If your ministry and livelihood depend on your ability to speak or sing on a regular basis, it only makes sense to take special care of your voice. Here’s how to go about keeping your larynx in prime condition.
Protect your instrument
You cannot keep your primary instrument in a hard-sided case. Because you carry your instrument around in your throat, you’ll have to avoid certain situations, foods, and drinks that might damage your voice. Most of these present no real threat in moderation. Combine two or three of them, though, and over time you could end up with problems. Here are a few things to avoid:
Very cold drinks—iced beverages tighten your vocal cords and the muscles that operate them. Drink room-temperature water before and during services.
Smoke—who doesn’t love to channel their inner Spurgeon around a campfire? I’m sure we’d all do it if smoke inhalation didn’t cause irreversible vocal-cord damage.
Overuse—football games, concerts, and youth camps share one thing: attendants are expected to scream and shout. If you can’t refrain, don’t go.
Over-the-counter throat sprays—local anesthetics dull pain receptors, allowing you to sing or talk despite a sore throat. This is a little like unplugging your check-engine light. It doesn’t solve the problem—it just hides it.
We don’t want to sound like your mother, but fatigue really is the gateway to illness. Hydrate and get plenty of sleep. Even the smallest colds result in excess mucus production. The better your overall health, the better your vocal health.
Use good vocal technique
Even without formal vocal training, you can do the simple things right. Good posture allows air to flow freely through your lungs, and keeps the right muscles engaged. Leading congregational singing, you probably won’t be touching the edges of your register, but should you have a special song that’s more demanding, limber up your vocal cords for a few minutes to warm up and prevent vocal strain. Most importantly: if it ever hurts to sing, stop—you’re doing something wrong.
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you’re going to get sick. Murphy’s Law tells us this will probably happen the week of Palm Sunday or on some other equally important church date. If you find yourself in a situation that you just can’t miss, try tea with honey and cayenne pepper about an hour before, and then grapefruit juice with a dash of olive oil right before you stand up to speak or sing. Tea, honey, and cayenne will sooth your throat and kill anything growing there. Grapefruit juice will scour your vocal cords, and olive oil will coat them lightly. It tastes terrible, but I’ve seen this remedy bring even the worst cases of laryngitis back from the brink.
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