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Conventional Wisdom on Vocal Maintenance for the Voice Artist

A compilation of common sense things everyone knows (but maybe fails to follow) and a few things that may be eye-opening and helpful. Care of your "vocal instrument" may require the adoption of a new regimen: Lifestyle changes in the areas of diet, rest and exercise. Implementing that is a matter of self-discipline and commitment.

by Wayne June © 2010

Like anything else, voice problems are a matter of cause-and-effect. There are consequences for misusing the voice. We must identify and address the underlying causes in order to assure that such problems won't persist. 

Learn to use your voice in as relaxed a manner as possible. If it hurts or feels uncomfortable, don't do it. Avoid using your voice at its extremes: Shouting, screaming and even whispering can do damage. And watch out for this bad habit: Heavy throat clearing; (take a sip of water instead.) If you have to cough or sneeze, make an effort to "take it easy" and not involve your voice if possible.

Avoid emotional and physical stress, both of which contribute to vocal distress. Leave your "blues" at home: Have a time set aside to devote to thinking through your problems and possible solutions. When you're in session, invest your emotional energy in your work... this isn't the time to be emotionally stressed and distracted. Need a vacation? Take one. Come back rested and ready to tackle the tasks at hand. If you pre-read and understand the material, that can preclude performance jitters and stress also.

Get regular exercise. Getting the right amount of exercise has specific health benefits, boosts energy levels and will even help you to feel better emotionally. Regular exercise diminishes both physical and emotional stress.

Get the rest your body needs. How much sleep do you really need? I've always heard eight hours is recommended, but your needs may vary. Whatever it is for you, do it. If you're tired, it'll be heard in your voice. You don't want that.

Keep your body hydrated (6-8 glasses of water a day) and avoid diuretics such as caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Avoid milk. The fat in milk products and other foods may stick to your saliva, resulting in a sticky mouth which produces noises which are a nightmare in spoken word recording sessions. Drink herbal tea or room temperature water in session. (Cold water will constrict the vocal cords.) It's natural and necessary to keep the the vocal cords moist and lubricated. When you're dehydrated, lubrication of your larynx diminishes and your voice will tire much more quickly.

Control your studio "climate": Doctors specialized in the larynx, voice, and related problems recommend a humidity level of 40-50%. Over air-conditioned or heated rooms can cause you to become dehydrated.

Don't use over-the-counter local anesthetic throat sprays and/or lozenges. Pain and discomfort is your body's way of telling you to knock it off, not take something to numb it. Such anesthetics can mask signs of damage, likely resulting in continued distressing of the vocal cords and further injury.

Get into the habit of doing vocal warm-ups
Professional athletes and musicians need to warm up before they perform and voiceover artists and narrators do, too.  Without sufficient warm-up prior to exercise to loosen up the muscles, you're asking for an injury.

Quick and easy Vocal Warm-ups
Vocal Warm-ups and Cool-Downs
The Center for Voice Vocal Warm-ups
Google Search Results Page for Vocal Warm-ups

Take frequent breaks on long session days (like 45 minutes on, 15 minutes off, e.g.). Walk around, do a few relaxation exercises - deep breathing, stretching, etc. Then get back at it.

Improve breath control and practice good breathing techniques when speaking. It's important to support the voice with deep breaths from the diaphragm, the body partition of muscle and connective tissue separating the chest and abdominal cavities. Speaking without supporting breath can strain the vocal cords.

Avoid eating spicy foods which can cause acid reflux, the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.

Don't smoke. It has short and long term effects on the voice. None of them are good.

Additional Resources:

| Voiceover Career Guidance | Essential Voiceover Books |

Recommended Reading 
 Keep Your Voice Healthy: A Guide to the Intelligent Use and Care of the Speaking Voice
 Discover Your Voice: How to Develop Healthy Voice Habits
 Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults:

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Copyright 2010, Wayne June Voice Talent. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, re-disseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Wayne June Voice Talent.