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Avoid vocal injuries

How to Avoid Vocal Injuries

Regardless of the style of music you sing, if you perform regularly, you are at a risk for vocal injury. You don’t have to be a statistic. If you prepare yourself properly, and follow some sound principles, you can lower your risk of common vocal injuries which plague many performing singers.

Train to avoid vocal injuries

How you use your voice when you sing is one of the most important aspects of keeping your voice healthy. Start training early. Don’t wait until you are ready to leave for a tour, or start recording an album. Studying regularly with a well trained vocal coach, and vocalizing daily should be the cornerstone discipline of every singer. Training your voice well is one of the most important ways you can avoid vocal injuries.

With a well-trained and well conditioned voice, you put yourself in a position of power as a singer. Don’t be daunted by things like high notes, power notes, long tours, extended recording sessions and the like. Condition and train your voice so that you are in charge of your singing. Approach your vocal training diligently and systematically. Find an expert coach you trust, and commit to their prescribed regimen.

Try to find a coach who has experience training professional singers. Make certain your coach has relationships with vocal health professionals in their community. Be certain that you choose a coach who is trained in healthy and sound singing technique.

Remember that singers are athletes. It’s important to train for tours and recording sessions, just like an athlete must train for their events. Your coach should have experience in getting you “tour ready” which will go far in helping you avoid vocal injuries.

Watch how you use your voice offstage

What goes on offstage and out of the studio can contribute to vocal injuries as much as what you do when you perform. Avoid vocal injuries by not overusing your speaking voice the day before, the day of and the day after any performance or long recording session. Avoid speaking over noise. Don’t yell or scream. Whispering can also be hard on your voice. Rest your voice before and after performing. This means that you should not talk much, if at all. When you are resting your voice, make sure that the people around you  understand this and respect it. When performing a lot, a good mantra is, “When I’m not singing or vocalizing, I’m going to shut up.”

Have a good performing environment

If you are a singer of amplified music, you must use a microphone. Never try to sing over a band without a microphone and a good monitor. This is the case for both rehearsals and performances. Be certain that your monitors (whether stage or in-ears) have a mix that works well for you. Finding your ideal monitor mix takes time and experimentation. Just be certain that what you hear enables you to sing well, without having to over-sing.

You should be able to hear your own voice well, as well as hearing the harmonic structure of the music (i.e. guitar, keyboard and/or baseline). Do NOT have a pitch-corrected vocal in your monitor. If your pitch is electronically altered in your monitor, it makes it virtually impossible for you to sing in a healthy manner. Is autotune being used in the house mix? If so, please don’t use it in your monitor mix.

Do you use guide vocals in performances? If you do, be sure that they are NOT louder than your own voice in your monitor mix. When you don’t have sufficient auditory feedback of your own voice, you run the risk of over-singing and injuring your voice.

If you perform non amplified music, try to do so only do in a house that is acoustically geared for singing such music. Singing in an acoustically “live” environment allows for the necessary constant auditory feedback so that you don’t over-sing. Avoid singing over an orchestra or large ensemble in any “dead” space without amplification and adequate monitoring. All good opera houses and concert halls are acoustically geared toward proper self monitoring.

Be healthy

How you live your life contributes greatly to the health of your voice. Diet, exercise, sleep, emotional well-being and inner poise all contribute greatly to the health of your vocal instrument.

Avoid things like smoking, over drinking, screaming, yelling, or speaking over loud noises (such as at parties, restaurants, concerts and bars).

Don’t sing while under the influence of alcohol or mind altering drugs.

Be sure you are drinking an adequate amount of water each day. I’ve told my students for years, “Ya gotta pee clear to sing clear.” I know this is not grammatically correct, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

Wash your hands frequently to avoid catching colds; and if you suffer from allergies, get them under control by working with a health care professional.

If you have GERD or acid reflux, get it treated immediately. Work with your doctor to take care of your diet, lifestyle and the medications necessary to be certain that your GERD is not destroying your voice.

Try breathing steam or cool mist, as you prefer, daily to help your vocal folds stay hydrated. If your sleeping environment is dry, consider using a humidifier.

Avoid toxins in the air such as at bonfires, incense, chemicals etc., especially in the days leading up to a performance.

Find a good laryngologist

The time to find a good voice doctor is while you are healthy. Make an appointment, and have them examine you to get a baseline of the health of your vocal folds. Performing singers should check in with their doctor twice each year, if they are feeling well, just to make sure things are looking good.

If you catch a problem early, it’s usually much easier to treat it than if you wait until you start losing your voice.  Don’t be afraid of the doctor. Rather than waiting to see a doctor because you need remedial care, get regular voice checkups to make sure  your voice is staying healthy.

How does it feel?

Your voice will let you know how you are doing. Does it hurt to sing? Do you get hoarse after singing? Is it necessary for you to increase volume, or even yell  in order to hit the high notes? Is your voice getting raspy? Do loud notes feel strained or cause hoarseness? These are all indications that your voice is in some level of distress. Don’t ignore the signs. Monitor your own voice constantly, and use common sense.


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