© Copyright 2015 Yvonne DeBandi, BME
Many singers believe if they do not perform regularly they do not need to worry about vocal health and singing “properly.” Unfortunately, just like an unexpected fall out of a tree can cause a broken bone that aches when it rains the rest of your life, one impromptu karaoke performance and improper vocal belt on that high note can cause irreparable vocal damage. A more common condition and resultant situation, however, is Vocal Hyperfunction and Muscle Tension Dysphonia, or hoarseness.
Vocal tone is created when air bursts through the cleft created by our vocal cords and vibration occurs. To create a clear sounding tone, the vocal cords need to come together solidly and completely. If the membranes or surrounding tissues are swollen (or contain lumps or tears), hoarseness will occur. While the damaging effects of infrequent hoarseness are not usually permanent, hoarseness is a sign of significant vocal abuse or fatigue and should not be ignored.
This week I will discuss some basic techniques to prepare your vocal cords for singing and prevent vocal damage.
Tip #1: Warm-up your voice before you sing. Just like you wouldn’t jump into running a ten-mile race without first stretching and warming your muscles, give your voice the same courtesy. It is a good idea to develop a regular routine. Repeating your effective warm-up routine before each singing event will help prepare your voice. Here are some specific tips to get you started: relax your body, do some proper breathing exercises to wake up your airflow and diaphragm, hum your favorite song and do some vocal sirens (slide up and down your singing range on the syllable “ee” imitating the sound of a siren).
Tip #2: Vocal hydration is extremely important, so drink lots of water. Be sure to drink room temperature water before, during and after singing. Drinking anything but room temperature water shocks the vocal cords: cold water tenses the muscles (like jumping in a cold swimming pool does to your whole body) and drinking warm water or substance relaxes the muscles.
It is also important to note that water must be absorbed by the body before being redistributed to your voice organ, so drink water all day long.
Tip #3: Know your limits. Don’t try to sing too high or too low, especially not right off the bat. Allow your voice to prepare for this type of action. Kind of like the high-jump in a track meet — start at a comfortable range and extend from there.
Tip #4: Avoid abusing your voice throughout the day: (a) Don’t talk for extended periods of time; (b) Don’t “talk over” loud noises, such as machinery in the workplace or loud music; and (c) Avoid whispering. All of these actions are stressful to your voice and will cause vocal fatigue.
Performing these basic exercises and remembering these basic facts will reduce the risk of vocal damage, help you enjoy a better singing performance and keep you from sounding like a frog afterwards! Using a professional vocal warm-up and training program is recommended as a fun and easy way to ensure that your voice will be ready to perform day in and day out.
Sometimes even with proper warm-up and practice we need additional help with vocal hydration and opening up our airways. We recommend these high quality products. If you suffer from allergies, these are especially helpful!
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