Musical instruments come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny little piccolos to massive upright basses. They can get dinged and dented, but most of the time, instruments can be repaired and restore with a little care, a little time, and someone who knows what they are doing. We can send our instruments out for repair and have them returned to us, good as new (or almost as good as new at least ).
Our vocal instrument, however, cannot be simply shipped out for a yearly tune up whenever we’d like - it is literally a part of our bodies and must be treated with care at all times, because once its damaged, repair is not quite as simple as taking a violin to a fix it shop. Luckily, healthy vocal cord care can begin early and can become as natural as breathing. Follow these 3 simple tips to keep your voice health during these cold winter months and set yourself up for a lifetime of healthy vocalizing!
PLEASE STOP SCREAMING
I know, i know - the football game WAS exciting. So is being able to talk the next day. Screaming at the top of your lungs is such a stressor for those vocal cords. Luckily, there are safe, enthusiastic alternatives that will seem so natural that no one will know you are being a vocal diva and saving your cords.
Practice your vocal sirens - pretend you are an ambulance and reproduce the
“wee wee” sound they make. Guess what? A vocal siren on a healthy “wee”or “woo” is a lovely show of excitement that doesn't stress your cords in any way. Want more? Add a “hoo” to the end and give a healthy “woo hoo!!!” when someone does something that makes ya wanna yell. You’ll save your voice in the moment AND be able to speak and sing the next day.
QUIT PRETENDING YOU HAVE THE WORLDS LOWEST VOICE
It’s true - we wake up, we groan, we pitch our voices LOW and spend the rest of the day talking like we are a radio announcer from 1950. The fact is, speaking and singing out of your proper range is sure to irritate your voice and cause damage. Most of us spend the day day talking about a third lower than we should be (if you dont know what a THIRD is, that’s a blog post for another day). You’ll know you are speaking too low too often if you hear that little “gravel” at the end of your sentences or words, that bumpy trailing off we ten to do when we aren’t speaking with enough air and when we are pitching our voices too low. Try this experiment if you find yourself vocally fatigued at the end of a busy day - tomorrow, consciously aim to pitch your voice slightly higher and aim to end your sentences with your voice going UP rather than down (think exclamation point at the end of what you say rather than a comma or a frowny emoji). Speak at a nice healthy volume all day, not too soft OR too loud, just nice and round, takign lots of breaths in between sentences. Yes, you may feel like Mary Poppins for a bit, but ill bet you’ll end the day NOT feeling like Miss Hannigan if you try it!
FINALLY - VOCAL FRY NEEDS TO DIE
What is glottal fry, you say? Have you ever listened to the Kardashians talk? Check out this hilarious and all too accurate YouTube video for an example of exactly what I’m talking about. https://youtu.be/R6r7LhcHHAc. People, loose the FRY. Although the fry itself probably wont cause damage, its a sign that you are using too little air when you speak, which produces slower vibrations and leads to a creaky sound which will become habitual AND impact your singing voice. And be aware of your natural speaking voice - are you using a lot of hard stops? For example, say “apes” - did you hear that hard “a” sound at the beginning? That hard “stop” puts pressure on your cords each time it happens. Now try this - imagine an in visible “h” in front of the word “apes” and try it again. Notice how the attack is softened? No damage or harsh movement of cords. these are little things, but we speak 24/7, and if we are putting damage and pressure on our voice 24/7, it is inevitable that our instrument will be damaged.
There you have it - avoid screaming, speak in a supported, slightly elevated tone using your modal voice https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocal_register avoid vocal fry, and you’re well on your way to solid vocal health. Happy singing in 2023 from me to you!!