Vocal health is a complicated subject - we all know that drinking enough water, resting our voice and getting a good night’s sleep are simple steps we can take to make our voices sound as good as they can for a performance. But what else can we do, and how do we prevent more serious problems from occurring in the future?
Our voices are direct representations of what is going on in our bodies, so it makes sense that as singers we need to look after our physical and emotional health as much as possible. There are many different ways that we can do this, but the first step is to be clear about what our own personal health and wellbeing challenges are, and then address these head on.
Once we have our physical and emotional health under control, the most important factor that will promote vocal health throughout a career is good technique. As a vocal coach I see lots of singers who have fantastic voices and after being signed by major labels, go on to produce an impressive vocal in the studio. Once on tour however, the cracks can start to show as some haven’t received adequate vocal training and don’t possess the relevant skills to perform day after day, often for hours at a time.
At this point I teach them how to train the relevant muscles to support the voice, anchor the head and neck, and prevent strain and constriction. This results in a strong, powerful and most importantly, safe vocal, night after night. Some singers are concerned that coaching will change their sound – far from it. Coaching should be able to take the voice you have and make it stronger and more supported, and will usually increase your vocal range too. Singing is a craft as much as any other profession – you need to learn how to use your voice professionally to avoid problems.
Do you feel that your technique could do with an overhaul? If you do, why not book a consultation lesson with a teacher? Check that they work in the genre that you’re performing in – lessons with a classical singing teacher won’t prepare you for belting with a pop band and vice versa. There are a number of different techniques around for the various musical genres – make sure that the teacher works with the right technique for you.
Once you’ve found a good teacher, trust that they will be able to identify any major vocal health problems, and apart from promoting your own vocal hygiene, try to just focus on producing the best vocal you can and enjoy the process of singing.
Vocal health is a complex subject, but one that we need to simplify so that we can get back to the joy of singing. To celebrate World Voice Day on April 16th why not take a few minutes to look over the practical steps that Help Musicians UK has put together on how to promote vocal health here, and if you want to take it one step further, get in touch with a teacher and start the process of promoting your vocal health for life.
Lucy Heyman is a vocal coach, and is currently researching health and wellbeing for pop vocalists at the Royal College of Music as part of an MSc in Performance Science. If you are interested in being interviewed as part of her research or if you would like vocal lessons, please get in touch here, or on Twitter @lucindaheyman.