Note: the following pearls of wisdom are based on personal experience, observation and casual research. They are not a substitute for the advice and care of a qualified physician. Consult your own inner wisdom to decide what's best for you...and please... don't sue me!
THE BASICSYour being is your instrument. Just about anything you do that is good for your being is good for your voice, including the obvious:
Numero Uno: SLEEPYes, sleep. I have no scientific data about this, just my own personal experience and that of my students. The needs of individuals do vary, but I guarantee you that you wonít sing your best with less than six hours of sleep any given night. Less than that and you're asking for trouble.
NutritionGood nutrition means nurturing oneself in ways that promote health, energy and a sense of well being. Your body knows what's best for you, ask yourself if you are giving it what it needs or consult a nutritionist. Tasty, well-prepared and elegantly served whole, fresh, organically grown local foods are most nourishing to body and soul. Many of my students find that eating wheat and/or dairy causes them to be more susceptible to colds and/or allergies. If you have chronic or frequent trouble with either of these, or if you are prone to problems of excess mucous, eliminate them one at a time and see if you feel better.
Psychological, social and spiritual nourishment:Are you getting enough love and joy in your life? Are the pressures of everyday living keeping you from a life of passion? Do you enjoy healthy connections to your loved ones, your community, to nature, soul and spirit? True healing (making whole) is a reconnection of all these elements. You will stay healthier, sing better and be happier if you regularly take time to honor and nurture these connections. And our whole world will benefit from your efforts.
Regular exerciseRegular aerobic exercise (brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, dance, etc.) not only keeps you strong and energetic, but helps relieve stress, strengthens your immune system and increases your aerobic (lung) capacity. Just twenty minutes three times a week is enough to begin to improve health. (Hey, that's how much I tell students to practice, too!)
Stretching, relaxation, deep breathing and meditationMy first voice teacher taught yoga as an integral part of his voice classes. This combination makes perfect sense. Flexibility and posture are very important for singing. Relaxation is essential, both from a mental standndpoint and from a muscular one. Meditation and visualization are incredibly effective, efficient ways to improve health and life quality.
Deep breathing is an excellent way to calm our nerves and help us regain control/awareness of our bodies. Most singers who are serious about their art and their health include some form of stretching and m ediation in their lives such as: yoga, tai-chi, or chi-gung.
THE LARYNXYour vocal folds are tiny membranes (less than 3/4 of an inch), that come in gentle, even contact with each other when singing well. When you sing middle c they are vibrating at about 250 cycles per second!
Vocal health depends on minimizing the friction on your vocal cords and keeping them lubricated (just like the your bike chain or car engine).
While excess mucous (phlegm or congestion) can be somewhat uncomfortable and can interfere with our normal resonance, generally it is harmless and it OK to sing in this condition.
What is cause for concern is any swelling on the vocal cords (literally: laryngitis). When our cords are swollen, our voices become hoarse or raspy or we feel a dry tickle in our throat. If this happens, lay-off the singing and speaking for a while. Be aware of whatever you were doing that might have caused this condition, so as to avoid it in he future. Any hoarseness lasting more than two weeks is reason to consult a physician.
When our vocal cords are repeatedly swollen, they may begin to develop little blisters which eventually harden into callus-like "nodes." While usually not permanently damaging, healing nodes may require complete vocal rest or surgery, followed by speech therapy.
Friction: Avoid shouting, "pushing", over-singing, straining, s inging loud but breathy (pushing air like Marlon Brando), or singing too high or too low for long stretches. Rest your voice frequently (including no talking or whispering), especially after working on difficult passages.
Lubrication: Drink plenty of water, hot water or herb tea. Inhaled steam is one of the best ways to lubricate your cords and to loosen phlegm from them. Eating hot peppers will also thin the mucus. If your throat is dry, eating small amounts of fresh citrus fruits can also promote salivation.
Avoid diuretics such as coffee, tea, sodas, anything with caffeine, sugar, alcohol and cigarettes. Avoid dust and smoke, especially in performance situations. Avoid medicines, foods and herbs which are drying including: most antihistamines (ask your doctor), products containing menthol or eucalyptus, and foods containing large amounts of cinnamon or cumin.
Many of my students find themselves sick or hoarse after flying on airplanes or singing smoky bars, because of the expos ure to dry, dusty or smoky air. Try ordering hot water or tea and inhaling the steam from it, and talk as little as possible in these environments.
Finally, avoid loudly clearing your voice ("a-hem"), it creates a great deal of friction on your cords and your body will just produce more phlegm in an attempt to protect them. If you really do have excess mucous on your cords, the best way to act ually clear them is gentle humming.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS, VIDEOS AND WEBSITES (you will find links to many of these on the "Resources" page of this site).
Freeing the Natural Voice. Kristen Linklater. New York, 1976. Drama Book Publishers. Practical method for unlearning the physical and psychological habits that typically inhibit our voices. (Developed from her work with professional actors).
Song and Silence: Voicing the Soul. Susan Elizabeth Hale. Albuquerque, 1995. La Alameda Press. A beautifully written, inspiring book on healing the cultural estrangement from our own voices.
The Structure of Singing. Richard Miller. New York, 1986. Shirmer Books. The most current, accurate and readable book that I know of on vocal technique. Recommended for those with a strong background in voice or physiology.
Video: The Singer's Voice. Joan Wall. PST, Inc. 1991. Excellent series on the anatomy and physiology of singing. Topics include: breath, vocal folds, the vocal tract and a fiber-optic view of the vocal folds in action (singing and speaking).
Websites: www.bgsm.edu/voice Center for voice Disorders of Wake Forest University website. General information on vocal health and singing. Includes video footage of vocal cords in motion, and an excellent article on vocal nodes.
|© 2005-2014 Cathleen Wilder. All rights reserved.|