Did you know that maintaining vocal health isn’t a luck of the draw? You can actually protect and maintain it!
Sometimes it’s too late and our vocal chords are completely shot. So what do you do when that happens?
I want to introduce you to our friend Emily Schweitzer. She has her M.S. in CCC-SLP, is a Speech-Language Pathologist, sings at her local church, & knows a thing or two about vocal health.
She’s basically the Albert Einstein of vocal knowledge.
So without further ado, here’s our friend Emily on HOW TO SAVE YOUR VOCAL CHORDS FROM IMPENDING DOOM! (okay that’s not the title, but man it just felt so good to say it…)
In this season of flu, strep and now COVID, worship singers have an especially difficult time maintaining and recovering their best vocal health. Maintaining vocal health is more crucial now than ever before. As a speech-language pathologist and life-long worship vocalist, allow me to share some tips and tricks for keeping your voice healthy and getting you back to worshipping at your best.
What Makes the Voice Work?
Let’s take a minute to talk about how this instrument is made. The voice is composed of two basic components: Vibration of Vocal Cords and Airflow.
The vocal cords: Vocal sound is produced when the two muscles strung across the top of your airway (vocal chords) vibrate together. They are covered by a wet outer layer so the friction of repeatedly coming together does not damage those muscles.
The airflow: Vocal sound also requires an air source to push up through and vibrate the vocal cords. The vocal cords close and open at an extremely rapid pace as the air pressure builds and releases producing the sound that is your voice.
“My Voice Feels Great! How Do I Keep it That Way?”
If this is you, I have listed some strategies here, but for more detailed descriptions, Heather Turner does a great job in her post “4 Keys to Singing like A Pro on Sunday” listing some tips. Three I want to be sure to mention are:
- VOCAL WARM-UPS
Vocal chords are muscles that need to stretch just as much as any other before performing – don’t skip it!! This is also the time to gradually stretch your vocal range and volume instead of “going for it” on a Sunday morning.
Keeping your body well-hydrated keeps the protective layer over those vocal chords smooth and slippery. This is essential so the vibrations don’t cause too much friction on those tiny little muscles. So drink up!!
- NO SUBSTANCES
This should go without saying, but there are so many different harmful effects on the voice for ALL things smoked through your airway. I could go on and on – just please don’t.
“I’m Sick and Lost my Voice…Help!!”
If this is you, rest and relaxation are going to be the name of the game. Trying too much too soon can cause pain or even permanent damage to your voice. Some ideas to try instead:
- HARD SWALLOW
Frequent coughing during an illness often can lead to “losing one’s voice”. Coughs require lots of friction and strain which can cause swelling. Swollen vocal cords don’t close and open properly so you “lose your voice”. Instead of a cough, try tucking your chin to your chest and swallowing as hard as you can. A hard swallow isn’t always as satisfying, but substituting it for some coughs may save your voice.
- GENTLE VOICE
Whispering is a common solution for a hoarse voice, but can actually do more harm than good. Many times when we whisper, we end up forcing greater airflow through the vocal cords to be heard than if we were to turn our voice on. Try using a gentle voice instead, or rest it completely.
- REST IS BEST
When using your voice is painful, practice complete. vocal. rest. The worst thing you can do for your voice is to keep talking or sing through the pain. That is how damage or nodules (calluses on the vocal muscles that can require surgery to remove) can happen. Not worth it. Use other ways to communicate (texting, writing, morse code, etc…) until the pain is gone.
Offering Our Best
It is such a gift to offer something so personal as your own voice in a worship set. Hopefully, this post helps you better care for the instrument entrusted to you. With the info in this post, may you continue to contribute your very best to the One who has given us everything!
Major thanks again to Emily for sharing with us! If you have any questions or what to learn more about her practice you can reach her here!
Want to learn harmonies and be more confident using your voice to lead people into worship?
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You may also be interested in these related posts!
- 4 Keys to Singing like a Pro on Sunday (A Vocal Coach’s Guide for Worship Leaders)
- How to Avoid Losing Your Voice While Leading Worship
- 5 Practical Tips for Worship Singers
- 3 Ways the Enemy Attacks Worship Leader: And What You Can Do About It