Have you ever lost your voice after spending Tuesday night at a show screaming along to your favorite songs and shouting into the ears of complete strangers? Imagine screaming into a microphone, as loudly as you can, for roughly 2 hours a night. Imagine being on tour and repeating that process over and over for dozens if not hundreds of shows. So how do they do it?
How do singers not lose their voice? The simple answer is endurance. Muscles located in the larynx are responsible for tensing and relaxing your vocal cords, allowing you to produce sound. As the larynx is made up of muscles, they need to be exercised and strengthened in order to build endurance.
When combined with practice and endurance, methods of prevention, such as warming up, cooling down, and resting, work together to drastically reduce the risk of voice loss. It is important to keep in mind that many musicians have their own rituals and techniques to protect their voices. Be sure to keep reading for a comprehensive breakdown of some popular prevention methods made famous by some of your favorite vocalists.
Other Techniques to Prevent Voice Loss
To promote their ninth studio album, Death Magnetic, Metallica’s infamous World Magnetic Tour kicked off in October of 2008 and thrashed on until November 2010. After 187 shows spread over 5 continents, the tour wrapped-up without Hetfield missing a single date due to sore vocal cords.
Contrary to popular belief, these vocal feats are not simply the product of luck and pain-numbing substances, but rather the result of a combination of practice and preventative measures.
So, to answer the question: how do singers not lose their voice? Let’s take a closer look at some of these preventative measures and how they can be applied.
Understanding What is Healthy and What is Not
Wherever the possibility of injury exists, typically there is a right and a wrong way to do something, and singing is no different. Sure, singing and screaming into a microphone can sound rough to the untrained ear, but that doesn’t mean it has to feel rough on your vocal cords. To protect your voice, be sure to keep an eye out for the following warning signs that you may be pushing it too far and beware of discomfort in your throat relating to:
- Overwhelming dryness followed by strong urges for relief via liquids
- Any soreness, pain, itches or tickles in the back of your throat
- Any uncomfortable tension or the feeling of strain
- Increased levels of mucus production
- Constant urges to clear your throat
- Coughing and vision impairment due to tears in your eyes
Here’s some additional info from a classically trained vocal coach:
Before we get started, there is one sure-fire way to improve the longevity of your voice that stands out above the rest and that is to seek the training and guidance of a professional vocal coach. These voice technicians work hard with both established and aspiring vocalists, helping them improve their vocal capabilities while simultaneously eliminating any bad habits and poor techniques that can lead to injury.
However, if for whatever reason you cannot hire a vocal coach, there are a few things you can do to protect your main asset.
Help Prevent Voice Loss when Singing
Although it may not make you feel like a badass, there are a few great techniques that will increase your ability to perform to your fullest, night after night:
Be sure to warm up first: This cannot be overstated. The muscles of the Larynx are responsible for sound production and just as an athlete warms up before a game, so should singers before a show. Giving yourself 10-20 minutes to fully stretch out your voice will allow you to really hit those high notes without experiencing soreness.
Cool down after singing: My apologies for another sports reference, but cooling down your muscles after you’ve worked them to the core is just good advice. Calmly unwind your voice so you’re ready for the next show.
Avoid coughing: Excessive coughing causes vocal folds to tear and rub together, which can lead to some serious vocal problems. While understandably hard to avoid while sick, if you can manage it, do your best to gently swallow rather than cough as to not pile on more damage to an already sore throat.
Avoid drinking cold water: Sure, drink tons of water to stay hydrated while performing but try to keep it room temperature rather than ice cold. Cold water only increases muscle tension, reversing your vocal warm-ups.
Don’t drink tea before singing: I am sure this will come as a hard hit to the soul for many metalheads, but leave your tea thermos at home. Caffeine has a dehydrating effect that can cause your throat to dry up quickly. As a substitute, try warm water with lemon and honey for extra soothing.
Avoid straining to hit high notes: If you have the skill and talent to do it correctly, go for it. Stick within your range and practice at home; your voice and your audience will thank you for it.
Tips On Voice Recovery?
Even if you religiously follow all of the above guidelines, life will still find ways to test you. Should you find yourself unfortunate enough to lose your voice before an upcoming show, don’t panic, there are a few things you can do in order to speed up the recovery process.
- Don’t whisper: If you have damaged or lost your voice, whatever you do, don’t whisper. This will only exacerbate and prolong your suffering. Your vocal cords need rest and time to heal.
- Breathe moist air: Purchase an air humidifier to add moisture to dry air or, if away from home, deeply inhale steam from a hot shower or a bowl of hot water.
- Avoid decongestants: These medications have a tendency to dry out the throat, impeding the recovery process.
- Rest your voice as much as possible: Only speak when it’s absolutely necessary. The less you speak, the quicker you’ll heal.
- Moisten your throat: Gargle often with saltwater and try sucking on soothing lozenges.
How do singers not lose their voice?—Practice and prevention. Remember, your favorite singers were not born with steel vocal cords. Just like anything worth doing in life, the key to not losing your voice is through a combination of training, practice, and prevention.