Absolute shocker I know, everyone has a voice, whaaaat?!
But in all seriousness, it is important for you to care for your voice whether you are a singer or not.
Singers and professional voice users are aware of the daily process of keeping their voice healthy and following the million do’s and don’ts of the vocal health world. If you’re someone who may not sing or be aware of their voice, it’s difficult to understand when your voice isn’t feeling healthy and happy. Many people think they are tired (which might be the case) or becoming ill but it may be a sign of vocal fatigue or injury. However, no matter who you are, our voice is our main form of communication. It is an everyday necessity and we want to do all we can to keep it well.
Voice overuse or misuse can come from speaking loudly or shouting over excessive background noise. It creates a strain on the vocal cords and in turn, makes for a very unhappy voice. There are many places that can be a trap for hurting our voices from conference rooms to building sites but the one that appears time and time again in the classroom.
I recently had a primary teacher book a lesson with me. She was a complete beginner and understandably a bit apprehensive about what the lesson was going to bring. I started the lesson as I always do with a bit of chat and the usual questions: why did she book a lesson? Was there anything specific to do with her voice she wanted to focus on? What style of music did she like? A short time into the warm-up she began to say things like “my voice seems lighter”’ and “it feels less tired than when we started”. Safe to say we didn’t make it to any actual songs and focused solely on her understanding of her voice.
Although she was a teacher that didn’t seem to shout, it was clear that the amount she had to use her voice throughout the school day was taking its toll. She was open about the fact that she didn’t know how to warm up her voice or which muscles to use to project her voice, and instead she was straining her voice from first thing in the morning. The tension was building in her shoulders and neck throughout the day that was contributing to her ‘tired’ feeling in her voice.
She said, “I didn’t know there were so many things to think about then you talk”. Oh yeah!
However, I don’t want to come across as preachy, I am very aware that there are not a hundred hours in the day for busy people to concern themselves with vocal health. So here are some easy, on the go solutions:
- I’ve said it a million times before and I’ll say it again, warm-ups. A simple physical warm-up of shoulder rolls and neck stretching, especially when you feel tension building. The simplest vocal warm-up in the morning, using a warm-up called sirens: Humming or singing on a Ng sound, gliding from the lowest note in your range to the highest and back down. Some lovely open, vocal yawns, sliding from note to note.
- Acknowledgment of when you need to rest your voice if it has been overused or you are ill.
- Not shouting.
- Addition of an amplifying system or microphone if your work environment allows it.
- Cool down. At the end of the day take time to perform some vocalised yawns. Keeping relaxed and gliding from higher to lower notes. No need to focus on tuning.
- Be kind to yourself and your voice. Rest!