After talking for a living for 20 years I’ve managed to pick up a few tips about how to look after my voice.
Sometimes I’ve even followed this advice myself. And do you know what? When I do follow it, it actually works so I think there’s something in it.
I’ll start off by looking at what you can do to keep your voice healthy and give yourself the best chance of not losing your voice, then I’ll look at the ways you can soothe your poorly voice and get back up to full volume sooner rather than later.
I’m sorry this is such a boring tip to start with but it’s number one because it is the single best thing you can do to look after your voice. It’s also the one most of us (including me) can vastly improve on.
A few caveats to keeping hydrated. It’s water that you want to focus on I’m afraid. And it gets even more boring - make sure your water is not too cold and definitely no ice in your glass. Room temperature is ideal. This is because cold water constricts your vocal cords. Not good.
Also no sparkling water either. It’s the bubbles, again they are not good for the vocal cords.
To increase my water consumption I’ve bought myself a ridiculous glittery glass to drink out of. So far (day 2 but come on) it’s working.
If you want your hydration in the form of tea and coffee there’s some more bad news…
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Sadly caffeine does not help with hydration and in fact it dehydrates you. Booo. That’s not to say don’t drink it, just limit your coffee or tea habit. Even replacing 2 or 3 cups of coffee or tea with a glass of water will help.
Same with booze I’m afraid - it doesn’t do you any good when it comes to hydrating
A vocal coach did once suggest it was a shame I didn’t smoke because she wanted me to lower the “girly tone” to my voice so I would be more authoritative. As much as it was an option there were other less “putting my health at risk” options I could take so I went with them.
But I digress - smoking will ruin your voice, it’s as simple as that. I’m sure you’ll be able to hear a smoker’s voice in your head right now, low and raspy (not authoritative!). It can also lead to health problems such as a smoker’s cough. Not great when you’re trying to record podcasts.
I’m really spoiling your fun now aren’t I? I’m sorry. Dairy is believed by many people who use their voices professionally (actors, singers, presenters etc) to increase mucus production which then affects the quality of their voice. There’s different schools of thought as to whether this is based on science or it’s just an old wives tale.
In my experience, when I gave up dairy my voice quality improved. I’ve felt less phlegmey and when I’ve had a cold it’s always felt lighter. HOWEVER this is just my experience and I can’t say for certain it’s all down to avoiding dairy because other factors changed during that time too.
If you can, avoid shouting and screaming in cold or hot weather. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it but the cold and the heat will play havoc with your throat. You don’t want to add extra pressure by stressing your vocal cords even more.
This might mean your weekly trip to support your football, rugby or any other sporting team, becomes a much gentler affair in winter. But your voice will thank you for it!
Warm Up Your Voice
Fingers crossed if you exercise you do a warm up before you start cracking on with your run, cycle, aerobics or whatever it is you do. You wouldn’t go from standing still to full on 100% effort.
Same with your voice. You need to warm it up. There are plenty of resources out there from people far more qualified than me when it comes to vocal exercises so please check them out.
This is what I do for a warm up
Shake around so my limbs are loose
If I’ve not been talking to anybody all day (quite often the case) I’ll start off by having a gentle chat to the cat. (He always ignores me).
Then I’ll pop some music on and gently sing a couple of songs.
I’ll make sure to take plenty of breaks and slurping my room temperature water too.
Other people swear by eating an apple to get their voices up to speed. I don’t because they always give me hiccups!
If after doing all of the above (or maybe not doing all of the above) your voice does start to strain, get a bit crackly or even worse, just disappear overnight (happened to me!) then the best thing you can do is shut up.
Just plain and simple stop talking.
Don’t whatever you do make the mistake that whispering will be ok. It won’t. In fact you are putting as much strain on your voice by whispering as you are shouting.
If you do need to talk - talk as normally as you can.
At this point I become an advocate for a lovely hot toddy. Honey, lemon and because you’re poorly we’ll ignore the advice about avoiding alcohol and pour a glug of whiskey in too. The honey helps soothe your throat, the lemon is nice and the whiskey is nicer!
One of my favourite things about podcasting is the fact your audience is generally on your side. If you know your voice isn’t 100% or you’re poorly tell them when you’re recording. The vast majority will forgive you and stick with you. They might be ill too.
Nobody is going to die if you miss an episode. Your health is more important than any podcast.
If you want to help make sure you don’t miss any episodes consider batch recording your episodes. Plan (at least) a month in advance, record and then you are on top of it in case illness strikes!
Don’t forget to come join me in the Pod Squad on Facebook where I and other podcasters hang out. You can ask all sorts of podcasting questions there.