As an herbalist and voice actor, my health, and specifically my vocal health, is so very, very important to me. My journey in herbalism began with my Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 17, I’m 38 now. I was looking for ways to incorporate herbal/natural remedies in conjunction with Western medicine to help alleviate my symptoms and slow the progression. As a voice actor, I had a traumatic and nearly fatal asthma attack and vocal cord paralysis in the summer of 2016 that required me to be put on a ventilator and having a tracheotomy. I ended up with complications that resulted in a tracheal resection, a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and subcutaneous emphysema. I say all that to say that I couldn’t talk for nearly two months, I had to learn to care for a trach, etc.
Once I had been discharged and the trach was removed, I had to focus on falling back in love with my voice (my vocal range had changed) and how to best care for my voice and vocal health. Here are my tips for keeping your vocal health front and present:
- Sleep– Caring for your pipes starts with whole body care. Getting enough sleep affects so many body functions; from cognition, immune system response, digestion, mental health, etc. Getting a consistent sleep routine is vital.
- Foreplay – Now everyone knows you can’t just jump in the booth without any prep work and expect your voice to give you its best. In order to coax the best performance out of your voice you have to give it loving attention. Warm that thing up – vo warmups, lip trills, tongue twisters, scales, proper inflection, etc.
- Voice straws* – https://singingstraw.com/
- They are back in stock! Vocal straws train the posturing of the vocal folds and changes the posture of the vocal tube, i.e. it lengthens the Epi Laryngeal Space.
- Cheryl Porter* – https://cherylportermethod.com/
- AHMAZING vocal coach who has an entire program to help you find your range along with practice materials and videos, etc.
- Rodney Saulsberry* – has a great book “Tongue Twisters and Vocal Warm Ups” sold on Amazon.
3. Regular Maintenance– This includes voice rest, listening to your body (when it’s fatigued, stressed, etc. -see #1), maintaining a healthy diet (avoiding caffeine, chocolate, sugar, dairy and smoking -both cigarettes and weed at least 2 hours prior to a session).
- Frankly putting anything into your lungs other than oxygen before a session isn’t the best of ideas. If you are a fan of, procurer or indulger of THC, please don’t smoke before your sessions. It will affect/change the texture of your voice. If you use THC for relaxation purposes I encourage you to eat it (edibles rather than smoking it). CBD can provide some of the same relaxation and anti-anxiety properties without the psychogenic properties that THC has.
- Proper hydration (not just before a session/auditions) is key as well. By the time you realize that you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Keeping your air passages moisturized by using a bedside humidifier with distilled water at night. I wouldn’t necessarily advocate their use in the booth due to noise interference.
- Keep a scarf 🧣 on when out in windy/cold weather. This helps to keep warmth in and cold out. Cold temps cause constriction on muscles and tissues and decreased blood flow to those affected areas.
4. Leave it alone when it doesn’t want to be bothered
- There is nothing worse than someone wanting something from you and you are in no mood to oblige. But you acquiesce to shut them up. Is it your best performance? Nope. Is the other party satisfied or generally let down b/c of a lackluster encounter? Exactly. If your voice is fatigued or stressed and you push it b/c it’s a high paying, high visibility audition you will not give your best. Not only might you not book the job, you may leave a bad impression with casting directors, agents, etc.
- Stress, anxiety, illness, irritation- all these show up in your reads. It’s the equivalent of the elephant in the room sitting on the couch loudly eating your best snacks, drinking your fav scotch and who stole the remote and is watching Seinfeld reruns.
5. Protect your mental mind -give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. Frustration comes across in your reads.
- Be present in the moment and take a step back if you need to regroup during a session. Trust, the director and client will respect that you have a process and need to gather yourself in order to give them your best.
- Practice mindfulness 🧘🏽♀️- make your recording space a healthy and welcoming place, regardless of where you record. I have lavender/rosemary sachets hanging in my closet-booth, led light strips to set the tone and mood, and I meditate and do deep breathing before every session. Whether it is with my coach(es), a workout, audition recording, recording session or training webinar.
- Lavender is known for its relaxing properties and rosemary counteracts anxiety and increases attention. I grow and dry my own lavender, add dried lavender flower and rosemary from my favorite herbal suppliers (The Bulk Herb Store, Mountain Rose Herbs & Monterey Spice Company) and a few drops of lavender and rosemary essential oils to a drawstring bag and hang it in an inconspicuous place.
I hope that these tips help you and cause you to dig a little deeper into your own herbalism journey and vocal health!