Artistry. Discipleship. Worship.
VOX Toolbox

Winter VOCAL Wellness!

* Updated: 12/3/2017

Merry Christmas!  It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and for vocalists, usually the busiest and most vocally and physically demanding time of the year as well!
That being said, it's imperative for singers to stay well in order to sing well. With countless rehearsals, nightly performances, fluctuating weather changes and the passing of germs along with holiday cheer, staying well during the winter months can seem like an impossible task that easily falls to the bottom of our holiday to-do list.
By incorporating some small and realistic changes into your existing daily routine, as well as building your vocal “emergency kit”, you can make a big impact on your overall health which will significantly benefit your vocal health downstream. And, should you succumb to the early gift of a Christmas cold or cough (like I have!) you'll already have the tools you need to get back into tip-top vocal shape in no time!

The post below was originally published a few years ago and I'm still a supporter and user of the wellness tips therein!  I'm also excited to share with you some new  resources that I've incorporated into my own vocal health regimen with great success.
So without further delay, here are a few of my favorite (vocal) things, starting with what's new this season!

VITAMIN C:  My favorite beverage of late couldn't have a more appropriate name…I introduce to you the Singing Canary! Bursting with vitamin C and flavor akin to a lemon shakeup, this drink is like a big glass of sunshine - something I personally welcome on cold, dreary Ohio winter days.  And, two of the key ingredients - lemon and turmeric (don't be scared!) are natural detoxifiers and pain/inflammation fighters and are sure to ease the effects of too many holiday treats and long hours preparing for performances.  Vitamin C is a powerhouse vitamin for staying well and fighting off sickness when you fall victim to it.  In fact, I have been drinking them almost daily for weeks and have avoided being sick, even when the hubbs had pneumonia, until I stopped drinking them because my schedule suddenly became busier and I ran out of lemons!  I'm sipping one right now to kick this bug to the curb and am confident it will help do the trick!  Making this drink is easy-peasy, especially if you prep the lemon concentrate and dry ingredients ahead of time.  Spending an hour of time or less a week in prep means you can make a glass in less than 5 minutes each day!

Another new favorite drink is the Cranberry Wassail Sip, also full of vitamin C and yummy holiday goodness!  It's become something I look forward to sipping in the evening after a long day of teaching in my studio.  It's warm and full of holiday cheer!

Recipe links:  
Singing Canary -  (This drink can be made without Vitamin C powder and is equally delicious and effective!  Also, I use collagen powder instead of protein powder as it dissolves easier and I prefer the flavor.)

Cranberry Wassail Sip -  (I make this drink without the anise, by preference.  Both versions are said to be yummy!)

ESSENTIAL OILS:  More info in EO's is below, but I wanted to personally name a few oils I've found to be helpful for maintaining vocal health.  To help purify my studio environment, I diffuse Lemon and Thieves oils during and after lessons.  Doing so has unquestionably helped to ward off sickness, especially when I know a student has become ill shortly after having been in the studio!  Also, I topically apply Frankincense and Copiaba oils in a carrier oil on my throat to help relax muscles and aid in reducing any inflammation cause by illness or heavy vocal use.

* Prior to using any EO's, consult the recommended guidelines for safe and effective use.

APPLE CIDER TONIC:  This tonic has been effective time and again for reducing nasal and chest congestion when I've been under the weather.  The ACV is diluted in this drink; however, use caution if you have a sensitive tummy.

8-10 oz. hot water
1-2 TB ACV
1-2 TB raw honey
2-3 drops lemon EO (or to taste)
cinnamon to taste (Ceylon cinnamon has the best health benefits)
cayenne pepper to taste

Stir ingredients into hot water, and continue stirring while drinking to avoid settling at the bottom of the cup.

VOICE TEA-GREEN ROOM BLEND:  This tea has become my preference over Throat Coat Tea as it is less drying to me.  Caffeine-free, this tea quickly soothes a sore throat, combatting dryness and aiding in the lubrication of delicate tissues.  I use this regularly when rehearsing and performing, not just when I'm sick, and it's a staple in my pantry.  Voice Tea can be purchased on line here:

And now for my favorites from the original post...

Spending time in God's Word and in prayer are the uncontested most important things you can do to prepare yourself for the platform. 

"Your effective outpouring of ministry is in direct proportion to the inpouring of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in your life." -  One Voice Worship  (Click here to Tweet)

It is in God’s presence that sin is addressed and confessed, forgiveness is received and extended to others, the peace of Christ is afforded, focus is aligned, wisdom is revealed, inspiration is imparted, and the Spirit divinely equips us to serve through our gifts and talents. Please, do not neglect spending time in God's Word and in His presence.  Rehearsals and performances are important, but spiritual preparation is paramount.  You are God’s platform ambassador; what a travesty it would be to not receive the message He desires for you to deliver by dismissing the necessity of meeting with Him.
Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that "girlfriend's gotta sleep."  I can skate by for a few days on 6.5 or 7 hours of sleep, but to be my best physically (and vocally), a minimum of 8 hours of sleep is non-negotiable.  Evaluate your schedule, and make adjustments to get the sleep you need the night before rehearsals and performances.   
  • Know your sleep numbers - your realistic minimum and ideal number of hours needed to function well.  Not only is rest imperative for mental sharpness (ahem...knowing entrances and cues, and remembering song lyrics!) but it's essential for muscle control to facilitate healthy vocal technique (i.e. larynx height, body anchoring, breath control, maintaining an awareness of effort at the vocal fold level, etc.)
  • Sleep deprivation increases susceptibility to illness.  Staying well requires you to rest well.  Period!
3.  H2O
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!  I simply cannot stress the importance of staying hydrated. While trying to drink 64 oz. (8 glasses) of water a day is a great place to start, I typically drink upwards of 80+ oz. each day, with a goal of 120 oz. (a gallon).  Since doing so, I've experienced a noticeable reduction in “dry mouth/throat” symptoms while singing, thinner sinus drainage (if any at all), less frequent urges to clear my throat, and have increased energy among many other benefits.  And, I'm less likely to "water binge" before rehearsals or performances to make up for my general lack of hydration (…did you know that water binging has little to no immediate impact on your hydration, but can totally wreck breath support and incite reflux-type symptoms because of your overly full-of-water tummy?  Instead, practice daily hydration, with a few extra glasses a few hours before performing.)
  • Drink a minimum of 64 oz. of water a day, with the goal to incrementally increase your intake. Yes, you'll frequent the loo, but after a few weeks, your body will adjust to your new hydration “normal”.
  • Drink an additional glass of water for each caffeinated beverage you intake.  Better yet, switch to half-caff or decaf!
  • Swap out one beverage a day for a glass of water. Eventually make the switch to water as your beverage of choice (after your morning coffee, of course!)
  • Supplement water intake with caffeine-free Throat Coat Tea for additional hydration.  More on this later.
  • Go Organic Throat Drops – These low-sugar, menthol-free lozenges act as a demulcent, stimulating saliva production and combating dry mouth without coating the throat and vocal folds with a sugary layer begging to be cleared away!  The ginger flavor is my favorite, followed by the honey-lemon.  TJ Maxx and Marshalls often carry these in their gourmet food section for cheap!
Your body was created to function and thrive on nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.  These essentials are found in whole foods and provide your body with the fuel it needs to stay healthy and recover from illness.  Give your body what it needs!
  • Enjoy a colorful and fortifying diet full of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins.  Reach for a piece of fruit instead of another Christmas cookie as a snack. Add meat or fish to your salad, along with some nuts and seasonal berries.
  • Limit sugar intake to keep your immune system strong, and reduce mucus production and inflammation in your body. Try sweetening your coffee or tea with raw honey or Grade B maple syrup instead of sugar, sugar substitutes, or sugar-laden creamers.  Your taste buds will quickly adjust!
  •  Reduce dairy intake, as it too can contribute to mucus production as well as reflux symptoms.
  • Incorporate garlic and onions into your meals.  
  • Take a tablespoon of honey with cinnamon once or twice a day.
  • Consider taking a daily dose of Elderberry Syrup to give your immune system a boost during the harsh winter months.     
5.  ESSENTIAL OILS (...yes, for reals!)
Before you tune me out, understand that I too was a skeptic prior to trying EO’s.  Having experienced success with treating chronic ailments, I thought I’d give them a try with combatting seasonal germs, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results!  I’ve experienced a reduction in the frequency, severity, and duration of illnesses since incorporating EO's into my daily wellness routine.  Whether diffusing or applying them topically, EO's have become a key component to my improved and sustained health.  Email me for more information regarding the protocols I use personally.

Daily communication, rehearsals, performances, etc. can quickly fatigue your voice.  Thus, it’s important to balance vocal rest with ongoing and prolonged use.  If you know you’ll be extensively using your voice for singing, conserve it with selective speaking, if any speaking at all.  Likewise, after a lengthy rehearsal or performance, rest your voice afterwards as much as possible.  Communicate with others that post-rehearsal or performance, you adhere to as much vocal rest as possible.  Sure, folks might think you’re silly at first by taking vocal rest so seriously, but soon they’ll come to respect your efforts of stewardship (and if they don’t, that’s ok – only you can steward your talent.)  For work or family environments not conducive to strict vocal rest, speak with supported breath and close, conversational volume; avoid talking loudly or excessively.  Not allowing time for adequate vocal rest can be a precursor to a myriad of issues, from dehydration to inflammation of the vocal folds to incurring vocal damage.
  • Send an email or a text instead of making a phone call or having an in-person conversation, when appropriate.
  • Consider rearranging your to-do list to balance verbal with non-verbal tasks, or delay tasks not requiring you to speak until after key rehearsals or performances so you can multi-task by bring quietly productive!
  • Incorporate vocal marking into individual and corporate rehearsals that are scheduled immediately prior to a performance, when you are already vocally fatigued, or when you are not feeling well.  (“Marking” is accomplished by audibly singing the first few notes of a phrase and mentally singing the remainder of the phrase, as well as by altering sections of the melody line through the displacement of notes falling at the extreme low or high end of your vocal range to a more comfortable pitch or octave to promote vocal conservation.  A long explanation, I know!  Email me for more information on this highly beneficial technique.)     
7.  Emergency Kit Necessities
Even the best health steward is going to fall prey to germs.  Have these tools handy in your vocal emergency kit to facilitate a speedy recovery. Remember, you have to be well to sing well!  (Bonus: These items are easily found in your closest grocery store's health/pharmacy section and are much more affordable than purchasing them at a specialty health food store!) 
  • Distinguish the difference between a sore throat and pain at the vocal fold level.  If there is pain, hoarseness, laryngitis, please do not sing. No rehearsal or performance is worth risking the incurrence of long-term vocal damage.  Sometimes the most impactful song we sing is the one off of the platform.  There is always an alternate solution, whether that means having someone fill in for you, or worst case scenario - cancelling a show.  Risking it all is never worth the risk.  And, if you aren’t already in the practice of discipling others to follow in your ministry footsteps, now is the perfect time to do (both for their development, and in the event of a vocal emergency!)
  • Avoid menthol or any topical anesthetics.  Sorry - no Hall’s or Luden’s lozenges. No Chloraseptic. Always check the label for hidden menthol! These products decrease pain receptors and are a breeding ground for a false sense of vocal security, often facilitating vocal strain and the potential for damage. Just say no!
  • Go Organic Throat Drops:  As mentioned above, these lozenges combat dryness and throat “tickling”  which can lead to coughing and excessive clearing.  I always have a few of these with me in sickness and in health!
  • Elderberry Syrup or Gummies:  An effective immune system booster.  If you’re not already taking this supplement daily, consider incorporating it into your recovery regimen and using daily for maintenance throughout the winter months.  Purchase a quality product, not an imitation.  See product instructions for dosage.
  • Hyland's Brand Cold and Cough Products: These homeopathic and side-effect free remedies are effective for everything from controlling a violent cough to relieving head or chest congestion.  They get the job done without over-drying your nose and throat. 
  • Raw honey:  Honey will stop a cough or tickle in its tracks without any of the side effects of traditional cough syrups.  My pantry is always stocked with honey, and it travels well in a small container or pre-packaged to-go honey sticks.  A tablespoon will do!  (A word of advice: Don’t take honey immediately before singing because of its powerful coating properties.  Thirty minutes prior to singing is likely to be sufficient for calming your cough and dispersing the coat!)
  • Netti Pot:  Though not pictured (you're welcome!) this is a beneficial tool for rinsing nasal and sinus passages, breaking up congestion, and removing irritants.  Follow package instructions for use.  Consistent and sanitary use is key!
I hope this information is beneficial in helping you be your healthy, vocal best!

What are some of YOUR vocal wellness tips?  Have a question? I’d love to share more with you about vocal wellness!  Email me at, or post a comment or question on Facebook or Twitter.

May your Christmas be blessed with the joy of our Savior, Jesus Christ!  

Promoting Vocal Excellence,
 - Heather