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If you’re suffering from vocal problems, using these lists in conjunction with a diary may help you pin point your difficulty. Keep an accurate account of what you eat, do, and what environmental conditions you are in. Soon you may discover a pattern.

1. Rest. Singers need plenty of rest. Don’t allow yourself to become sleep deprived; that’s just asking for poor singing.

2. Diet. Eat a balanced diet, low in sugars, caffeine, and alcohol. Don’t drink alcohol on a day you must sing, because it dries out the throat extensively. Some singers even find that drinking alcohol the day before singing can cause problems. Caffeine does the same thing, although more slowly. Many people also find that Nutra Sweet causes vocal problems.

3. Hydration. It’s vital to drink lots of water. Have fresh water on hand whenever you’re practicing and performing. It’s better to not have it iced, since cold contracts muscles. If you drink plenty of water, your voice won’t tire as quickly, and singing will feel more comfortable.

4. Smoke. Breathing smoke from fireplaces, cigarettes, cloves, cigars, pipes, and illegal drugs dries out your throat and causes inflammation. If you are the one smoking—no matter what it is you’re smoking—not only will you suffer from breathing problems, but your vocal cords will become inflamed. This makes you far more prone to nodes and causes a myriad of vocal problems.


The following things may also affect your voice:

5. Artificial Climates. Air conditioning and heating systems can cause many vocal problems. Air conditioning tends to make singers with dust allergies miserable; it also alters the humidity level of the room, which may wreck havoc on your voice. Heating systems suck moisture out of the air. (On the other hand, singers with certain allergies sometimes find relief in an air conditioned room.) If you must have an artificially cooled or heated room, be sure to drink extra water.

6. Weight Lifting. Extensive weight lifting can put some strain on your vocal cords, and should be avoided.

7. Colds & Flus. Wash your hands frequently to avoid colds. Taking vitamin C on a daily basis helps most folks, too. (But too much of any vitamin is a health hazard, so don't go overboard.) If you feel fatigued, especially vocally, take some zinc. (I recommend the vitamin style tablet, but if your throat is already scratchy, try Cold Ease, which is a zinc lozenge.)

8. Allergies. They are the bane of singers. With the help of an eye, ear, and throat doctor (ENT), or an allergy specialist, you may be able to find treatment that helps you. At the very least, you may be able find out what you’re allergic to so you can avoid it in the future. Many singers just have to learn to “sing through” their allergies. If you suffer from allergy–like symptoms all year round, a doctor may tell you that the symptoms are due to the structure of your sinuses, and that little or nothing can be done to prevent the problem. (Surgery is never an option for singers, since altering the sinus area can alter the voice dramatically.) Again, you may have to learn to “sing through” the symptoms. A few tips: Peppermints, like Altoids, may help open up the sinus passages temporarily. Gargling with salt water may temporarily rid a singer of post nasal drip. A tablespoon of natural honey can temporarily comfort a scratchy throat.

9. Certain Foods. Dairy products, in particular, can cause lots of phlegm that interferes with singing.

10. Medications. Unfortunately, some of the medications we take on a daily basis, or to relieve us of the symptoms of seasonal allergies, can have adverse affects on singing, mostly by drying out the throat. For a comprehensive list of drugs and their side effects on singers, go to the National Center For Voice & Speech website. In addition, birth control pills may cause problems for wfemale singers. Some doctors say that progesterone dominant pills cause “a virilization of the larynx and a decrease of range in the upper register.” If you must take this sort of pill because of endometriosis or some other medical problem, be sure your doctor is sensitive to the fact that you’re a singer. (Some medical literature suggests that many of the treatments for endometriosis cause permanent vocal changes.)

11. Menstruation.
The cramping sometimes caused by menstruation can make it more difficult for female singers to support their voices correctly. If you have bad cramps, try to avoid singing. If you must sing, try treating your cramps with warm baths and a heating pad.

12. Anesthetic. Don’t have surgery before you must sing. Tell your doctor that you’re a singer and ask only for an experienced anesthesiologist. Local anesthetics may cause problems for singing students because they make it difficult to feel discomfort—a sensation that signals singers they are abusing their voice.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Kristina Seleshanko.