Vocal Health Series - Part I: Vocal Maintenance & Warm-up

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Judy Pagryzinski, Lower Elementary Music Teacher
 
What is vocal health, & why is it crucial?
 
Our livelihood and energy all depend on our voice. As educators, we are twice as likely as non-teachers to suffer from vocal health issues. Knowing how to use your voice properly is crucial to career longevity (and your health at-large), especially when we are teaching over students, through masks, and into technology.
 
What can I do to make sure my voice is perfectly primed to teach?
 
  • Water: Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Your vocal cords vibrate very quickly and need water to keep them lubricated. Snacks that contain large amounts of water, like apples, pears, melons, grapes, bell peppers, and peaches can also help lubricate the cords in a pinch.
  • Vocal Naps: Whether it’s a prep between classes or skipping that phone call in the car, make sure to take vocal naps after teaching. In other words, set aside some time to let your voice rest by not using it at all.
  • Throat Clearing: Your vocal cords are thin & delicate, and clearing your throat forcefully slams your vocal cords together. Try swallowing or taking a sip of water to clear the mucus from your throat.
  • Food before Bed: Just like with our waistline, eating before bed can wreak havoc on your vocal cords, especially if you have acid reflux. Acid from your stomach can come up and burn your vocal cords, which can still happen even if you don’t normally have acid reflux. Try to avoid eating 2-3 hours before lying down.
My voice feels hoarse and/or scratchy. What should I do?
 
If you feel hoarse, rest your voice! Vocal fry can lead to permanent vocal damage. If your voice is hoarse or scratchy, avoid whispering. Whispering is the worst thing you can do for your voice when it’s hoarse, as it does not allow the vocal cords to close properly. Rest when you can.
 
If you have tried all of the above steps and still feel hoarse, raspy, and/or feel winded when speaking, seek out a certified Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor in your area.
 
My voice feels hoarse and tired, but I am unable to take the day off. What can I do?
 
The following emergency back-ups will help get you through if you can’t get a sub:
  • Neti-Pot
    • Before using a Neti-Pot, make sure you’re using filtered/distilled water, or boil the water for several minutes and let it cool first, to make sure any harmful bacteria are completely removed.
  • Throat Coat Tea (non-caffeinated)
  • Shots of Ginger (anti-inflammatory power)
  • Humidifiers, or sitting in a steam room for ~15 minutes.
  • Vocal Rest before and after teaching.
I want to warm up my voice before I teach, but I don’t know how. Where do I start?
 
Take a look at the following video and video guide to learn a quick, easy warm-up that will get your voice ready to teach.

Vocal Health Series Part I: Vocal Maintainance & Warm-Up from The Buzz on Vimeo.

 

Detroit Country Day School is a private, independent, co-educational, non-denominational, preschool through grade 12 college preparatory school in Michigan focused on a well-rounded liberal arts education. Emphasis on academics, arts, athletics, and character development is prevalent across the curriculum. The school admits students of any race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students in the school. To learn more visit www.dcds.edu.

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