Frequently Asked Questions

Unlike other musical instruments, the voice is constructed of asymmetrical tissues and is significantly influenced by variations in the body. Food, medications, stress, sleep, hydration, environment, emotional state, and many other factors directly and indirectly impact the function of the voice.

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Vocal Health FAQs

Q. How can I tell if I’m hydrated enough?

A. Hydration needs vary from person to person and time of year. For most people, if your urine is clear to light in color, you are well hydrated.

Q. I have really bad allergies, but I heard certain medications are drying. What can I do?

A. The impact of any medication on your voice will be unique to you. If medications such as Zyrtec or Claritin really dry you out, try a nasal spray such as Flonase. First and foremost, consult with your doctor. And, if possible, avoid trying new medications when you are in the middle of a vocally demanding schedule. Give yourself some time to see how your body/voice will react to each new medication.

Q. Everyone says “don’t drink milk” before you sing. What’s up with that?

A. Although many people react to dairy products, the way you react to milk is unique to you. Get to know how your voice feels after eating different foods AND how long you need to wait after eating to sing or speak without that “post lunch” phlegmy feeling.

Q. Are non-steroid anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medicines like aspirin, Advil, Motrin, and Aleve bad for your voice?

A. There is research to suggest that these medications can increase the risk of vocal hemorrhage and should be avoided by singers and other professional voice users, especially during times of heavy voice use. However, new research is underway that may shed more light on this risk. You should speak with your voice team, including your primary care doctor, to assess the costs and benefits of these drugs for you.

Q. It seems like singing through a straw is the “new thing”. Is this just a gimmick?

A. Singing through a straw is one of many “semi-occluded vocal tract” exercises (like lip trills, tongue trills, raspberries, etc). These exercises rely on a principle called “vocal tract inertance” which has been scientifically proven to provide significant benefits for efficient vocal fold vibration.

Q. I’m a belter, does that mean I will get vocal nodules?

A. No. Certain populations are at higher risk for vocal nodules, just as certain behaviors increase the risk for many vocal pathologies. However, belting in and of itself does not cause vocal nodules. All singers, regardless of style, need to learn efficient vocal technique and pair that technique with vocal hygiene practices to reduce the risk of injury. (Vocal hygiene is another way of saying, "take care of your voice".)

Q. I love coffee. Do I need to stop drinking coffee because I am a professional voice user?

A. Not necessarily. The important thing is that you are adequately hydrated. So drink that coffee in moderation and pair it with plenty of water. If coffee is an acid reflux trigger for you, then you may need to consider alternative beverages.

Q. My voice feels really dry and scratchy when I wake up in the morning. What can I do?

A. Check the humidity of your sleeping environment. Try to maintain a humidity level between 30-40% (more than 40% can cause mold or mildew growth, so don't overdo it). If you are a mouth breather at night you lose about 40% more water from your body than nose breathers, so you are starting your day with a hydration deficit. Addressing chronic mouth breathing could improve many aspects of your health.