We talk about vocal health a lot, but what does that mean, exactly?
Since the vocal instrument is the body, vocal health in large part addresses physical health.
Is a singer getting proper amounts of . . .
- Peace of mind?
- Medical attention?
Think basics of decent physical health, and you can deduce much of what you need for “vocal” health as well. For example, fatigue or lack of sleep is a huge factor in vocal function.
Didn’t sleep last night?
The voice may fatigue more quickly than usual, and tonight’s gig might not feel as easy to sing.
To me, vocal health also encompasses how the voice is engaged or exercised, and special considerations for singers based on how the voice functions. This “vocal health” topic is endless, so please use the following ideas as a jumping off place to do more research for yourself.
1. The Vocal Folds and Anything You Inhale
The vocal folds, or vocal cords, sit on top of the trachea acting as a cap to the airway down below.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Your voice CAN feel better.
That could be the end of this post. Just a short little love note.
But, this love letter deserves some explanation. You see, there is this idea out there that (often) nothing can be done to improve a voice.
I’m here to help dispel that myth and share some resources on getting help if you need it.
Over and over I have heard singers say things like, “this is just how my voice is going to be” and I’ll say it again . . . it doesn’t have to be this way!
There are things you can do to strengthen, tone, and coordinate your vocal mechanism in exactly the same way you would train other parts of your body.
Chances are your voice will do more than you think it can, and with some foundational technique work, will give your more than you expect.
I recently found a style of yoga that has helped me on a fundamental level. It is called Svaroopa Yoga, and it focuses on releasing the spine from the bottom up. One of the teacher trainers on the Svaroopa site says, “beginning Svaroopa® Yoga created a ‘revolution’ inside her, in which ‘everything shifted into its right place and it was like coming home to my Self.'” (Revolution, baby.) The first poses they teach are called “The Magic 4.” After doing these 4 exercises for a week, my lower back felt better than it had . . . maybe ever. And within 4 weeks my upper spine had straightened out so that my shoulder blades were closer together and almost in their rightful places.
Magic? No, better than that. Logical + magical = L’magical. French, I believe.
So, why post about l’magical yoga and risk sounding like an infomercial? Because this brand of yoga mirrors what I value in good voice training: getting to the functional issues instead of treating the symptoms.
I just watched a video by one of my clients, Nikki Holguin. Not only does it speak to THE THING I believe is most important in this world (more love, not less), but it also reminds me how important it is to voice our values. Write them down, say them out loud, give them shape and size.
Once upon a time, in the middle of a divorce and all the emotional chaos that went along with said divorce, I took out a notepad and made a list of values that were most important to me. Things like courage, integrity, freedom, and kindness, just to name a few. It was an exercise from a self-help book long forgotten, and it was designed to create a sense of direction via values, not just goals.
What I realized in those days was that freedom was foundational to who I am. Without it, I start to shrivel up. But, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want freedom? The difference for me was naming it and feeling its electricity. The act of saying I wanted it and needed it gave me the courage to seek it. It took years to learn to make decisions that actually put freedom above co-dependency and toxic relationships, but had I not taken the first step of naming my values I would have never changed at all.
How does this relate to the voice studio?
The word vocology comes from pairing the latin “voco” meaning voice or speech with “ology” meaning the study of, or science of. So, vocology is to voice what audiology is to hearing. The person who coined the term is Dr. Ingo Titze of the National Center for Voice and Speech in Salt Lake City, UT
. I have a soon-to-be-published video interview with Dr. Titze where he says he was the one, THE guy, who coined the term. It is no secret that Dr. Titze is one of the foremost experts in the world in voice science, as well as one of the kindest human beings you’ll ever meet, but to be the one who founded language to describe a whole field of study . . . just wow.
The reason I’m interested in the field of vocology is because I enjoy the how and why of life.
I’d like to know what happens physically when we sing, and how the brain responds to sound. Things like that.
My nature is to dig for deeper answers in areas like psychology and voice, as well as a few other subjects. Of course, knowing all the how and why will never get accomplished in any “ology.”
What’s amazing to me is that we are living in a time where a LOT of the answers to voice questions are bubbling to the surface and being twittered and tweeted about between voice geeks and gurus across the globe. The voice is utterly and miraculously complex! We will never fully comprehend it’s beauty and interconnectedness with our psyche and God, let alone the mechanics that make it function.