As Music Ministers, we have a strong burden to keep our voices healthy. Without a voice, it’s very difficult to lead singing, wouldn’t you say? Because of that, I’ve decided today to write a bit about things I’ve learned from personal study as well as from my wife who is a trained Speech-Language Pathologist. Here’ goes….
The absolutely top reason for vocal problems—dehydration. It’s the most overlooked neglect of the voice there is. Most singers tank up on water while their singing (in between songs or just before). However, because of the body’s survival system, their timing is about a day late.
Let me explain: If you deprive your body of liquids, it will begin to prioritize what gets the fluids that are left in its system. What’s at the top of the list? Of course, your brain and your internal organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, etc. What’s at the bottom of the list? You guessed it! Your vocal cords. They may be one of the least necessary parts of your body that you need to survive.
Well, let’s work in reverse order. If you then begin to give your body liquids, the vocal cords will be at the back of the line. In fact, it takes your body about 24 hours of proper hydration to get to the vocal cords. Are you dehydrated? Here’s a link to take a quiz. Here’s another article on the subject.
The way vocal cords are hydrated is not what you might think. Again, most folks think that drinking fluids gets hydration directly to the voice. Actually, if that were to happen you’d be choking and gasping for air. The body hydrates the vocal cords from the inside through the circulatory and lymphatic system, not from direct contact. That’s the primary reason why it takes so long to get the cords full and healthy. So, to get your vocal cords properly hydrated, you need to drink water at a 64 ounces/day rate for at least 24 hours. Here’s another way to think about it. Which is more flexible and workable: a rope that is dry and brittle or one that is wet and moist? The vocal cords are the same way.
Not just any fluids will do. Drinking milk will not work as most of us have a mild allergy to dairy products and will get a mucous response which will create even more problems. Sodas, filled with dyes and caffeine (a diuretic) actually dehydrate not hydrate. Decaf teas will work nicely but, again, if it’s caffeinated you’re shooting yourself in the throat. Juices can also dry out the throat because of the acid. There’s just no replacing good, old-fashioned water. Another note: if you must drink just before you sing, don’t drink ice-cold water. Even though the water doesn’t directly contact the vocal cords, it does pass just by them and can work against your warmed-up cords.
I’ll give you some more tips in my next written entry. Hope this helps!
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