-down the culprits so you may track them in low risk situations and don’t inadvertently eat something that creates a lot of phlegm on a high risk performance day. Want to know my biggest phlegm producer? A good, hearty bout of laughter. NOTHING creates more phlegm for me, so if I have to perform, I hang out with my funniest friends after the show.
If you don’t already own one, invest in a steam inhaler. Steam is one of the reasons standing in a hot shower is relaxing and soothing to your throat, nasal cavities, and lungs. A personal steamer allows you to steam sitting at your desk or dressing table. Use it the morning of performance and take it to the dressing room to use while getting ready and between acts.
Never underestimate the value of vocal rest. Not whispering. Not speaking softly. Not using your voice AT ALL. REST. When your voice is tired or strained, the best thing you can do is not use it. Avoid clearing your throat (take swigs of water instead) and suppress cough also by drinking water or with cough suppressant lozenges or medicine.
What the Pros Use
I’m a fan of homeopathic remedies to prevent, heal and soothe. Students should ask a parent before using any of these products.
Emergen-C, Airborne, Zycam or Wellness Formula (preventative—take if you feel a cold coming on)
Salt water gargle (antibacterial & soothing)
Throat coat tea (soothes)
Honey & lemon in tea or hot water (antibacterial)
Fisherman’s Friend (SO nasty tasting, but soothing when you’re sick and need to suppress a cough)
Neti-pot (clears congestion naturally)
Olba’s Pastilles (strong menthol when you are about to go on stage and need to clear phlegm)
Grether’s Pastilles (soothes irritation)
Haribo gummies (the glycerin adds and maintains moisture)
Allergies can wreak havoc on the voice of the singer and actor. The key is finding the correct treatment and the over the counter options are plentiful. Seeing an allergist to receive advice, treatment, testing and to hear their recommendations is important. Allergies tend to make you susceptible to infection and can result in some version of “the crud” and congestion. Coughing and voice loss follow in short order. Staying on top of allergies can make a huge difference and in some cases, allergies may be the reason you lose your voice in the first place.
Regardless of the time of year, acid reflux can silently irritate the voice box and affect vocal production. I know folks who have found success by adjusting their diet or with medication. But, I’d like to suggest an under $10 solution that is homeopathic and completely cured my symptoms of acid reflux. Tip your bed. Purchase these bed risers, available at many retail stores or online, and use only two of them under the legs at the top of your bed. It will take a little getting-used-to, but, I promise it’s worth it and you will feel (and hear) results in only a few weeks.
Break-a-leg in your shows, wash your hands and happy, healthy spring!
Want more tips and free resources? Visit www.collegemtguide.com.