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Vocal Hygiene

Vocal Hygiene: How to Get the Best Mileage from Your Voice

Don't Abuse Your Voice: Do:
Don't clear your throat or cough habitually - Sip some water, swallowing slowly.
- Yawn to relax your throat.
- Hum: concentrate on resonance sensations.
Don't yell, cheer or scream habitually. - Use non-vocal sounds or visual cues to attract attention.
- Find non-vocal ways to discipline children.
Avoid prolonged talking over long distances and outdoors. - Move closer, so you can be heard without yelling, or use a vocal amplification system.
- Learn good vocal projection techniques.
Avoid talking in noisy situations: over loud music, office equipment, noisy classrooms, in cars, buses, airplanes, etc. - Reduce background noise when you speak.
- Always face persons you are speaking with.
- Position yourself close to your listeners.
- Wait until students/audiences are quiet.
- Find non-vocal ways to elicit attention.
Don't try to address large audiences without proper vocal amplification. You should be able to lecture at a comfortable loudness. - Use a high-quality vocal amplification system for public speaking.
- Learn good microphone technique.
Don't sing or vocalize beyond your comfortable range. - Respect your vocal limits.
- Seek professional voice training.
- Always use an adequate acoustic monitor during vocal performances.
- Never sing high notes you can't sing quietly.
Avoid vocally-abusive nervous habits during public speaking: throat-clearing, breath-holding, speaking quickly, speaking on insufficient breath, speaking on a low and monotone pitch, aggressive or low-pitched fillers ("um..."; "ah...") - Monitor and reduce vocal habits that detract from your presentation.
- Learn strategies for effective public speaking.
- Prepare your presentation well so you can relax and attend to good vocal production.
Don't speak extensively during strenuous physical exercise. - Avoid aggressive vocal "grunts" while lifting weights, or during martial arts.
- After aerobic exercise, wait until your breathing system can accommodate relaxed voice production.

Don't Misuse Your Voice: Do:
Don't talk with a low-pitched monotone voice. Don't allow your vocal energy to drop so low that the sound becomes rough and gravelly ("glottal fry"). - Keep your voice powered by breath flow, so the tone carries, varies and rings.
- Allow your vocal pitch to vary as you speak.
Don't hold your breath as you're planning what to say. Avoid tense voice onsets ("glottal attacks"). - Keep your throat relaxed when you speak.
- Use the breathing muscles and airflow to start speech phrases, as with "Hm!".
Don't speak beyond a natural breath cycle: avoid squeezing out the last few words of a thought with insufficient breath power. - Speak slowly, pausing at natural phrase boundaries, so your body can replenish air naturally, and without strain.
Don't tighten your upper chest, shoulders, neck and throat to breathe in, or to push sound out. - Allow your body to stay aligned and relaxed so that breathing is natural: your ribcage and abdomen should move freely.
Don't clench your teeth, tense your jaw or tongue. - Keep your upper and lower teeth separated.
- Let your jaw move freely during speech.
- Learn relaxation exercises for speaking.
Avoid prolonged use of unconventional vocal sounds: whispering, growls, squeeks, imitating animal or machine noises. - If you must use unconventional sounds for vocal performance, learn techniques that minimize muscle tension and vocal misuse.
When you sing, don't force your voice to stay in a register beyond its comfortable pitch range. Especially, don't force your "chest voice" too high, or your "head voice" into your falsetto range. - Allow vocal registers to change naturally with pitch.
- Consult a singing teacher to learn techniques for smooth register transitions.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Do:
Don't demand more of your voice than you would the rest of your body. - Allow for several periods of voice rest throughout the day.
Don't use your voice extensively when you are sick, or when you feel tired. - Rest your voice with your body: it's sick too!
Don't use your voice when it feels strained. - Learn to recognize the first signs of vocal fatigue: hoarseness, tension, dryness.
- Learn preventive techniques for voice care.
Don't ignore prolonged symptoms of vocal strain, hoarseness, throat pain, fullness, heartburn, or allergies. - Consult your doctor if you experience throat symptoms or voice change for more than a few days.
Don't expose your voice to excessive pollution and dehydrating agents: cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, alcohol, caffeine, dry air. - Keep the air and your body clean and humid. Drink 8-10 cups of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages daily, more when you exercise, drink caffeine or alcohol. Maintain 30 % humidity in the air. Don't smoke!
Don't slouch or adopt unbalanced postures. - Learn and use good posture and alignment.

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