A NEW YEAR ~ A NEW HABIT – Avoiding Vocal Fatigue in the Classroom

Educators can be at unusual risk for developing vocal fatigue and hoarseness. Demands of heavy voice use throughout the week is tremendous with little time for the voice to rest and recover.                               


please refer to References at the end of this article for a more exhaustive list of aids for music teachers.

  • Take special care to be well-hydrated. Begin your day with a full glass of water. If you drink a caffeinated drink, do so without over-dosing.
  • Warm up your voice as soon as your feet hit the ground (and you’ve had your water) Please see Teacher Warm Up at the end of this article.
  • Use printed signs or hand gestures for recurring communications.
  • Minimize vocal use to teach the music. Use your keyboard skills or the pianist and section leaders to demonstrate the part.
  • Use amplification during rehearsal.
  • Avoid talking at the end of your breath. Don’t hold your breath before or between words. Practice vocal pacing by taking breaks from talking, both long and short throughout the day. Refraining from talking for even five minutes can make a difference.
  • Provide recordings for your choir members to learn their part.
  • If you are giving a long lecture, get creative with ways to present other than the constant use of your voice.
  • If your voice is fatigued, stop speaking!
  • Avoid loud conversations prompted by loud restaurants, halls and outdoor events.
  • Improve your classroom acoustics: Add acoustic panels to the ceiling and walls and carpeting to the floors. Minimize noise from fans, lights, overhead projectors, and sound coming from other classes. For more specific tips, visit https://acousticalsociety.org/ for the Acoustical Society of America’s Classroom Acoustics booklet.
    • Lombard effect. The Lombard effect will cause one to increase their volume due to increased noise levels in the room. Voices tend to produce a more pressed phonation. Avoid talking over noise whenever possible. Turn off the fan, buzzing lights, computers, etc. when talking.
  • Wear an earplug in at least one ear. It can help your voice avoid speaking too loudly in noisy situations.
  • Use sound makers (whistles, hand claps) to gain students’ attention, rather than a loud voice.
  • Use amplification when teaching to minimize voice overuse


YES! Warming up the voice is not just for singing anymore. You should begin with gentle phonation at the start of your day to reinforce healthy habits.


  • Begin with various rhythmic patterns using [Sh].
  • Hiss like snake while pulsing from just below the sternum.
  • Hum softly on glissando five-note scales.
  • Lip trill without phonating.
  • Lip trill phonation while on a descending then ascending five-note scales. Move down by semi-tones.
  • Repeat sequence using a syllable such as [mam] with a relaxed jaw.
  • Sing on [ni] on a bright sound by incorporating rabbit teeth.
  • Repeat sequence on [fu] to ensure use of diaphragmatic breathing with a gentle onset.
  • Transition into the head voice by using bird calls: “Kaw-Kaw”; “Cu-roo, Cu-roo” and sliding down through the mixed voice into the chest voice.
  • Gently speak sentences that begin with [m]: Meet me on Monday.
  • Finally, speak everyday phrases using the same easy production. Your goal is to use this easy vocal production throughout the day.



Duke Voice Care Center.  Vocal health information. Retrieved from http://dukevoicecare.org

Daugherty, J. (2012). Vocal health handout. University of Kansas.  Lawrence, KS.

Daugherty, J. (2015). Graduate vocal pedagogy.  Retrieved from http://cmed.faculty.ku.edu

Erickson-Levendoski, E., Sivasankar, M. (2011). Investigating the effects of caffeine on  phonation.  Journal of Voice. 25. (5). E215-E219. Feldenkrais, M. (1949). Body and mature behavior. New York: International Universities Press.

Acoustical Society of America’s Classroom Acoustics booklet. https://acousticalsociety.org/

Feldenkrais, M. (2015) http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00467/Feldenkrais-Method.html

Killer, S.C., Blannin, A. K., Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). No evidence of dehydration with moderate coffee intake: a counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS One. 9 (1). e84154. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084154

Mathis, B.  Exercises for Voice . Retrieved from : http://www.voiceteacher.com/mathis2.html

Opera Pulse.com http://www.operapulse.com/refine-your-craft/guide-to-opera-training/the-rules-of-singing-mythbustersedition/#sthash.ExglJDbE.dpuf

Parillas, D. (n.d.). Vocal hygiene -part 2: hydrate! hydrate! hydrate! why vocal hydration is important to singing. Vocal Brilliance. Retrieved from: http://vocalbrilliance.com/blog/vocal-hygiene-part-2-hydrate-hydrate-hydrate-why-hydration-is-important-to-singing

Thurman, L. & Welch, G. (eds.). (2000). bodymind & voice. foundation of voice education. (Revised ed.). (Vols. 1-3).The VoiceCareNetwork.

Servilha, E. A. M.;  da Costa, A. T. F. (2015) Knowledge about voice and the importance of voice as an educational resource in the perspective of university professors: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1516-18462015000100013&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en

https://acousticalsociety.org/ for the Acoustical Society of America’s Classroom Acoustics booklet.

Published by

Lynn Swanson

Music Director & Organist, Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville, GA Music Director & Conductor, New South Festival Singers, Atlanta, GA Music Director & Conductor, Cobb Summer Singers, Marietta, GA Advisor to The Institute for Healthy Singing, The William Baker Choral Foundation former Assistant Director, Zhuhai Classical Children's Choir

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