with Jennifer Laubach

Vocal Care and Hygiene

 As I’m sitting here contemplating content for this blog, it occurs to me that singers are always concerned about how to care for their instrument.

Your instrument is like no other. Your body is your instrument, and it is as unique as a fingerprint or a snowflake. The voice requires mindful, healthy choices in diet and behavior in order to ensure peak performance and longevity. Sounds like an athlete, doesn’t it? Well, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark, because singing requires a tremendous amount of stamina and muscle memory, just like any sport.

The long-standing joke at conservatory was that you could always tell who the Voice Majors were.  They were the students running around campus with scarves on… even in 90-degree weather!  While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is something all singers should consider when going out in harsher elements.  My non-singing friends would often tease me about ”protecting the cords”, but the vocal cords thrive in warm, humid environments.  So, all that shower singing isn’t just about great acoustics!

Things to consider when caring for the voice: 


Public enemy number one. Phlegm. “Secreted by your mucous membranes, even though it may look and sound a little gross, mucus is actually incredibly helpful, and necessary for your body’s optimized functioning. Phlegm does you a favor by lining the passages of your respiratory system and acting as a sticky sort of biological flypaper, to catch all the tiny foreign particles, nasty debris, and germs that may harm your body (like bacteria and dust), and quickly eject them from your body when you cough. Within your digestive system, more mucus lines the inner walls of the stomach helping the linings of the cells to better cope with the potently acidic environment. In doing so, mucus stops the tissues and cellular membranes from drying out. This is all good stuff, right?”

Source: Foods That Cause Mucus: How to Clear the Throat - Blend of Bites 

Unfortunately, for singers, phlegm has an annoying habit of hampering vocal production.

Know your body, especially what foods may trigger the production of phlegm or thicken mucus, making it more difficult to expel from your body. Consider that everyone has differing levels of food sensitivity. 

    1. Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter – basically, all dairy products

    2. Sugar and Carbohydrates, such as pastas, breads and potatoes!

    3. Caffeinated and Carbonated Beverages

    4. Meat and Eggs

    5. Soy

    6. Bananas


    7. Alcohol

None of the above-mentioned foods need to be eliminated permanently from your diet but reducing these foods a few days before a performance may prove helpful. 


Water is always your best option. There are no additives! In general, staying hydrated is important for good health. Again, keep in mind that your body is your instrument. 


I cannot stress enough the importance of resting your body and mind. Get plenty of sleep before a performance. Complete vocal rest or abstaining from talking and singing, is not necessary unless you are suffering from a constant nagging cough causing edema i.e., swelling of the cords, you have laryngitis, or a doctor has diagnosed vocal damage e.g., polyps, nodes, or dysphonia. It is important to note that vocal technique can make a huge difference in your ability to sing even when you are not 100% as well as avoiding vocal damage altogether.

Acid Reflux

It is important that you pay attention to how your body reacts to certain foods. Food sensitivity is personal. Here are some foods that can trigger acid production in the stomach:

Source: 11 Foods That May Cause Heartburn and Acid Reflux: What to Avoid | 1MD Nutrition™

    1. High Fat Foods

    2. Citrus Juices

    3. Spicy Foods

    4. Onions (especially raw)

    5. Carbonated Beverages

    6. Alcohol

    7. Coffee

    8. Chocolate

    9. Salt

    10. Milk

    11. Mint

Vocal technique

Having a solid vocal technique is indispensable. Vocal technique goes well beyond warm-ups and vocalises.  Technique develops muscle memory and habilitates the voice for consistency in performance. Vocal technique builds confidence, promotes healthy singing habits, builds stamina, flexibility and longevity. Technique also gives you the tools to overcome many of the stresses of performance and often makes it possible to safely sing even when you are not feeling your best vocally.

Exercise and Diet

Caring for your body is caring for your instrument. There are over 200 muscles involved in singing, making singing a very physically involved activity. Movement increases blood circulation and oxygen to the muscles as well as releasing tension. Regular exercise helps with stamina, coordination, flexibility, increased lung capacity and overall improved energy levels. Some great activities for singers would include stretching, yoga, Pilates, swimming, biking and walking.  

Mental Health

There is a lot to be said about mind-body connection in singing. Singing is definitely a ”feel good” activity and should be a positive experience. We sing to express emotion, to tell a story, to comfort one another, to communicate, to rejoice. When it comes to the expectations and stresses of performance, our fears can eat away at confidence and rob a singer of the joys of singing. When a mistake is made, we may engage in negative self-talk which can sometimes lead to debilitating performance anxiety. Meditation is a wonderful way to work through anxiety and breathing exercises can also help tremendously in calming the mind and body for performance. Talking with other singers and with voice professionals is also helpful in giving perspective… and sometimes just knowing you aren’t the only one who experiences performance anxiety is hugely beneficial!

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A checklist to improve your daily routine

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