The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a wonderful experience for all involved, but it can leave the old voice a little exhausted, to say the least! What with all the performances, flyering, and (occasional) drinking, it's difficult not to strain. I've decided on my top 6 tips for keeping your voice safe so that you can enjoy the Fringe to the max.
Water takes 4 hours to reach your vocal folds once you've swallowed it, so make sure to drink way in advance of your show.
Tip: To hydrate your vocal folds even more effectively, try steaming. I recommend Dr Nelson's Inhaler, but a cheaper option is to steam over a bowl of boiled water (no menthol) with a towel over your head. Take care not to burn yourself!
2. Avoid dehydration
I won't tell you to avoid caffeine or alcohol, as this is unreasonable. However, (are you sensing a theme here..?) HYDRATE afterwards! This will help to offset all the dehydration that the coffee / wine will have caused.
3. Warm down
We all know to warm up before a performance, but it's also vital to warm down, especially if your show involves high intensity vocalising, for example shouting / belting / screaming etc. You can warm down by: sirening down from high to low (your voice slides from the top of its range to the bottom on an 'ng' sound); counting from one to ten on vocal fry (creak - the popping noise made when your vocal folds are very slack and relaxed); and slowly working your way back to your normal speech register.
This is important so that you don't push, vocally, whilst in the pub or walking home after a show. Think of it as the same as working out in the gym - you need to stretch and warm down afterwards.
Your body is going through an awful lot at the Fringe, and adrenaline will play a huge part in your life on most days. Remember to rest as much as possible in order to say 'thank you' to your body for looking after you so well!
Your voice is a part of your whole body, so if you feel physically de-energised then your vocal mechanism may try to work harder to overcompensate, resulting in potential difficulties further down the line.
5. Eat well
Another part of looking after your body is giving it the fuel it needs to help you perform. Eat a healthy, balanced diet as much as possible to help your body, and in turn, your voice.
Some people find that certain food groups affect them vocally. This is somewhat disputed in the voice world, so figure out what is true for you. I find that eating / drinking dairy products (especially chocolate) can result in a build-up of mucus, which can make vocalising less reliable. Citrus and spicy food can leave my pharynx (back of the throat area) feeling a little raw and tickly. Again, we are all unique so analyse your own vocal pattern after eating.
Tip: try not to eat just before bed, as this may cause acid reflux which affects your voice greatly.
6. Losing your voice? Use natural remedies!
If your voice is struggling, try natural remedies such as honey or non-medicated sweets. Cough sweets and medicines may cause more trouble, because they numb the pain and therefore we don't notice if we're pushing / hurting the voice further. Many cough sweets also dehydrate you and therefore leave you needing more and more.
My go-to solutions are always honey and hot water, and steaming (mentioned earlier). If things get serious and you are really struggling to speak, then I would recommend complete voice rest.
Need more advice?
If you're experiencing any difficulties with your voice, or if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch and I'll be happy to help!
I will also be up at the Edinburgh Fringe for the month, along with my good friend and fellow voice coach Nicola Redman. We are offering pay-what-you-can voice coaching for festival performers, meaning we'll accept anything from a pint / comps / a fiver / to our going rate of £50 per hour as payment for our expert services. All we ask is that you're honest and pay whatever you can afford.
Our hashtag is #FestVoice and you can find us at:
Have a great festival, and see you up there!