9 Vocal Health Tips for Music Teachers

By Philip, Frank [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

     One of the most challenging things for a new music teacher is figuring out how to keep their voice healthy.  Since I've been in the trenches for 11 years now, with plenty of vocal health struggles, I thought I would share some things I have learned.

1.  Drink plenty of water.

     And you may even want to add some electrolytes if you have low blood pressure.  Try using large water bottles that show how much water you are drinking so you can make sure to get at minimum 6-8 glasses of water each day.  I personally need more than 8!  Also, drinking room temperature water is more beneficial than hot or cold water.

2.  Warm Up.

     Humming on the way to work can go a long way.  If you don't have time for a real warm-up, trying warming up the first few minutes with your first class. 

3.  Amplify your voice.

     Microphones are awesome!  You can talk and sing quietly and your students can still hear you.  I have had a traditional wireless microphone and an infrared microphone.  Both have advantages and disadvantages, but they both make cool spaceship and Darth Vadar noises (which is all that really matters . . .).  In reality, amplification is shown to increase our students' focus on what we are teaching.  We are just as important as classroom teachers, so make sure you are included when new technology comes to the building.  You can also try to fund a project through Donors Choose or another fundraising method. 

4.  Only talk when your students are silent.

     Easier said than done.  Beginning teachers often talk over their students (including yours truly).  Don't do it.  Have a cue that requires little or no talking from you such as a bell or a clapping pattern, play it ONCE and then wait for silence.  It will take a while for students (and you) to adjust, but in the end, all of you will be happier.  Remember that many people lose their voice because of how they are talking/yelling, not how they are singing.  Are you talking without stress?

5.  Frontal voice placement.

     I at one point in college, I was singing with my voice placed in the back of my throat.  It didn't necessarily sound like it, but I was.  My voice teachers didn't notice it, but boy did I!  My voice hurt to sing.  When I was at grad school, we had a music theater person come in and they talked about how forward their vocal placement was and had us do some exercises with them.  This was a game changer for me!  My voice lasts longer and my range is wider when I sing with frontal placement.  Find someone who can help you if you can't figure it out yourself.

6.  Hang up signs to remind yourself.

     Certain things like drinking water and being quiet until the students are quiet aren't easy to remember when one student wants to show you their tooth fell out, two students get called to the office, you are being observed, and you have a new lesson in front of you.  Hang signs up in your room somewhere that will help you to remember whatever it is that most often causes you to lose your voice.  Be proactive!

7.  Don't be afraid to have a non-singing back-up plan!

     We all have days when our voices aren't cooperating.  If you are sick, don't be afraid to deviate from your golden lesson plan and give your students something else for a change.  I have music bingo games they play (and love) as well as a set of sing-along packets I made from Music K-8 magazine.  And BONUS:  these also make great sub activities for non-musical subs.  They still have value too--the bingo games reinforce note names and the music packets allow students to experience more types of music and increase their reading fluency (your principle will love it if you throw that term out there!). 

6.  Treat acid reflux, allergies, and asthma.

     I have been "blessed" with all of the above.  They were absolutely killing my vocal cords and I had no idea.  It wasn't until I talked with my doctor about how and when I lose my voice that I realized how much it was related to my overall health.  When and what you eat and even how you wash your sheets can make a big difference.  Make sure you talk with a doctor to get these regulated the best you can.  (Nasal spray is great!) 

9.  If your voice continues to struggle or hurts regularly when you sing, see an ENT with a singing expertise.

     I had nodes in college.  Let's just say yelling at the top of your lungs during a basketball game when you are a vocal major is NOT highly recommended :)  It wasn't just because of that, but I had to take an entire semester off from singing.  It was so hard to do, but I can tell you I have never appreciated singing more than the first note I sang when the semester was over.  I am more conscious of when my voice is stressed now and try to pinpoint the cause rather than just "get better."  Sometimes taking a rest is needed.  Plus, it is challenging to sing with proper technique when you begin losing your voice, so be aware of that.  

     You will undoubtedly lose your voice at some point, but keeping your voice as healthy as possible makes a big difference.  May the odds of your vocal health be ever in your favor!  Catch you next time I have something noteworthy!


  1. This is great advice for everyone! When I was in college I took a water bottle with me everywhere I went, but I don't drink as much as I should anymore. I also love the idea of using something like a bell to get everybody's attention. Great article!

    1. I know--it's crazy how hard it is get to enough water during the teaching day! Thanks for your comment--I love to hear from other teachers! Jen :)