Singers & Speakers: Caring for your Vocal Instrument The 6 Top Tips for Vocal Hygiene – Part 2 of 2

In The 6 Top Tips for Vocal Hygiene – Part 1, the first three tips for vocal hygiene were outlined: Hydration, Warmups/Cool-downs, and Avoiding Stressing the Vocal Folds. Read on to finish off the top tips to keep your voice in its best condition!

4. PRACTICE GOOD SPEECH HABITS: 

i) Rate of speech should be legato (or smooth, flowing and slow).

ii) Try to keep your speech around the pitch where you naturally say ‘Umm-hmm’; this can be assumed to be your most comfortable speaking pitch and the range in which injury is least likely.

iii) Avoid starting your speech with a glottal attack: going from zero vocalization to a forceful expulsion of air and sound. Instead, begin releasing air before initializing voicing, thinking of it as easing in to sound production.

5. PRACTICE GOOD BREATHING HABITS

i) Practice silent, deep breathing, allowing the air to expand and contract the lower torso, abdomen, back and sides. This encourages relaxation in the throat and less risk of injury.

ii) In daily speech, try to take breaths at natural breaks (it can be hard on the vocal folds to squeeze the breath out beyond what feels natural).

iii) See a vocal professional to learn proper breathing techniques for singing and vocal projection, as improper technique can do damage to your vocal folds!

6. BODY ALIGNMENT, TENSION and FITNESS

Figure4

Figure 4

i) While singing or speaking, be attuned to your overall body balance and signs of muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. Hint: try videotaping yourself singing/speaking to assess improper balance and tension.

Posture assessment by a physiotherapist can also be very helpful if you think this may be an issue for you. If you are singing or speaking while seated, use a comfortable chair suited to your build, with good lower back support.

ii) Music, scripts or notes should be at eye-level (and on a stand, if possible), and it’s best to have clear sight-lines to your accompanist and audience.

iii) Keep your upper and lower teeth separated and relaxed; avoid clenching, to allow the jaw to remain passive.

iv) Improving singing posture is showing correlations with improved vocal production!  A case study of a classical singing student who underwent physical therapy for breath support and lack of stability. In nine physiotherapy sessions over four months, the patient experienced significant improvement and satisfaction with her resulting vocal production. [It should be noted that this patient was very well motivated to make postural changes and follow her physiotherapist’s recommendations. (Staes, 2011)]

v) A healthy body promotes a healthy voice! Regular exercise, good nutrition, regular eye and ear check-ups, and times of relaxation are going to support extended use of the vocal instrument. Note that obese singers face poor respiratory and abdominal conditioning, a limiting factor in a discipline that relies on strength and stamina.

Exercise tip for optimum vocalization: 

Focus on free movement exercise with cardio (running, swimming, dancing). Avoid diving and underwater swimming (risks of nasal congestion and ear issues), and limit weightlifting and overdevelopment of the neck muscles.

 

As with many things in life, awareness is half the battle; hopefully these tips can help you highlight areas in which your vocal hygiene can improve! If you find you have more questions or need further help in applying good vocal habits, please feel free to give us a call at 604-568-4628 and book in to see physiotherapist and musician injury specialist, Grace Cheung.

 

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Contributor: Tracy Schaan is studying at McGill University in the Masters of  Speech-Language Pathology program.

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References

“Advice for Care of the Voice,” Texas Voice Center, (2002). Retrieved from http://www.texasvoicecenter.com/advice.html.

“Fit to Sing; Factsheet 3” British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, (2007). Retrieved from http://www.bapam.org.uk/docs/3_Fit_to_sing.pdf.

Mathis, B. (PhD). “Singers, Let’s Prevent Vocal Problems!” The Voice Teacher, (2003). Retrieved from http://www.voiceteacher.com/mathis.html.

“How to Get the Best Mileage from your Voice: Vocal Hygiene,” Canadian Voice Care Foundation.” Retrieved from http://www.canadianvoicecarefdn.com/tips.html.

Staes, F.F., & Jansen, L., & Vilette, A., & Coveliers, Y., & Daniels, K., & Decoster, W. (2011). “Physical Therapy as a Means to Optomize Posture and Voice Parameters in Student Classical Singers.” Journal of Voice, Volume 25 (3).

Figure 4. Posture types (vertebral column) classification by Staffel, from Image Creator ru:User:V-Ugnivenko; Posture Types (Veterbral Column); Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository; Russian Wikipedia; 2008; Web: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Posture_types_(vertebral_column).jpg; Accessed March 21, 2014.