Disclaimer: Zoe Vandermeer is not a doctor. If you have any questions about vocal health and physical health, please consult your doctor. The information below reflects Zoe's experience as a professional singer and voice trainer. The information below is not to be misconstrued as medical advice.
Establishing healthy habits with your voice makes everything with singing and speaking easier and better. Singers and actors are vocal athletes. If you have a 3 hour rehearsal for a stage or musical production, vocal health is going to be really important! So is great technique. Here we are going to discuss some basic guidelines to vocal health.
You have probably heard that it is a good idea to drink lots of water. It is. The vocal folds are covered with mucosal membranes and hydration is needed to stay healthy. The mucus lubricates the vocal fold tissues. If the membranes dry out, the vocal cords can become swollen and irritated, which puts them at greater risk for injury. If you have not been drinking enough water, the mucus can become thick and sticky which can lead to a lot of throat-clearing, which can be described as the two vocal cords grinding together. Not good. How much water? Generally speaking, at least 8 - 10 eight ounce glasses of water a day (just water), in addition to other beverages such as fruit juice, tea, etc. If the weather is hot and humid, or if you are involved in greater physical exertion, including long rehearsals and performances, increase the water intake. You may also want to get information about electrolytes and water.
Alcohol and coffee are known to dehydrate the body and vocal cords.
Love that spicy food? I do too! However, it's not great for singing or speaking. Avoiding foods that are known to cause gastric reflux is a healthy path for the professional voice user. That list includes (from my voice doctor in New York City) greasy food, oily food, fried food, chocolate, tomatoes, coffee, spicy food, and alcohol.
Sleep is incredibly important for singers and actors. 8 hours is great!
Sometimes singers and actors observe complete voice rest for a day or two to refresh the voice. If the vocal cords become swollen from chronic misuse, or even from a one time performance where the artist is, for example, sleep deprived, or the singer was trying sing over the increased volume of the band, vocal cord swelling may result. You can check out the Dr. Bastian Vocal Cord Swelling Check video above if you want to learn more about this subject.
A raspy voice is usually an indicator that something is not right with your vocal cords. It could be as basic as slightly swollen vocal cords (yes, even from crying), or more serious medical issues such as vocal nodules (callouses on the vocal cords from chronic misuse), hemorrhage (bleeding) and polyp (blister), bowed vocal cords, types of dysphonia, and a myriad of other medical issues. A single scream has been known to cause a hemorrhage in the vocal cords, and voice rest is strongly suggested, so that the vocal cords can heal. If you are experiencing a chronic raspy voice, it may be a good idea to seek out the professional help of a voice doctor. Here are audio clips from my interview in 2009 with now-retired otolaryngologist Dr. David Slavit in New York City.