One day, a singing voice specialist welcomed her client into her office. After a brief hello, she asked the singer what they wanted to work on that day. After a moment of thought, they said to her, "My larynx just needs some love." I heard this story a while ago, and during this time where we're all seeking to find ways to take care of ourselves and others, it feels especially relevant. On this note, here is a list of 5 things you can do to take care of your singing voice and give your larynx some well-deserved love.
There is a large amount of evidence that warming up before singing and/or speaking improves voice production and decreases effort.
A warm-up can include stretching, semi-occluded vocal tract exercises (e.g. lip trills, humming, singing through a straw), and gentle singing in all voice registers within a comfortable pitch range. No warm-up is one-sized-fits-all! Please collaborate with a voice teacher to determine what warm-up series works best for you.
2. Drink Water
To prevent voice problems, experts often recommend overall body hydration.
P.S. - You know that popular tip of drinking 8-10 cups of water a day? Dr. Aaron Johnson, a voice scientist and speech-language pathologist, told me that this is not based on current research, and we don't actually know how much water each person needs for their voice to function at its best. So, I advise tracking in a journal how much water you drink and how your voice feels to determine what is right for you.
3. Inhale Steam
Fun fact: Steam is the only substance that directly touches the vocal folds.
You can use a personal steamer, a nebulizer with saline, a funnel over a cup of hot steamy water, or even just steam from a hot shower! Since nebulized isotonic saline is a newer vocal hygiene recommendation, there are currently only a few studies to support it so far.
4. Laryngeal Massage
Some voice problems can be caused by the muscles surrounding the larynx. While manual therapy has been used for relief from voice issues for a long time, current research is attempting to understand more about why this method has been successful. A popular hypothesis is that it has to do with activation in the brain rather than problems with specific tissues under the skin.
Please contact me or another voice professional if you wish to learn how to safely and effectively massage the throat. My current favorite manual therapist to learn from is Walt Fritz, PT.
5. Resonant Voice
In speech-language pathology, a "resonant voice" has two characteristics: 1) speaking is easy 2) vibrations are felt in the front of the face. This has been shown in studies to position the vocal folds for optimal voicing. This may not work for everyone, and some people may not feel any vibrations. If not, no worries - there are other methods we can try!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a lesson to find what methods improve YOUR own unique voice!
Mahalingam, S., & Boominathan, P. (2016). Effects of steam inhalation on voice quality‐related acoustic measures. The Laryngoscope, 126(10), 2305-2309.
Portillo, M. P., Rojas, S., Guzman, M., & Quezada, C. (2018). Comparison of effects produced by physiological versus traditional vocal warm-up in contemporary commercial music singers. Journal of Voice, 32(2), 200-208.
Roy, N., Dietrich, M., Blomgren, M., Heller, A., Houtz, D. R., & Lee, J. (2019). Exploring the neural bases of primary muscle tension dysphonia: a case study using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of voice, 33(2), 183-194.
Santana, E. R., Araújo, T. M. D., & Masson, M. L. V. (2018). Self-perception of surface hydration effect on teachers’ voice quality: an intervention study. Revista CEFAC, 20(6), 761-769.
Tanner, K., Roy, N., Merrill, R. M., Muntz, F., Houtz, D. R., Sauder, C., ... & Wright-Costa, J. (2010). Nebulized isotonic saline versus water following a laryngeal desiccation challenge in classically trained sopranos.
Yiu, E. M. L., Lo, M. C., & Barrett, E. A. (2017). A systematic review of resonant voice therapy. International journal of speech-language pathology, 19(1), 17-29.