Singers: Preventing A Sore Throat

Here are some solid basics for warming up the voice and preventing a sore throat.  Try to keep these in mind every time you practice or perform.  I find that developing a pre-performance or practice ritual where I go through these exercises is great for preparing not only my body but also my mind to perform. Plus, it definitely helps soothe some anxiety to know that you are physically prepared! Remember that singing should feel comfortable and joyful.  If you are tight, sore, anxious, or just not having fun, give these exercises and principles a try.  
1.  Breath Support
Making sure your lungs are giving you proper support is the most important thing for your volume, projection, and endurance!  I begin every lesson with an overview of proper breathing and diaphragm activation support, as this requires a lot of practice to become second nature.
    • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Place one hand on your throat/upper chest.  Keep this area relaxed.  Place your other hand just below your solar plexus.  This area should expand. Breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth, keeping the throat and shoulders relaxed.
    • “Resisted” Breathing:  Follow same instructions as above, except make a fist with one hand, and blow “through” it.  This forces the diaphragm to work a little harder!  Make sure to take breaks so you don’t get too light headed!
2.  Warm Ups
A gentle warm up will get your throat and facial muscles loose, warm, and relaxed so we can begin singing nice and limber, and not strain ourselves.
    • Sss:  With proper breath support, on the exhale, make a Hissssss.  Just like how it sounds!  Try to keep the sound even and strong. Do this a few times.
    • Zzzs: Same as with Sss, except now a buzzing “Zzzz” sound.  Try to make it loud and even!
    • Humming:  Start gentle, and make sure your throat and chest are still relaxed. Try humming up and down, from a comfortable low pitch to a comfortable high pitch.  Gradually expand as you warm up.  Again try to keep the sound even and comfortable.
    • Vocal Trills: Use the same “up and down” shape as with humming, except now try to make your lips vibrate, with a big “Brrrppp!” sound.
3.  Oral Hygiene
We should all be keeping good oral hygiene already, but if you need that extra push, know that keeping your mouth clean can help prevent your throat from getting sore.  Also helps to keep mics clean and your lovely singing voice from projecting bad breath!
    • Brushing, flossing, mouth wash: Every day, twice a day people!
    • Oil Pulling: Basically swishing with some oil to help clean the mouth. I like to do this first thing in the morning.  Check out this delicious recipe here!
    • Salt gargle: Great right before and after you’re singing, especially if you already have a bit of a sore throat or you know that you’ll be pushing it.
4.  Take Adequate Breaks
If you feel like something is too difficult in the practice room, stop! If you have been singing more than usual, feel free to take a break!  Let your muscles and vocal chords relax and repair.  Recovery from injury is so much more time consuming than preventing one from occurring in the first place.
5.  Stay Hydrated
Again, this one should be super obvious!  But so many singers drink alcohol or caffeine, and it really should be emphasized.  Some room-temperature water or nice herbal tea can be so soothing to the throat.  I don’t recommend ice-cold water while singing as it can stiffen the vocal chords (the opposite of our warm-up!), but afterwards, to sooth an already sore throat, cold water is A-OK.   Thanks for reading, and if you would like to find out more personalized guidance, check out what I offer here.  Pleasant and joyous singing to you!

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