A SINGER RECENTLY WROTE: After being a worship leader for many years I had a season of very little singing. Now I’m back to leading worship and teaching again. Moice tires easily and has gotten a bit “fuzzy,” compared with what it used to be. I might add that I’m not getting any younger and wondered about how age affects the voice. Also, I took some Aspirin and Tylenol. While my voice then felt and sounded better, I still wanted your opinion and more guidelines.
VOCAL COACH THOUGHTS: What a great question and you’re not alone being in this situation. Due to the fact that what we call “the voice” is a combination of physical, mechanical and acoustical functions, all working together, aging will have an impact. But, with a little knowledge and some new habits you should do just fine. Consider these points:
1. Aging does impact the voice. As we age we become less flexible, can lose stamina and our bodies have a harder time maintaining moisture and lubrication. Everything from our eyes to our skin gets dryer. Solution: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, and avoid caffeine. At least half your body weight in ounces of water, per day. (180 lbs=90 oz water.) Also, consider using Entertainer’s Secret Throat Relief Spray (ADD LINK) as a way to topically moisturize the sinuses, nasal passages, and upper throat.
2. What we call “the voice” is really a number of physical, mechanical and acoustical systems working together. The muscles involved can get weak. If unused for a long period they can suffer a gradual decline of effectiveness due to underuse or neglect. But, don’t panic. A rebuilding process can change all that, so read on.
3. Regaining or rebuilding the voice simply means understanding and applying the right concepts and exercises. This means identifying the foundations, getting those foundations in order through systematic exercises and finally owning them. How long might this take? One minute to begin; several months to own. You achieve success by constant vocal awareness throughout the day combined with short periods of focused exercises.
4. Pace yourself and your voice usage. Don’t try to go from 0-60 too quickly. Get in the habit of daily, systematic and sensible warm-up. When you can, let your voice rest before and after singing. Especially while your getting back up-to-speed. And remember: Talking is using the voice, often with less awareness of what you’re doing than during singing.
5. Caution: If your voice is tired and raspy after singing give it a day off from unnecessary use. But, don’t whisper as that is more harmful than just speaking softly in a normal voice.
6. Aspirin and Tylenol. This reader did mention that these medications helped when his voice got rough. That’s because he had overworked the voice to the point of some minor inflammation, or swelling. The anti-inflammatory medication would help that, but there could also be a side-effect of more drying. When in doubt, breathing steam might be a better way to return the leading edges of the vocal folks to normal and get rid of that rough, raspy sound. The Vic’s Personal Steam Inhaler is a great, inexpensive tool for that. I always have one nearby for those times when I’ve taxed my voice a bit too much.
ABOUT THOSE FOUNDATIONS
1. Posture is where it all starts. Sloppy posture undermines everything else. Be upright and relaxed. Visit the “Posture” category in the Vocal Coach Blog for more.
2. Good Breathing, or Breath Management will become natural as you understand and exercise these strong muscles. Check out “Ten Steps To Better Breathing” on our Free Singing Resources page. Also, read other Blogs in the “Breathing” Category. If you want a powerful resource get the CD or download for Complete Breathing.
3. Tone, is the sound quality of your voice. The goal is to use minimal breath and good acoustics to easily project your voice to the point you are as efficient as a baby or child. They have no problem getting their messages out there with no voice fatigue.
Click here for a short Vocal Coach Video on Tone called “What Does Your Voice Sound Like?”
4. Warming up your voice is critical to getting the most out of your instrument without sacrificing it. Starting the day with humming in your middle range is a good way to get things awake and moving. From there (with good posture, breathing, and light buzzing tone) move higher and lower in your range. Moving to the lip-thrill, and finally songs, should get you ready to sing and speak safely throughout the day. Complete Warm-Up is a powerful tool to educate and exercise you and your voice.
Finally, here is the THE VOCAL COACH “BEFORE I SING” CHECK LISTWe use in our Vocal Coach Classes and private coaching. Print this out and carry it with you.
1. I’m an upright Child of the King, and should stand and sit like it all day long.
2. As I inhale I breathe down, expanding front, sides and back. As I exhale the ribs and chest remain stable.
3. I am a sound system with my own resonators and amplifiers that I can feel.
4. I warm up my voice like the vocal athlete I am, starting in mid-range, then moving higher and lower.
Humming and Lip-Trills are the best start.
5. I make my words easy to understand by using my lips, tongue and teeth. This takes stress off my larynx.
6. By being vocally-aware throughout the day I will be establishing good Muscle Memory.