Lessons from Adele – How to Protect Your Voice

November 3, 2011{ 16 Comments }

Britain’s chart-topping pop soul sensation Adele recently had to cancel her North American tour due to throat hemorrhaging. It’s serious enough that she’s now slated to go under the knife of a laryngeal surgeon. Yikes! Often, throat conditions are found in younger, more amateur singers as a result of strain and fatigue on the throat, and/or lack of formal training, but Adele’s condition shows that voice injury can even strike the pros.

So what could have Adele done differently to protect her Grammy-winning gullet? Well, her smoking addiction certainly doesn’t help. Neither does overuse. But aside from surgery, she shows no sign of slowing down. Hopefully she’ll be more cautious in protecting her voice and following her doctor’s advice moving forward.

Here are a few tips that we’ve compiled to help you protect your most precious instrument – your voice:

1. Drink water. Water is your friend and moisture is good for the voice. Stay hydrated. 2-3 liters a day (about 10-13 cups).

2. Warm up your voice. Even if you don’t have a performance or a rehearsal this is good practice. This tutorial offers some good and succinct tips for a proper voice warm up.

3. Don’t clear your throat. Clearing your throat is like slapping your vocal chords. Take a small sip of water and swallow instead.

4. Don’t smoke. Smoking causes larynx cancer and can cause permanent damage to the tissues of your vocal chords and your lungs. To help ensure you have healthy lungs, follow these tips.

5. Rest a hoarse throat. Listen to your body; if you feel or hear a sore or irritated throat coming on, rest, limit speaking and singing, or practice silence.

If you have a throat condition that continues to worsen, consider seeing your doctor or an Otolaryngologist right away.

What tips do you have for protecting your voice? Let us know in the comments section below.

-Molly King

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  • Ladyk

    Adele's problems stem from mis-use, in addition to over-use (google: Adele vocal folds). Vocalists, be careful how you use your instrument! Many a wonderful vocalist has suffered from using their voice in a damaging way- most notably Cyndi Lauper. Adele is so talented. I hope she finds a sustainable way to sing before it's too late.

  • Agreed. One "rock" singer that always seems relaxed, no matter how high or loud he's singing, is Thom Yorke. Say what you will about the quality of his voice, but I think he's maintained his instrument and actually gotten more agile, and more relaxed. I believe he took vocal lessons when he was young (before Radiohead took off).

  • Amen.

  • I'm once did a gig after drinking a milkshake. It was like a nasty double dairy injection straight to my vocal chords. No good.

  • Sparkling water is good for hiccups, though!

  • Do you use the salt?

  • "Good vocal health is a lifestyle." Great advice. There is no easy solution. Like most things, it comes down to dedication and consistent practice and health. Thanks!

  • Nice. A friend of mine went cold turkey a few weeks ago. He's miserable, but staying strong!

  • Thanks for all the info and wisdom! Good stuff.

  • Luke

    The guy who explains point Nr. 2 "Warm up your voice" is amazing. Check out his stuff on YouTube. What a talent he is – Dub FX – simply amazing.

  • Mid-song burps are the devil.

  • Screw that. It burns my throat and makes me feel crappy if I don't shoot it with water.

    • Andrea Gerak

      uhh, same here

  • Andrea Gerak

    Great advice and great comments! I would add some of my tips here that I think nobody mentioned yet, in a random sequence of importance:

    1. GINGER. Keeps your throat (and body) warm. I either chew on small pieces, make tea with fresh slice, or mix powder in warm water.

    2. SALT. With properly hydrating (yes, 2-3 liters of water a day, for big people even more), one needs to take care of the salt intake as well, to keep the body fluids in balance. We exhale a LOT and probably sweat when we sing. One of my favorite drinks while singing is warm/luke warm water with a pinch of Himalayan salt. NOT, not, not simple table salt – google the difference.

    3. FIND YOUR OWN NATURAL VOICE – this is the conclusion I came to, learning from several teachers and coaches, different methods and approaches. A killer trick for that: MOVE YOUR BODY WHILE YOU SING! I was fortunate to start out as a folk dancer, and in Hungarian folk dance it’s a normal thing for us girls to sing like Adele’s loudest notes throughout 2-hour shows (sometimes twice a day on a tour or festival), while doing heavy jumps, turns and all, with maybe 10-15 kilograms of costumes on us… Oh yes, all this open-air too, on stages with NO ANY amplification whatsoever. Can you imagine that?? With this training under my belt, now I can almost just whisper without a mic, and it will project in a big space.

    You can go to a Classical voice teacher and they can teach you great things, but not this one trick: in history, ordinary people have been always singing when they were working out in the fields or around the house, without any technique or warm-ups, and when they came together for some occasion, they would often sing the whole day or night AND probably dance in the same time. Just think of the HUGE sound of a Gospel or a traditional Bulgarian choir and their soloists.

    4. YOUR STATE OF MIND. Like in most everything, the condition of your throat and your voice starts with how you control them with your mind. Stress is awful: situations that “strangle you” can indeed have physical effects on your throat, within a second. And then there might be some reservations, negative beliefs you hold about your voice or whatever. Find the practices that resonate with you to keep your body-mind-spirit healthy, and do those: your voice, your singing abilities will be grateful for it. So will your audience 🙂

    As i am looking at what I just wrote here, the correct sequence would be: 4-3-2-1.