1. Smoking, Drinking Alcohol, and excessive caffeine
I feel like this is a given, but it’s one of the most common things I see in the vocal community. I’ve seen not only artists but vocal coaches who smoke or drink regularly — and think that their technique will save them from damage. While it may mitigate some of the effects, you’re still climbing an uphill battle. You’re doing your voice a disservice. Your voice and your body is your instrument. Treat it well. Cut out these bad habits and your voice will thank you.
2. Yelling before or after shows.
I find it best not to yell in any circumstance…and if you happen to do it — Yell like you’re belting. Make sure you’re still using the correct vocal technique (I go deeper into that in the Belting episode).
Breathe in properly — by keeping your shoulders back and directing your air into your rib cage and allow your diaphragm to expand when you’re breathing in.
Project by allowing the top of your stomach to go down while simultaneously pushing your pelvic floor down (it typically looks like the bottom of half of your stomach going out).
Keep your jaw and the back of your tongue down.
Whispering is not healthy for your voice. If you feel like you’re losing your voice complete vocal rest is necessary. Whispering will only prolong your recovery. Whispering allows a lot of air to pass-through your vocal cords and if you’re whispering all of the time, you’re training yourself to have a very soft onset and in turn, may lose a lot of your resonance and vocal power. Don’t lock-in bad habits. Sing and speak properly and take complete vocal rest when you’re in recovery. This also goes into why I tell my students to try not to hang on to the H sound when they’re singing…1, it takes a lot of your air to sing H and it also requires a very open cord closure.
4. Chronic dehydration
I’ve met people who say they don’t like water. It blows my mind — your body is 50–75% water. A hydrated body is a healthier one. When your vocal cords get dried up, you increase the risk of injuries like raspiness, straining, and losing your voice.
5. Clearing your throat
If your throat is itchy — drink water. Don’t cough to clear your throat! Clearing your throat causes slight trauma to your vocal cords every time you do it and it doesn’t soothe your throat. If you have a cold or excess phlegm, be sure you’re taking cough suppressants at night and expectorants during the day while also minimizing the stress to your throat by accompanying it with throat lozenges and soothing herbal teas, while also drinking plenty of water to cut through the phlegm and keep your vocal cords hydrated.
6. Ignoring your body
If you are sick — DO NOT sing through it. Singing while you are in recovery can cause ruptures in your vocal cord lining, or nodules that cause calluses on your cords, fibrosis (thickening of your vocal fold lining), and polyps or cysts on your vocal cords. All of this can cause permanent damage if left uncontrolled which can lead to hoarseness that doesn’t seem to go away, difficulty in agility (being able to shift between notes and registers without cracking), and in worse cases — permanent loss of vocal range.
7. Not warming up
Never go in cold. If you haven’t spoken or sung all day, you must do a vocal warm-up. Forcing your voice to sing challenging passages without a warm-up can lead to injuries and inconsistencies in your performance and vocal range. Don’t skip your warm-up!
8. Untreated acid reflux
Excessive acid in your stomach can severely damage your esophagus and lining in your throat and turn damage your vocal cords if left untreated. If you find yourself burping excessively or getting heartburn — it’s time to get your acid reflux in check. You can do this with antacids, a lighter more alkaline diet, and drinking plenty of water.
9. Using an improper vocal technique
Using improper technique can have lasting effects on your voice long term. It can cause you to constantly strain or consistently using shallow breaths and having tension when you sing. In the long term, that can damage your voice and make you lose clarity and limit your vocal range as well as cause your voice to be unreliable. It goes in and out. Sometimes you have a voice — sometimes you don’t. You never know what you’re going to get.
10. Not having a vocal coach
When you don’t have a vocal coach, you risk having your improper vocal techniques going unchecked for long periods, which can damage your voice beyond repair in the worse cases. Another case would be that yes, there is some damage — but it’s reparable such as getting vocal polyps surgically removed by an ENT. In the best case, you haven’t damaged your voice and you have a chance to learn proper techniques to protect your voice from damage and make your voice stronger, more resilient, and dynamic in the process.
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Kristal Cherelle-Indie Artist School