By Guest Blogger – Mark Baxter
Importance of Hydration for Vocal Health
When you speak or sing there is a lot of activity inside your larynx and lot’s of contact between your two vocal folds. It’s crucial that the whole area stay lubricated and elastic to ward off the potential for friction (which is the biggest enemy to the voice). To handle all this activity, the vocal folds are covered with specialized layers of mucus and membranes that protect against friction just like the oil in your car’s engine. And if you’re someone who’s in the habit of running your voice or car without proper lubrication – the result can be the same. Trouble!
Vocal Fatigue and Hydration
Avoiding vocal fatigue and hoarseness caused by dehydration is as simple as drinking more water. Just so you’re clear, though, it’s not water per se that coats your folds and keeps the area inside your larynx moist. The water we consume must first travel through your digestive system and bloodstream in order to get to the cells in your larynx. The problem is that all of your other organs are also in need of water. Just because you’re a singer, doesn’t mean you get to decide where the water you drink ends up. Those thirsty organs act like damns reducing a river’s flow and rob the vocal folds of vital hydration.
Vocal Health Solution for Proper Hydration
The solution is to make hydration an all day affair. Waiting until meals or until you feel thirsty is too late. A minimum daily guide is one half-ounce of water per pound of body weight. If you eat a healthy diet full of high water content foods like fruits and vegetables, you can reduce that figure by about twenty percent. But if there’s a lot of junk like salt, caffeine, alcohol, processed sugar and starches, then you’ll need to counter the diuretic effect of your diet with much more water. Since most of us are bad at responding to the body’s subtle warnings – the best gauge is your urine. It should be clear.
Another important factor for keeping your vocal folds properly hydrated is the air you breathe. Relative humidity is a term used to describe how much water vapor is in the air. A relative humidity of 50 percent is considered optimum for singers. This is rarely the reality and it often takes some ingenuity to get more water into your environment. An average relative humidity inside a home in the northeast United States is ten percent during the winter – the same in the ultra air-conditioned buildings in warmer climates. For the sake of comparison, the Sahara Desert averages a twenty percent relative humidity. All this management of your hydration and environment will get easier as you feel and hear the positive results when singing. Just keep thinking water, water, and more water. It’s what you’re made of. Drink it, breathe it and eat it every day.
Some people are born to sing. Mark Baxter was not one of them. Undaunted, he studied, probed, inquired, explored, practiced and applied his findings until he achieved the voice he had always wanted. His value as a vocal teacher is unique in that he draws equally from his stage experience, some 3000 gigs and counting, and an unusually diverse training. After receiving formal training in music at The College of New Jersey, Mark hit the road with various bands and got a real education.
“There’s no better motivator than poverty. When you’re singing for your next meal, canceling is not an option. Before training, each night I slugged it out and hoped for the best. Now I can control my voice without holding back. This transformation is what fuels my enthusiasm for teaching. While I would have preferred to have been born with a ‘gift,’ the struggles I went through allow me to empathize with my students. I know first hand what it’s like to deal with vocal problems, and the difference lessons can make.”
Mark has completed hundreds and hundreds of voice lessons, exploring various methods, and attended countless seminars including: Vocal Pedagogy by the Functional Voice Foundation of West Germany, Neuromuscular message, nutrition, The Alexander Technique, acupressure, reflexology along with various psychological and visualization techniques. Even though he is now considered a leading authority in his field, he continues to research with a passion.
“I don’t think I’ll ever tire of learning about the voice. I’ve read every book out there and continuously look for related subjects. Lately, I’ve been attending symposiums at the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education, covering topics such as Physiology and Acoustics of Vocal Production, Aerodynamic Assessment of Vocal Function, Medical and Surgical Management of the Performing Artist. Phonomicrosurgical management of Benign Lesions and Injured Vocal Cords and Laryngopharyngeal Reflex. Many of the singers I work with have vocal damage. The medical courses allow me to speak freely with doctors and then translate their findings into singers’ terms for my clients. As a performer myself, I know exactly what it feels like to sing in the worst conditions. Combining my understanding of anatomy with stage experience allows me to help others reach their potential… and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”
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