Technically speaking, it isn't our actual voice that's getting tired when we get vocal fatigue. When we overuse our voice by speaking, singing, or shouting for too long a period of time, the muscles in our larynx can get tired and irritated to the point of causing dryness, irritation, and possibly pain. Preventing vocal fatigue can be a pretty simple process as long as you aren't falling into bad daily habits. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid tiring out the muscles that you use when you talk or sing.
Warming up your voice, especially in the morning, is a great way to ease your body into speaking or singing without causing any damage or irritation. There are several go-to warmups that I use nearly every day as a professional studio vocalist. There would be such a different sound coming out in my recordings if it weren't for the positive effects I get from doing these exercises before singing for a long period of time. Check out some of my favorite vocal exercises here.
Many people that use their voices as a part of their career are used to doing vocal warmups, but not enough of us are using vocal cooldowns to help transition our voices into a normal tone after we do a long bout of singing or speaking. Without the use of vocal cooldowns, you run the risk of going through vocal fatigue after a singing or speaking engagement that will last hours. Check out some recommendations I have for simple vocal cooldowns that only take about 10 minutes here.
The Lombard Effect happens when we subconsciously speak or sing louder in environments that are loud. It happens to us all, especially in a nightlife environment. Many people easily go hoarse after a late night out with friends because of this effect paired with the use of alcohol and bad hydration. Try to speak less and use more hand gestures and texting instead of running the risk of putting yourself through vocal fatigue.
Not only is it important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but it is important to hydrate before a long performance at the right time. If you want to properly hydrate in time, be sure that you are drinking water at least two hours before your performance. It's not a bad idea to get a cup or two of water before you are singing for a long period of time, but it won't be the same as properly hydrating 2 hours before.
You need to give your vocal mechanisms time to rest after a long period of talking or singing. It's not a bad idea to regularly go on vocal rest after big shows or while you're on tour. Sure you will be annoyed by having to speak less and not being able to sing around the house, but you'll be doing yourself a favor for the gig that's coming up the next day.
I'm still very guilty of this, but we need to clear our throats way less. Clearing the throat and coughing are two common things that can irritate and dry out our throats. The best alternative solution for wanting to clear your throat is to simply get some water or swallow a bit of saliva. It's far better than the irritation that comes with several coughs or throat clears that do nothing but damage over time. I know it's hard to do, but even cutting your coughs and throat clearing in half will do you a lot of good.
If you have a gig coming up, be sure that you aren't drinking alcohol or caffeine. For my tea lovers out there, drinking tea is a great thing to do as a singer or speaker, but avoid the teas that have caffeine in them since they can dry out your throat. The best thing to do would be to simply drink water if you don't feel like remembering what and what not you want to drink in order to stay hydrated.
It's pretty easy to tell if you're suffering from vocal fatigue. You will experience symptoms that include sore throat, dryness, hoarseness, a tightness in your neck muscles, shortness of breath, and the feeling that there is a lump in your throat. It's also easy to tell where you went wrong and what caused that vocal fatigue. Fortunately, using the tips above will help you recover quickly from fatigue and avoid it in the future if you are consistent with the recommendations.
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