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Instant Fixes for a Stressed Out Voice

Image: Tachina Lee

Voice​ feeling hoarse, strained, or worn out?

Well, what have you been up to?

Too much talking (especially in loud environments)?

Have you been cheering at a game, or maybe you've been partying and not getting enough sleep?

Skimping on the drinking water every day?

All of these situations can affect the voice adversely.​

But before you cancel your singing lesson or bail on your gig, check out the tricks below - these small actions can get your voice back online in a snap.

1. Take a bite out of life… or a piece of bread

If your voice is hoarse from overuse, all of the muscles, tissues and fascia in your throat and jaw are probably locked in one position. The simple act of biting, chewing and swallowing will mix it up, and get your throat moving in a different way.

Riding the gluten-free trend? An apple works just as well! Choose a food that’s neutral and won’t leave residue in the throat.

Watching your calories? As little as ONE bite, chew and swallow will reset your vocal system!

Isn’t the human body a remarkable thing?

2. Gargle

Another impact of overuse that can affect the sound of your voice is inflammation. If you’ve been using your vocal cords beyond their capacity, there’s a chance they’ll swell up. When this happens, they press together and there isn’t room for any air to get through - which is where our “voice” really comes from.

Take a swig of water and gargle, like you would with mouthwash. This will create an air stream through your swollen vocal cords, and help to reduce swelling. Warm water and salt is a good remedy.​

(Note: some old school singers do this with whiskey, then swallow. While I’d never officially endorse drinking before a gig, I hear this option does wonders for stage fright, as well.)

3. Silly-Sounding Vocal Exercises

Have a stir straw, bill, or balloon? You can do an exercise called a semi-occluded vocal exercise to set your vocal cords straight.

Put the straw in your lips and hum into it, like you would a kazoo, doing some simple slides. If using a bill, roll it up tightly and use in place of the straw; if using the balloon, blow it up slightly before humming into the blowhole.

You may feel a little ridiculous doing these exercises, but they’re extremely effective for getting your vocal cords back into a neutral, balanced position.

4. Shut up, already!

Often the simplest remedy for a strained voice is the most effective.

Singers are a lot like athletes: when you work the same muscle groups over and over again, chances are they get strained from time to time. If you sing on the regular, ​plus love to talk, ​you

​may end up with swollen vocal cords and a strained voice.

Luckily, for much the same reason that athletes take rest days, singers can repair a lot of damage by simply keeping mum for a period of time and resting their vocal cords.

You’d be amazed what 24 hours with no singing or talking will do for a singer’s voice. Often even a few hours of dedicated silence can make a big difference!

Add a quiet hum to that routine and you're actually doing therapy! Make sure to check that no unnecessary muscles are working when you do the humming, though.​

5. Pay More Attention

If you notice you have a strained voice at regular intervals, you may want to start considering how you use your voice.

Are you often yelling, straining to be heard, or singing beyond your range? If so, consider taking a singing lesson or consulting an expert - they’ll be able to give you the kind of diagnostic that will curb those damaging behaviors.

If hoarseness is more a once-in-awhile condition, though, these tricks can work wonders, and get you back on your feet ​(or in your voice) ​in no time!

Remember, we sing because we get joy from it. There's no joy when there's discomfort.

I wish you happy singing! ​

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