Our voices have an incredible ability to convey emotions, tell stories, inspire, and connect with others on a profound level. Yet, all too often, we take this extraordinary gift for granted, neglecting the importance of vocal health until we face the consequences of its absence. But fear not! Staying vocally healthy is within your control. And my hope is that these three simple, easy tips will empower you to maintain a strong, vibrant voice throughout your life's journey.
1. Breathe through your nose
Breathing through your nose offers a wide array of benefits for your overall health and well-being but most importantly it is the best breath you can take for your vocal health. The nose is designed to efficiently filter, warm, and humidify the air you breathe ensuring that it reaches your lungs in optimal condition. Nasal breathing helps to humidify and moisten the air before it reaches your vocal cords. The moist environment is essential for the vocal cords to vibrate smoothly. Not only is nasal breathing good for your vocal health, but it also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of relaxation and calmness. It stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and stress responses. By consciously focusing on nasal breathing, you can reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and maintain vocal health.
2. Vocal Fry for Vocal Health
Vocal fry (or Slack Folds in Estill Voice Training®) is a vocal technique that involves producing a low and creaky sound by relaxing the muscles around the vocal folds. Vocal fry can help loosen up the muscles and promote better vocal flexibility before engaging in more demanding vocal activities. If you're a Millennial or Gen Z, you've probably received a bad reputation for talking with vocal fry. It's perceived as lazy, uninterested, and too quiet. But if you consider what connects all of these traits, you realize that when a person produces this quality, they need to be fully relaxed. Vocal fry requires very little effort and encourages your vocal folds and surrounding muscles to let go and reset. “Fry” a little after a vocally taxing day and you’ll feel rejuvenated and refreshed.
3. Siren, Siren, Siren
Vocal sirens, also known as vocal glides or sirening, are exercises that involve smoothly and gradually transitioning between different pitch ranges in a single continuous sound. Vocal sirens are an excellent warm-up exercise to prepare your voice for singing or speaking. They gently stretch and mobilize the vocal cords, helping to improve their flexibility and responsiveness. Your siren is also a vocal barometer; a sign of the "vocal weather" ahead. Using your siren as a vocal health check-in informs you where your voice is at in that very moment. Don't be afraid if you don't like what you hear! Keep sirening. Vocalizing in an easy thin vocal fold position can reduce swelling at the level of the true vocal folds.
Remember, your voice is a unique instrument with incredible potential for expression and connection. By prioritizing vocal health you can nurture your voice for a lifetime of powerful communication and artistic fulfillment. So, embrace the journey of vocal health, continue to learn, and let your voice soar with confidence and grace. May your voice be a vessel of authenticity, beauty, and profound impact. Here's to a future filled with vibrant and resilient voices, harmonizing together to make the world a better place.
About the author: Luke Steinhauer is a premier vocal coach, international voice consultant, and Estill Master Trainer, based in New York City. Luke is a graduate of The University of Michigan and an MBA Candidate at Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, CUNY. @lukesteinhauervoice
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