Alexia Khadime Prince of Egypt

Vocal Care Tips From A West End Pro

Vocal Care Tips From A West End Pro

You're a singer! You've stepped into this world. Singing is your thing - it's a part of you. And now you want to make a career of your God-given talent...

Whether in musical theatre, gigs, or any other profession where you use your voice, maintenance is crucial. Here's some tips I've learned along my journey as a performer in the West End...

One aspect often overlooked is vocal hygiene. Let’s explore - starting with hydration. From the moment I wake up, I start drinking water because the larynx needs to stay hydrated. Sipping water throughout the day ensures the necessary lubrication for the vocal folds/cords and mouth by the time I need to sing; it allows the vocal cords to move more freely and without as much friction. Importantly, it's essential to stay hydrated throughout the day rather than downing water just before you start singing, as it takes at least four hours for water to reach your vocal cords to hydrate them. Plus, needing the toilet every few minutes when you're on stage trying to perform is not ideal. Drink little amounts early and often.

On the topic of hydration, I currently find steaming for 10 minutes after a show and not talking for 20 minutes afterward helpful too. I personally find that steaming assists strained vocal folds, increases healing and flexibility, moistens the throat, thins excess mucus, and relieves tension, all of which are crucial for my vocal health. It adds additional moisture to the outer layers of the vocal cords/folds, which is beneficial when combined with good hydration. Though, I adapt my routine to what my voice needs each day and it's important to recognize that everyone is different - you might prefer not steaming, but doing something like blowing bubbles in water instead.

From experience, I also believe that no matter what the latest vocal lozenge trend is, it cannot do what good hydration and steaming does. And here's the (decaffeinated)-tea... Lozenges with menthol, eucalyptus, or any numbing ingredient are NOT your friends as a vocalist. They dry the vocal cords, which is the opposite of what you want and ruins all that good hydration you've worked toward throughout the day. Menthol negatively and directly affects the larynx, masking sensations and disrupting your gauge on the force of your folds coming together, leading to a vicious cycle of becoming reliant on the sensation of the menthol as opposed to the actual sensations of the larynx. You really, really do not want to numb your voice. If you’re skeptical, do some research or consult an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor.

With that in mind, for those starting out, or anyone really, it's important to know your limits. Pushing through is not always wise, and it's essential to recognize when to stop singing and take a break, which comes back to having an understanding of the sensations you feel (so no numbing lozenges!). Many young singers wonder how to regain a lost or hoarse voice, and if there's anything that they can take. In short, no. There is no magic potion or lozenge to instantly restore your voice. I know it's not what you want to hear because you want to do what you love, you want to get out there and sing, but honestly and truly, the only magic is REST. Sometimes, even complete vocal rest - which means no talking, no whispering (which is even worse), and no exercising. Just hydration and rest. I sometimes add resting time to my routine when needed. For example, if I've had a fuller schedule I’ll often do a complete vocal rest day on my day off (doing 8 shows a week in any West End show is a pressure on anyone’s vocal cords no matter how seasoned you are).

Also, being under the weather brings its own set of challenges too. When your cords have been strained by a cold, illness, or overwork, they ideally need to be apart to recover. Speaking makes them work, so it is essential to remember that you only get one voice, and you don’t want to damage it or prolong its recovery. It all comes back to having a good understanding of sensation and how your voice feels. I still have to remind myself about my limits when I’m feeling under the weather, so here’s an extra tip: when your voice isn’t 100% but you can 'manage', resist the temptation to test it too much; you’re only tiring it out more. Save your voice for when you need it most (i.e. for when you go on stage or into an audition). And if you really can’t save it for fear of not hitting the notes or making it through, it’s probably a sign that you should rest. Our voices are a significant part of our identity from birth. If we woke up tomorrow unable to sing, we would feel a huge part of us missing. Listen to your body; your gut doesn’t lie. Look after and protect your gift because you only get one voice.

As any good singer should, a vocal warm-up is essential. You don’t have to do the exact same routine every day, but you should definitely do something. Keep it adaptable based on how your voice feels. Your voice might warm up quickly some days, but take more time on others. Factors like lack of sleep, eating late, and poor diet can easily affect your voice. Be flexible with it. Scrap the generic "Bella Señora" as it only tires the voice, and find something that actually aids YOUR voice. I start my day with the Rayvox Resono Flex, which is a "singing straw" type device. I use it to lightly get my voice going without too much effort - kind of easing my voice into action. Then, I move onto my Resono Pro for the stretch I need to get my voice ready to do actual work. I also find the Resono Flex great for my cool-down as well due to its massaging effect on my cords. Tools like these can be helpful to assist in your vocal development, but with or without them, the key is - don't skip a warm-up! Athletes don’t run a race without warming up, and as a vocal athlete, your voice is a muscle and requires the same level of care, attention, and understanding. Keeping hydrated, having singing lessons, and sometimes needing vocal massages are all important.

Don’t rely solely on your natural God-given talents - it’s crucial to maintain good vocal hygiene and keep honing your skills. Training doesn’t stop after you finish college or a course. Learning new things is a life-long experience. I still take singing lessons, and they they are a vital part of my vocal health.

To wrap up, know your voice and its daily needs. Develop good vocal habits for a long and fruitful vocal career. Remember, you only get one voice, so take care of it.

Alexia Khadime

Alexia Khadime

Alexia is a Grammy-nominated actress, West End performer, and current Elphaba (Wicked)

Visit Alexia's Website

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