As a singer, you must keep your voice in tip-top condition to ensure you are always in the best form for the next concert or performance. But even the most conscientious of vocalists sometimes strain their voice, and it’s not always obvious that it has happened until too late. Let’s look at why your voice might be strained, how you can tell, and what you can do about it.
What causes a strained voice?
There are many reasons why you might strain your voice. For beginner singers, it might just be a case of pushing your vocal abilities too far. But minor illnesses, like the common cold, can also affect your voice, as can smoking. Perhaps you’ve spent a few hours cheering on a sports team. These things can affect even the most seasoned singers, so it is important to be aware of these things and avoid them if possible.
How do you know if your voice is strained?
Most of the time, vocal issues sort themselves out pretty quickly after a few days’ rest, and in this case, it’s not really something to worry about too much. But if you’ve been experiencing hoarseness for over two weeks, or your voice just sounds different to you, you may have strained it.
Sometimes, your voice might feel tired. Just like any other muscle that begins to ache after repeated use, your vocal cords can get fatigued, and this is another sign of voice strain. If it really hurts to talk, it is time to take restorative action for your strained voice.
How can you soothe your strained vocal cords?
The most effective way to heal your voice is with lots of rest and hydration. There are a few other things experts recommend:
1. Be Quiet
Try to talk as little as possible to give your vocal cords a chance to heal themselves. Remember, whispering actually puts more strain on your vocal cords than talking normally, so don’t think that is an appropriate substitute!
Hydration should always be in the form of water or low-sugar drinks. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and high-sugar drinks, which will slow your recovery.
Lots of sleep is great for promoting healing. Aim for at least seven hours a night for best results.
Some singers like to make a healing liquid that they can gargle with. A great recipe is 250ml hot water with two tablespoons of honey and a few drops of healing herbs like cayenne pepper, sage, or turmeric. Gargle around three times for twenty seconds every two to three hours, with the most important sessions being right before bed.
5. Steam Inhalation
Another option is steam inhalation. Simply fill a bowl with boiling water, add a few drops of herbal extract like chamomile, thyme, or peppermint, and drape a towel over your head as you lean over. Inhaling this healing mixture will help soothe those injured cords.
6. See a Doctor
In more severe cases, you might have to visit a doctor who can prescribe vocal therapy, antibiotics, and/or cough medicine. They may also suggest injecting your vocal cords with collagen. If your vocal strain has led to nodules, you may need surgery to remove these.
How can you prevent your voice from becoming strained again?
The best way to stop yourself from straining your voice is to really take care of it. Luckily, you look after your voice in a similar way to the rest of your body. Drink plenty of water, eat healthily, and exercise regularly. You can also use a humidifier in your room to prevent your throat from drying out and limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume.
Smoking is a big no-no, and spicy foods can irritate the vocal folds. It’s a good idea to avoid chemical mouthwashes and gargles, as these can irritate the vocal cords and also mask underlying problems that you might need to get a doctor’s advice on.
And finally, rest your voice as much as possible. Avoid excessive whispering and shouting to reduce strain.
Need any more tips and advice like this? Get yourself a vocal coach! They will be able to give you more guidance specific to your circumstances that can help improve your singing. We’d love to hear from you at the London Singing Institute, so get in touch and let’s put you on the path to singing success!
Tags: Vocal health
, Vocal science
, vocal tips
, vocal advice