Category: Voice Fatigue and Strain

Singers in cold. Vocal Coach

Cold Weather Tips For Singers

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?

Stay Hydrated

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.)

Eat Smart

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

SOME OF US ARE JUST DESIGNED FOR COLD WEATHER

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.

woman with stress headache

Stress Takes Its Toll on Your Voice

If you are going through a difficult time in life – guess what? So is your voice.

Consider this: The voice is connected to the Central Nervous System. This system regulates the function of our internal organs such as blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and more. Recognizing this can be very helpful in understanding what is going on with your voice.

Read more

Question About a Cracking High Note

I recently got this question for a reader. I’m sure that all of us have dealt with voice cracking before. read on to see how I address this common vocal issue.

Your Question

How can I stop cracking when holding a high note? Sometimes I crack and sometimes I don’t. It’s frustrating.

My Answer

First, when the voice “cracks” it can be due to a number of factors. Here are just a few:

  1. Pushing too much air, more than is needed. This may be due to adrenaline or fear.
  2. Sticking the chin out and lifting the head causing an unnatural, inefficient position in the larynx.
  3. A range that is just too high for you to sing in for a long time.

Here’s what I do with my singers to try and overcome this situation:

  1. Lift your hands straight up over your head to find an aligned, efficient posture. Going up on your toes helps even more since if you get out of alignment you will start to fall over and automatically correct yourself.
  2. Make sure you are able to sing the high note on the lip trill (lip buzz). This lets you know it is at least potentially “there” for you. Not everyone is a high tenor. I’ve included a demo of the Lip Trill below.
  3. If you can actually sing the song, and especially the higher phrases on the lip trill, with good posture you are well on your way. If not, you need to work up to it by getting solid with your posture and breathing and understanding your tone.

Here’s an article with some good posture/breathing tips. Ten Steps to Better Breathing

And, here is an example of the Lip Trill exercise I mentioned above:

I hope this helps make you a smarter singer so you can be all you can be. Remember: The voice is a physical, mechanical and acoustical instrument. It also uses posture, breathing, acoustics, articulation and expression. There’s a lot to it. But, if you take it one step at a time your journey will be a great one. Please remember that all our training materials as well as our online training are geared to take you from where you are, to that next step.