043 Five Tips for Better Vocal Health

5 tips for better vocal health

Listen Now

What to do when your performance is coming up and you don’t feel well, or you are sounding scratchy. Michael and Amy share 5 tips for better vocal health.


00:00 Micheal: Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. And I am joined today by my bride-to-be, Amy soon-to-be Port, the co-founder of Heroic Public Speaking, and we are going to give you five quick tips for better vocal health. Hi, Amy.

00:21 Amy: Hi, how are you?

00:22 Micheal: This is an issue people bring to us often.

00:24 Amy: Yes.

00:25 Micheal: They say, “My voice is really… It’s like scratchy and I have to give a performance. I don’t know what to do.” And they get very worried, which then, of course, the more anxiety you feel, the more tense you become, which then creates more problems. So let’s start with number one. If you have like a really hoarse voice, you’re sore, let’s say you’re sick or you just been abusing it, what’s the first thing you do, number one?

00:50 Amy: Total vocal rest. Stop speaking. And it sounds harder than it may actually be. But if you know you’re coming up on a performance and you don’t feel well or you’re sounding scratchy, the best thing you can do is stop talking. So you can tell your people that, tell your family that, that you are just on complete vocal rest. And it’s fun with children.


01:16 Micheal: I went on vocal rest for three weeks during graduate school because at that time you’re performing so often, and in the earlier years you’re not as skilled, so I was pushing on my voice and I got a little bit of bleeding on my vocal chord.

01:37 Amy: Wow.

01:38 Micheal: Yeah. Which can turn into a node, which is pretty bad. Now, you’ll hear, that say Amy and I have different types of voices. Not just one’s a male voice, one’s a female voice, but I have a more naturally gravelly voice. And when I was…

01:53 Amy: Yeah, you do.

01:54 Micheal: I do. And when I was in graduate school, they gave me a hard time about that because they wanted that bigger, more resonant sound.

02:01 Amy: More theatrical sound.

02:02 Micheal: More theatrical sound. And that gave me a little bit of a complex earlier on about my voice. I thought, “Something is wrong with it.” They neglected to tell me that that’s how I would make my bread and butter when I left graduate school doing hundreds of voice-overs. One of the ones, voice-overs, I used to do was for a company called Braun, and that’s, the rasp is what they wanted. “Braun.” Smart thinking. So that’s what they were looking for. Oh that’s why you were pointing at, the water…


02:36 Micheal: I didn’t know what you were pointing at. She was going, she’s pointing and I’m like, “What? There’s nobody there. I don’t know what’s going on.”

02:41 Amy: It’s a good day for us to talk about vocal health because we’re both coming off of a bug that had some throat pain and, for me, I sound a little gravellier than I normally do.

02:54 Micheal: And I, and so that’s why we were thinking about, “What episodes do we wanna do?” and that’s why, boom, we came right on this one.

03:00 Amy: So number one. First tip is vocal rest. Number two…

03:03 Micheal: Number two. Don’t whisper.

03:05 Amy: Don’t whisper, because when you whisper it actually puts more air over your vocal chords which will dry them out. They will make you raspier, that will make you… It can actually cause damage to your vocal chords if you’re doing that enough. So rather than getting a breathy sound or full out whispering, we suggest that you do talk. If you’re gonna talk, that you talk on tone rather than whispering.

03:32 Micheal: Yes. So think about it this way, and here’s an analogy for you. I’m just making this up so go with me here. Something that is moist is more flexibility, something that’s dry is more brittle and will crumble. So let’s take a leaf, for example. When a leaf is in season it’s moist and it’s full of fluid.

03:51 Amy: Bendable.

03:52 Micheal: It’s bendable, just like a tree. But if a tree or a leaf loses the sap in the tree or the… I guess it’s sap in the leaves too, water in the leaves, I don’t know much about trees, but then it starts to die, becomes brittle and eventually crumbles or cracks. And that’s what will happen with your vocal chords if you continue to aerate them, put a lot of air over those chords. So, number one is vocal rest. Number two, don’t whisper, and number three, hydrate.

04:25 Amy: Hydrate. So this is directly connected with what Michael was just saying. The more you hydrate, both by drinking water and by not dehydrating… For example, don’t whisper, stay off of alcohol, caffeine, other things that dehydrate your whole system and your vocal chords in particular.

04:45 Micheal: Now, for those of you who are professional speakers, I know staying off alcohol and caffeine is going to be quite a challenge, but we think you’re up to it. That’s why you get paid the big bucks. So, when you’re on your flight, first class, 8:00 in the morning, don’t drink the Bloody Mary.


05:03 Micheal: Stay away from the scotch.

05:05 Amy: No Jim Bean.

05:07 Micheal: Yeah, no Jim Beam. And that’s…

05:09 Amy: Beam?

05:09 Micheal: What?

05:10 Amy: Beam or Bean? Jim Beam or Jim Bean?

05:14 Micheal: I don’t know.

05:14 Amy: I don’t know.

05:15 Micheal: I don’t drink enough to know.

05:16 Amy: I don’t either.

05:16 Micheal: I did go to school undergrad in the South, and all my friends… Not all my friends, but a lot of my friends drank Jim Beam. That was the cheap Southern whiskey to drink. Scotch whiskey? Whiskey? I don’t know.

05:29 Amy: And then you get that whiskey-sounding voice to go with it.

05:32 Micheal: And just as a side note, when you’re speaking on stage and if you feel like you’re getting a little frog in your throat, you can clear your voice. Sometimes if when you have a cough and you try to constrain the cough it gets worse, or if you have a little… And I’m mentioning this now because I have it in my throat and first thing that goes through mind is, ” Oh, I need to find a place where I can clear my throat without just doing it in the mic really loudly, but that’s okay to do when you’re giving a speech. Now if you find yourself in the habit of [throat clearing] it becomes a tick, and that’s something that you need to work on because people will get frustrated over time listening to that. So, number one, vocal rest, number two, don’t whisper, number three, hydrate and don’t dehydrate, number four, don’t push.

06:17 Amy: Yes. Sometimes if we’re trying to push an emotional state or overact, sometimes we say…

06:22 Micheal: Or push through the sound.

06:24 Amy: Yes.

06:25 Micheal: Because you feel like you’re a little bit hoarse, “I’m gonna use more sound. I’m really gonna try to make more sound.” An audience doesn’t need a lot of volume to understand you.

06:33 Amy: No.

06:36 Micheal: They need enough to be able to hear you. But, they understand you because you are articulate and because of your timing, and your use of pauses, and your exactness, and your language. That’s why they understand you. So, you don’t need to shout for them to hear you. In fact, sometimes it’s harder to understand when you are making so much noise because the words start to run together.

07:03 Amy: And sometimes in that case, we give all the words the same weight. So, if you are hitting your words that are the keywords of meaning in the sentence and throwing away other words, then they will understand you as long as you are, as Michael so beautifully put it, articulate.

07:18 Micheal: Number one, vocal rest, number two, don’t whisper, number three, hydrate, number four, don’t push or use your throat muscles a lot to try to talk, and number five…

07:33 Amy: Play with your pitch. So, this is something that I’ve talked with some of our students about in other circumstances. Very often, performers end up going out for drinks with friends or family or each other after a show, and if you’re in a loud place, like a bar or something like that, often people push on their voices then to be heard. What you can do best in that situation for vocal health is listen for the overall tone in the room, the overall pitch that the room is at, and go above or below it. So, if most people in a bar or in a restaurant are talking at this kind of a pitch…

08:10 Micheal: So, yeah. Let’s see if we can simulate it.

08:12 Amy: Okay.

08:13 Micheal: I’ll do the room tone.

08:13 Amy: Okay.

08:14 Micheal: I’ll be the sounds of the room. And let’s say the sounds of the room are kind of around this tone and…

08:18 Amy: Okay. So, there’s a din in the room and I can hear that, but if I talk at the same pitch, it will be hard for me to be heard. But if I talk here, if I pitch my voice higher, then I can be more easily heard over the din in the room. That was well done, Michael Port.

08:34 Micheal: Well, we’ll see what the audio engineer thinks about that. We could have actually just had him put in room tone. We could have done it that way.

08:42 Amy: It’s much more fun when the performer takes it on themselves, I think.

08:44 Micheal: Yeah, exactly right.

08:45 Amy: But in any case, when we are sick or not quite at our best, we tend to have a tendency to let the voice drop and let it be gravelly, and this is where I would be talking today, were I not recording.

08:58 Micheal: And especially for those of you that do audio interviews or podcasts because you can get really close to the mic and do it quietly. You may actually use more of your throat voice than what we call your mask voice, which is where you use the resonators in the face and you produce a brighter sound.

09:20 Amy: Now, that may sound really technical, but what you can think about is putting your… And he’s right on, and we do that work with the students that we get to work with live. If you work with us, you will learn how to do all that.

09:29 Micheal: Over periods of time, yeah.

09:32 Amy: But for today, think of it as putting your pitch just a little bit higher and making it a really bright sound, and that will allow you to get out of any kind of throaty raspiness that you might generally have.

09:46 Micheal: It’s you’re putting your sound over on top of that gravelly, more hoarse…

09:54 Amy: Pitch wise.

09:54 Micheal: Yeah, pitch wise. And then it protects your… Because here’s the thing, so let’s think about it on a scale. So, let’s say the gravelly is in the middle of your vocal chords on the scale, like your vocal chords are five inches. She’s looking at me like I’m out of my freaking mind. She’s like, “I’ve never heard you explain it this way ever.” Why not?


10:16 Amy: Okay, go for it.

10:17 Micheal: I’ll go for it.

10:17 Amy: I’m gonna learn something new.

10:18 Micheal: So, let’s say your vocal chords are five inches long.

10:21 Amy: Let’s.

10:21 Micheal: Which is really weird ’cause those would be huge vocal chords. And each inch was a different range on your vocal chords. Let’s just say, go with it.

10:31 Amy: Okay, okay.

10:32 Micheal: Okay, keep coming. So, let’s say the raspiness in your voice, because you were sick, you had a little bit of damage on your chords, were in the second, third… The first, second and… Or the second and third inches on that scale.

10:50 Amy: The second and third, okay.

10:51 Micheal: So, if you work up into the fourth and fifth, then you’re gonna be over the second and third and you won’t be pushing on those second and third. You’ll have a brighter sound that’s a little bit higher in pitch and it uses your mask resonators. Now, you might not always use this when you’re performing because, and until you get very experienced at it, ’cause you might feel it sounds inauthentic, doesn’t really sound like you, but when you are resting your voice, trying to heal it up, it can be very effective. So right now, I don’t know if my voice sounds much different or not, but I have not been using my throat resonators as much as I have been my mask resonators in this last little part.

11:33 Amy: So, he’s using the healthier part of his voice and giving the less healthy part of his voice the opportunity to rest.

11:37 Micheal: Did it actually sound any different? Did it sound different?

11:43 Amy: Yes.

11:44 Micheal: It did?

11:44 Amy: Yes.

11:45 Micheal: Did it sound really strange, like, “That doesn’t sound like Michael.”?

11:48 Amy: No. But part of the reason it didn’t is that Michael has a large, well developed, well trained range to his voice, and that each person has a different range, whether it’s in speaking or singing. I think Mariah Carey is spoken of, as having like a seven octave range in her singing voice. Not everybody has that and that’s the same thing with speaking. We all have a different range. So, don’t push but find the notes, find the pitch, the parts of your voice that feel and sound healthier when you’re not feeling totally on your game.

12:22 Micheal: Yeah.

12:23 Amy: Yeah.

12:23 Micheal: Yeah. Yeah. Okay, good. So, listen, number one vocal rest. Number two, don’t whisper. Number three, hydrate, which means don’t dehydrate with alcohol and acidic type drinks. Also, don’t push, that’s number four. Number five is use a mask voice, use some of the higher tones, a little higher register to get on top of the part of your voice that’s feeling a little bit weak.

12:55 Amy: Beautifully put.

12:57 Micheal: Thank you very much. Well done, you.

13:00 Amy: Well done, you.

13:00 Micheal: Thank you very much. This is Michael Port and…

13:03 Amy: Amy.

13:04 Micheal: And of course…

13:06 Amy: I don’t have a last name at the moment.

13:08 Micheal: There’s how many more weeks now? A few more weeks and then it will be new [13:12] ____… So she stopped using her old name, but she can’t officially use her new name. So, all the rebranding for the sites is waiting to go. You just have to actually have a marriage certificate and then click a button and all that will happen. So, listen. We love you very much, and not in a weird way, but we do love you for being the big thinker that you are, for caring about the people you serve and caring about your future. The future belongs to the learner, not the learned, not the one who thinks they know, it certainly doesn’t belong to the critic, it belongs to the performer. You can be a performer or a critic but you can’t be both. So, obviously you’re here, you’re a performer. Make sure you subscribe, rate and review and… Listen. Amy does not accept anything less than five star reviews.

14:00 Amy: Nothing less.

14:00 Micheal: She… Nothing less than five star reviews.

14:02 Amy: Nope.

14:02 Micheal: I wouldn’t even consider getting anything less than a five star review, ’cause if Amy founds out, woo-hoo, you’re in big, big trouble. If you haven’t read “Steal the Show”, pick up a copy, anywhere books are sold, you can also go to stealtheshow.com to get lots of free bonuses. You buy one book, you get over $10,000 worth of bonuses.

14:20 Amy: What?

14:20 Micheal: Oh, no. Sorry. $1,000. Thank God, she was here to correct me. $10,000 for something else, but $1,000’s not bad.

14:27 Amy: What are you…

14:28 Micheal: One book, you get $1,000 worth of bonuses.

14:29 Amy: He gives away the farm.

14:31 Micheal: It’s true. This is true. So, that’s it. What else were we gonna say? Anything we were gonna say? What a strong ending this is. Oh, my God.

14:40 Amy: You can also go to heroicpublicspeaking.com to find out about our upcoming live events and our online courses and ways to do in depth study with us through our graduate program.

14:50 Micheal: Well said. Bye for now.

14:53 Amy: Bye.