As the temperature plunges, singers and speakers need to take extra care. Here are some tips that will keep your voice healthy. The bottom line is this: With a little thought and preparation the cold weather doesn’t need to be a problem.
Having lived in temperatures ranging from 112°above to 55° below zero (Las Vegas, Northern MN, NYC, Chicago,) I can tell you that when it comes to singing, temperature does matter.
I did most of my early formal training and singing in Chicago, and that’s one cold city in the winter. Here is some wisdom I learned from those who lived there and those who toured around the world.
Follow These Tips to Protect Your Voice From Cold Temperatures
In Through the Nose and Out Thru the Mouth
Try to breathe in only through the nose and out through nose and mouth. This gives the air a chance to warm and moisturize before hitting your larynx and lungs.
If you must talk outside, let your listener know you’ll be breathing in nasally which may slow your conversation down a bit.
Wear a Scarf and Hat
It’s easy to spot singers in New York City. They’re the ones wearing scarfs and hats even in mildly cool weather.
70–80% of body heat-loss happens through neck and head. That’s why in New York City it’s easy to spot the singers. They’re the ones wearing scarfs and hats even in mildly cool weather. They consider themselves vocal athletes and know the importance of vocal health. It’s no different than other athletes wearing warming sleeves or heavy hoodies when they’re on the bench. It keeps them ready to do what they do. Isn’t that what you want?
Cold air is usually very dry and requires us to hydrate more than normal. Remember the rule: Half your body weight in ounces of water daily. 150 lbs. = 75 ounces of water… at least.
Because heated air from a furnace or even fire is drier air consider using a humidifier. Any time your home’s humidity is lower than 35% it’s too low for singers and very drying to the vocal tract. And, when your throat is dry consider a long, hot shower or using a Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler. It’s a great way to counter drying and even mild swelling of the vocal folds due to too much singing or speaking.
A Little Extra Help for Your Instrument
A topical moisturizer like Entertainer’s Secret Throat Spray can instantly moisturize the nasal passages, sinuses, upper throat and oral cavity. That’s a really good start to keeping moist. It doesn’t take the place of good hydrating, but it does its job well and it’s used by thousands of singers and speakers world-wide.
A warm drink will help warm areas around the larynx, but remember: caffeine is a diuretic and can dry you out. Staying with decaffeinated drinks (still some caffeine there), or better yet no-caffeine drinks is better on singing days. Something like “Throat Coat” tea is filled with interesting flavors and very good for singers.
Acclimate Before Singing
Arrive where you’ll be singing 20–30 minutes early to allow your body, larynx and lungs to “get up to temp.” Guitar players and photographers allow their equipment to adjust to room temperature and humidity before beginning an event and your vocal instrument is even more fragile.
Warm Up Smart
Smart singers begin every day with some humming and light vocal exercises so they are never too far from being ready to sing. When coming in out of the cold don’t just show up hoping to get your vocal mechanism in gear during the first few songs. Instead, as soon as your body begins to get comfortable begin lightly humming throughout your range. Then move into scales and lip-trills. (Hint: Putting some Vocal Coach warm-up exercises on your mp3 player or iPhone will always give you a predictable, familiar routine.)
If you are outside a lot in cold weather you burn more calories just staying warm. On the other hand, if you are much less physically active in the winter months adjust your calorie intake accordingly. The way you eat and your overall health has a lot to do with your singing health. Try and plan ahead.
When You Have to Sing Outside
Are you part of any outdoor performances, or are you doing any caroling at Christmas? There’s no need to sacrifice your voice as you enjoy this special time of the year, so remember:
- Warm up yourself and your voice before going outside.
- Your throat and head need to be covered.
- A cup or thermos of non-caffeinated tea or hot cider is a great idea.
- Take more frequent, smaller breaths through nose and mouth rather than normal. Big, gasping breaths through the mouth will tend to chill the larynx.
What are your favorite cold weather tips? Let us know in the comments.