Dos for the Healthy Voice
- Do get lots of sleep. Rest relieves the vocal cords, for obvious reasons.
- Do try to persuade your director not to set your play in a sandpit. Sand can seriously mess with your voice.
- Do a 20-to-60-minute voice and body warm-up as close as possible
to the start of every rehearsal and performance. A long, slow warm-up in the morning and a short, quick one in the evening work well.
- Do fall in love with your breathing. It's you. It's your emotions. It's your voice. It's not a machine.
- Do open your body down to your pelvis, into your belly, and round to your back for many deep-down enjoyable sighs.
- Do pant loosely, often, and happily, like a puppy. This is to awaken
- Do yawn a lot. The idea here is to open your throat—and smile as you yawn.
- Do stretch the middle of your tongue out of your mouth, placing the tip of the tongue down behind your bottom teeth.
- Do laugh out loud, and do cry if you feel like it. If you feel like it a lot, set the alarm and give yourself a deadline to stop and do something else.
- Do sing in the shower. Singing is good, helpful. Join a choral group for weekly singing.
- Do practice tongue twisters.
- Do lie on the floor and whisper all of your text to yourself before each rehearsal and performance. The point is to relax and let thoughts be freely in touch with your breath.
- Do drink plenty of water. One of the many reasons is that water reduces the viscosity of mucus, making it thinner and less likely to adhere to the vocal folds and interfere with movement. If you are using a decongestant medication, be sure to drink lots of water, as decongestants will dry out your tissues.
- Do consider mucus helpful. Regard phlegm as a friend. You don't want to strip the folds entirely of mucus, because it does lubricate. Eat fruit, because mild acid helps clear phlegm. Also, fruit adds a bit of natural sugar energy.
Don'ts for the Healthy Voice
- Don't smoke. Smoking is bad for your vocal cords and your lungs. It also tranquilizes your emotions, so it's bad for the art of theater.
- Don't drink alcohol of any kind. Alcohol acts as a diuretic and can dehydrate you. It also interferes with your liver's ability to filter germs. If you do drink any alcohol, follow up with lots of water.
- Don't drink caffeinated drinks. A caffeinated drink will act as a diuretic. If you do drink them, follow up with water.
- Don't stay up late. When you do, it often means shouting over the noise in a bar.
- Don't spend your afternoon yelling at a football match or the like. This is a temptation, especially during championship seasons.
- Don't do imitation Broadway belting at a karaoke bar.
- Don't eat chocolate or cheese. These foodstuffs are particularly harmful to the vocal cords.
- Don't drink milk before a show. See previous "don't" for the effect on the vocal cords.
Do's and Don'ts for the Afflicted Voice
- Do, if you strain your voice, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
- Do get lots of sleep. Rest is an obvious tonic.
- Do hum gently in whatever clear bit of your voice you can find. Lip trill like a baby up and down your range.
- Do relax. Get a massage.
- Do, if you have to perform, rely more than usual on clear articulation. The sore throat that comes with a cold will not necessarily affect your vocal folds. You may sound a bit funny, but there's no need to lose your voice.
- Do, if you develop laryngitis, go to the doctor. Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx that causes swelling in the vocal folds and is induced by stress or a virus. If absolutely necessary, find a very good throat doctor. I recommend Dr. Benjamin Asher for New Yorkers (www.benjaminashermd.com) and Dr. Madison Richardson for those in L.A. (www.madisonrichardsonmd.com).
- Do, if you are experiencing postnasal drip, use a neti pot. Warm salt water is good for the throat, but honey may not be, as it can congest further. Slippery elm is soothing to the throat. Osha root—also called "singer's root"—is ideal for viral infections of the sinuses, throat, and upper and lower respiratory systems. It helps bring out respiratory secretions and relaxes smooth muscle, making it beneficial for coughs and asthmatic breathing difficulties.
- Don't use decongestants! Nasal irrigation with salty water is a great alternative to decongestants, but do it earlier in the day. Don't try it just before a performance. That's because salt water can, if there is reflux inflammation already present, further irritate your vocal folds and larynx.
Memo: Do remember that all work and no play make Jack and Jill a dull boy and girl.