It's no surprise to anyone that knows me that I'm all about hydration. I think it must run in the family because my baby brother is currently starting his own hydration supplement company, which is awesome. I'm all about this because constant hydration is really necessary to keep your vocal folds vibrating efficiently. As soon as your folds are dry, you need more air pressure to get them moving, which can lead to problems if you're constantly pushing to get your folds in action. Also, the body has a bit of a hierarchy for hydration and your vocal folds are unfortunately pretty low on that priority list. Little things like, oh, the brain, lungs, and heart are at the top of the list!
Once you mix in the dry winter air with the very dry heat from your heater, you have a recipe for a hydration disaster! Hydration is always important, but it's even more so in the winter months. Here are some of my favorite hydration, humidification, and steaming tips, along with the products that I recommend to make your hydration easier.
Nothing beats drinking water. I recommend a reusable water bottle that you take with you everyday. Refill it as often as possible. Favorites: I love my Hydroflask because it keeps my water cool, but literally any bottle out there that holds water will do.
Have trouble drinking enough water in a day or curious about how much you actually drink? Download an app to help track your intake. Favorites: Plant Nanny becuase there are cute plants you get to water!
Having a bottle and an app not enough? Consider the Hidrate Spark. It's a reusable water bottle that syncs to an app and not only keeps track of how much you physically drink, but the bottle glows when it's been too long without water. This is next level hydration!
Do you sweat a lot? Consider supplementing your water with electrolyte supplements. This helps your body recover faster after activity. There’s no research about these and the vocal folds, but if you’re sweating a lot in a show or at the gym, your body will thank you! Favorites: MyHy, Nuun Tablets
During the winter, I can't tell you how many people come to me and say, "I'm not sick, but I wake up with a sore throat every morning." This, my darlings, is from lack of humidification. If you're sleeping in dry winter air mixed with heat (especially NYC radiators), then you're breathing in dry air all night. This leads to dryness and often a scratchy throat. You need a humidifier running anytime you're spending time in your room, and definitely while you're sleeping. You can buy them for as little as about $30 at your local pharmacy. However, it's important to note that the cheaper they are, the more maintenance they usually require. If you can avoid it, don't buy a humidifier that requires a replaceable filter. The filter just sits in water and creates mold. That's nasty. If you're traveling, consider a small travel humidifier that uses a water bottle as the tank. Favorites: I love the brand Pure Guardian. The tanks are treated and don't need to be cleaned. They have multiple sizes and many of them do both warm and cool mist. These humidifiers are my jam!
People often don't realize that humidifiers and steamers are different things and that they're both needed. The humidifier moistens the air, while steamers are meant for direct inhalation. This is the only way to directly moisten the vocal folds. I've tried a lot of different steamers and created a pros and cons list for you.
Option 1: You can get a Vicks steamer or equivalent store brand from your local pharmacy and it works well. I used one for years and enjoyed it.
-It’s affordable and accessible-you can get it at most stores.
-You can use any type of water in the device.
-It uses boiling water, which can be dangerous and isn’t as effective as mist.
-You have to set it on a table and bend over to use it.
-It has to be plugged in.
Option 2: The Mypurmist corded steamer. This steamer is top notch and makes a huge difference when you are super congested or have chronic allergy and sinus issues. It's pretty popular amongst singers for how effective it is.
-It uses mist, which has finer particles and penetrates deeper than steam-this is a game changer for allergies, asthma, and sinus issues.
-You can control the level of heat and mist that comes out of it.
-It has a strap that allows you to steam without holding the device.
-You have to use distilled water ONLY in the device. It will break if you use other water. Luckily, distilled water is easy to find at grocery stores and pharmacies.
-It has to be plugged in.
-Price. It runs between $125 and $150
-I’ve had two break, BUT the company replaced them bother right away, no questions asked.
Option 3: Cordless Mypurmist. This is the cordless version of the above steamer. It’s similar, except that it has no cord.
-Same as the corded Mypurmist-it uses mist and you can control the amount of mist that comes out
-Cordless so you can take it with you and steam anywhere.
-There is also a strap for hands free use.
-You have to use special water pods that can only be purchased from Mypurmist. To me, this is a huge bummer that makes this product pretty unaccessible.
-It’s cordless, but not small. This means you can travel with it, but it still takes up space.
-It’s even pricier than the corded version at about $180.
Option 4: The mypocketmist steamer. This is a portable steamer that is truly portable. It’s handheld and can be literally put in your pocket.
-It’s super small and very travel friendly. It is truly a portable steamer that you can keep in your backpack, purse, dance bag, pocket, etc.
-It uses bottled water or boiled tap water, both of which are easy to come by. It needs the mineral content to work, so distilled water is out. If you travel with it, you can easily by a bottle of water at the airport and then steam on the plane. If you're at home you can just boil some water to use.
-It comes with both a mouthpiece and a mask so you can steam just into the mouth or both through the mouth and nose.
-It’s more affordable at $85
-It’s cool mist, which some people don’t find as effective.
-The mist stream isn’t as strong as the more powerful mypurmist devices, although you do still get 10 minutes of steaming.
-There is no strap so you have to hold it while steaming.
-$85 is cheaper than the mypurmist cordless, but still not cheap.
So what's the best option??
I think everyone should have a sturdy home steamer that works really well (Vicks or the Mypurmist options) and then if you travel a lot or need steaming on the go, invest in an additional travel steamer that fits your needs (cordless Mypurmist or Mypocketmist). I have the corded Mypurmist at home and use the Mypocketmist on the go. That works really well for me. At home I have my Pure Guardian humidifier and when I travel I use my travel humidifier for my hotel room. And of course I always have my Hydroflask filled with water everywhere I go, because…duh.
This summer I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop for the Broadway Teaching Group. The workshop was for a group of music directors who wanted to learn more about working with young, developing voices. It was a lot of fun and I learned a ton from them! So many music directors and choir teachers are so eager to learn more about how to help their young singers sing in efficient, healthy ways and I was happy to help them.
The Broadway Teaching Group asked me to contribute to their online content for their Broadway Choral Group. My first post was all about warming up and how to warm up your choir with function in mind. Thanks to the BCG for letting me share my thoughts!
Wow! It’s been almost a year since I had the time to do some blogging! I’ve been so busy teaching that I got sidetracked. Please accept my apologies!
Anyway, we just wrapped up another excellent summer at CAP21 and this year, in addition to Vocal Technique class, I had the opportunity to teach Audition Technique to an amazing group of high school students. It was so much fun! I love helping young performers become more confident in the room. There was something that I kept coming back to though, and that was the idea of being present in the room.
This may seem cliche, but I can assure you that the students who took the time to center themselves outside the room fared way better than the students who did not. Every individual may have a slightly different centering or focus strategy, but what is important is that you find one that works for you. Taking the time to center or focus allows you to use your energy to your benefit. As nerves or excited energy begin to creep in, it’s important that we don’t allow that energy to take over our audition. We always want to be in control of our energy and focus.
Centering before walking in the room also helps you stay connected to your instincts. It allows you to move when the impulse hits you. It allows you to honestly connect to your other while you sing. It simply helps you be more present in the room.
If you are looking for a centering strategy to try, I recommend Don Greene’s book “Performance Success.” It’s an excellent book for helping you achieve mental toughness in the difficult world of high pressure performing. He has a centering strategy that has proven very effective for myself and my students.