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Keeping Your Vocal Cords in Singing Condition

Mar 14, 2008
A good singing technique is the best vocal hygiene, but in addition the singer should know how to maintain good vocal condition, which is at least partly dependent on good general physical condition.

When we say that a singer has a good technique, the implication is that he knows how to sing correctly. Actually, a good singing technique involves several techniques: singing in the normal or "bell" quality; singing agilely; singing loudly and softly; singing in the low, middle, and high registers; breathing deeply; supporting the speaking voice as well as the singing voice; and controlling the breath.

In addition to developing a good singing technique, a singer needs to condition his vocal mechanism and keep it flexible. There is no substitute for intelligent vocalization to accomplish these ends.

The teacher should not allow a student to lose sight of his primary objective, which is to establish a good legato of normal or "bell" resonance quality. Lyric legato singing with emphasis on the vowel sounds is the building process, whereas dramatic, nonlegato singing, with emphasis on the consonants or emotional stops is the destructive one.

Good vocal condition is dependent on good physical condition. A singer should live a moderate, well-ordered life, avoiding excesses in eating, drinking, and smoking. Physical exercises in moderation, such as golf, tennis, swimming, and horseback riding should be helpful in maintaining good physical condition. Heavy exercising, such as weight lifting, ballet and acrobatic dancing, distance running, in fact, any exercises that call for heavy breathing or sudden closures of the vocal cords, are not conducive to good vocal condition.

Keeping the voice in good condition

A teacher of singing should teach each of his students how to know his own voice and how to keep it in good condition. This involves the student knowing his normal or "bell" quality; what and how much to vocalize; the song literature he should sing to fit his stage of development; how to solve his range problems, and a basic rule for diction to establish a good legato; what physical exercises to use, and what foods to avoid.

Students should be cautioned against yelling at any time.

In case of hoarseness or loss of voice, the best suggestion is to rest the voice. Do not use the voice at all.

Students should be warned against singing in drafts, and against over-fatigue from singing or practicing too long at one time.

Using eucalyptus oil or tincture of benzoin in boiling water, inhaling the steam through the mouth, should hasten recovery from hoarseness. Every singer should have for his own use an atomizer with an adjustable tip for intertracheal treatments. For this purpose, or for spraying the nose or throat, a preparation called chloretone inhalant is recommended.

For the intertracheal treatment, which is a matter of spraying the vocal cords, the nozzle of the atomizer is inserted to the back wall of the throat with the adjustable tip turned down. The bulb of the atomizer is then squeezed, with the vocal cords in approximation by saying or singing ay or ah. A gagging reflex takes place immediately when the oil spray touches the approximated cords. Enough medication is left, however, for curative purposes. Prolonged colds or vocal difficulties should be treated by a specialist.

A conclusion based on teaching singing in private lessons and in class lessons is that the playing of wind instruments is not conducive to good vocal production. This is particularly true of instrumental playing where a highly developed embouchure (lip tonus) is desirable. In addition, many teachers of wind instruments teach low abdominal breathing with no expansion of the rib-cage, and a relaxed throat condition. Neither of these fits in with intercostal high abdominal breathing or pharyngeal control.

It may also be said that singing is not conducive to a good instrumental playing condition. Therefore, an individual with an unusually promising voice who has also a decided aptitude for playing a wind instrument should make an early decision as to which field is the more important to him.

Now you know how to care for the voice and maintain it in peak condition.
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