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How to Take Care of Your Vocal Cords

If you’re lucky enough to have a great voice, be smart about taking care of it.


  • Step 1: Drink water Drink lots of water. Singers need more water than the average person in order to keep the vocal cords and the mucous membranes surrounding them moist. Aim for eight to 10 glasses every day.
  • TIP: Always drink water at room temperature; cold water can damage vocal cords.
  • Step 2: Warm up Warm up your vocal cords frequently. Just as a pitcher needs to warm up his arm before taking the mound, a singer needs to loosen up his vocal cords to keep them in optimal shape. Just don’t overdo it.
  • Step 3: Limit dairy Limit dairy products, which can cause mucus to build up in the throat, leading to irritation.
  • TIP: Resist the urge to clear your throat; doing so causes the folds of the throat to slam together, causing irritation.
  • Step 4: Take slippery elm Take the herb slippery elm, which singers discovered more than a century ago was a good way to coat the throat and soothe tired vocal cords after a performance. Slippery-elm lozenges are available in health-food stores.
  • TIP: Whispering to save your voice? Don’t! Studies show whispering actually makes your vocal cords work thirty percent harder.
  • Step 5: Turn off the AC Turn off the AC. It can dry out the air--and your vocal cords!
  • Step 6: Use a humidifier Sleep with a humidifier by your bed, especially before an audition or performance: vocal cords work best when moist. In fact, you need to keep the surface of the cords slippery enough to vibrate up to 1700 times per second!
  • TIP: Steam your throat regularly by holding your head over a pot of hot water, covering your head with a towel, and inhaling deeply.
  • Step 7: Sip hot tea Sip hot tea, especially marshmallow-root or licorice tea. Both contain mucilage, which has been proven to coat the throat and soothe vocal cords. Drink it preventively and for relief when you get a sore throat.
  • TIP: Don’t add lemon to hot tea. It can be drying.
  • Step 8: Gargle Gargle with a mixture of warm salt water and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda to help keep the vocal cords moist.
  • TIP: Gargle in a high pitch; it forces your cords to contract, making gargling more effective.
  • Step 9: Limit alcohol and caffeine Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can be drying to vocal cords. And if you have a cough or cold, avoid antihistamines and menthol cough drops, which dry out and irritate vocal cords.
  • FACT: Like a fingerprint, every person has a unique 'vocal print' that belongs only to him.

You Will Need

  • Water
  • Slippery-elm lozenges
  • A humidifier
  • Marshmallow-root or licorice tea
  • Salt
  • Baking soda

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