How to Maintain your Voice

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How to Maintain Your Voice
1. Warm Up!
Vocal production is a physical experience and an effective warm-up is essential for optimal performance. As in any physical activity, the warm-up should proceed from general stretching through less strenuous to more strenuous usage. Warming up allows the singer to ‘get in touch' with him/herself, both physically and psychologically, and secure vocal technique. The procedure should allow for gradual loosening and coordination of the muscles. A rushed warming up session puts physical and mental pressure on the muscles, resulting in an inadequate performance.
2. Don't Abuse Your Voice:
Yelling, screaming or even singing so loudly to the point of hoarseness and/or throat pain can strain your muscles. Straining your voice by trying to talk or sing when you have a cold or laryngitis can lead to vocal-fold damage. Avoid singing in situations that are so noisy that you cannot hear yourself singing.
Rest and recovery is crucial to maintaining your voice. Keep a good schedule that allows for rest, and use amplification when available and appropriate. Reduce general voice use prior to a concert to conserve energy.
3. If It Feels Bad, Don't Do It!
Attempts to alter your ‘normal' speaking voice to create an effect such as ‘character voices' can put strain, as you are altering the pitch of your voice. Avoid hyperfunctional use of your voice by learning to use your voice with as little effort and tension as possible. Good breath support for conversational speech is as important as good breath support for singing.
Avoid singing in a tessitura which is continually near the extremes of your own range (both high and low). Carefully pace the use of extremes (such as pushing the chest voice into the upper range for effect, i.e, belting). Avoid using long run-on sentences at a rapid speaking rate that stresses the vocal apparatus.
4. Good Environment
Keep a good environment for singing, avoiding smoky, dusty and noisy environments. Avoid dry, artificial interior climates. Keeping your home environment humidified may also be of benefit to your voice. Laryngologists recommend a humidity level of 40-50%. Much body moisture is lost while breathing air in low humidity climates, i.e., air conditioned or heated rooms, cars, buses, etc.

5. Diet and Life-style
Eat a healthy diet. Fried, fatty foods, caffeine-containing foods and beverages should be avoided or kept to a minimum. Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeinated or artificially sweetened beverages may dehydrate the voice. Dehydration adversely affects the vocal folds, diminishing laryngeal lubrication, so drink plenty of water! Smoking or other tobacco consumption is to be avoided at all costs, due to the debilitating effect on the vocal tract. Avoid large amounts of salt and refined sugar, spicy foods as well as excessive amounts of food and/or alcohol at times of extended vocal use.
6. Keep Healthy!
Try your best to maintain good general health. Exercise regularly, using your muscle groups to reduce stress through jogging, etc. Avoid viral colds. Don't treat yourself, and take medication you aren't sure you need if you do get sick. Antihistamines and anesthetic throat sprays dry out your throat as well as mask any signs of injury, therefore encouraging further abuse of the vocal folds. Some advocate vitamin C and zinc lozenges are effective, but should only be used after consultation with a physician. Find an otolaryngologist if you need a physician who specializes in treating vocalists or the throat.
7. Take Lessons
Voice lessons have been shown to improve the tonal quality and strength of singing or speaking voice, also improving breath support, diction and range through exercising the range of your voice. They also help prevent tone disorders that may occur through age.

Sources:
http://www.rivkinetic.org/magazine/mag5.html
http://www.radford.edu/~dcastong/ARTARCH/vocal.html

written by Janet Yun from www.shinemusic.com.au teachers of piano, saxophone, violin, singing, drums, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, flute and clarinet

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