Vocal Tips

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Good vocal health, of general interest to everyone, is a vital concern to the professional voice user, singers in particular. The voice is a precious commodity which cannot be replaced when worn out or damaged; therefore prevention can be the most important aspect of vocal hygiene. Vocal experts offer detailed suggestions for maintaining good vocal health and preventing serious vocal problems. Stemple states that people who make professional use of their voice must take special care to avoid risks to general health of the entire body as well as to the laryngeal mechanism, for the well-being of the voice is dependent on the well-being of the whole body.1 Brodnitz believes that among professional voice users the singer, above all, must practice intelligent hygiene, for the singer's profession requires the highest degree of specialization in the use of the voice.2 Unfortunately, as Stemple states, "the lifestyles of many professional voice users are not compatible with the maintenance of a healthy larynx. Not only may these lifestyles create vocal abuse and emotional stress, but they may also lead to less than adequate physical health."3 Luchsinger and Arnold further advise the professional actor or singer that psychological and physical conditions which concern everyone affect them to an even greater extent; and that singers, whose occupation requires a major form of physical activity, should preserve their health through temperance in every respect.4 The reviewed sources agree that professional voice users must attend to physical fitness and nutrition, prevention and prompt care of illnesses and allergies, environmental conditions, and speaking and singing habits.

Physical exercise and proper nutrition help keep bodies and voices healthy. Brodnitz states that the mucous membranes prefer a diet with limited starches, thus discouraging the overproduction of phlegm which interferes with free nasal breathing and clarity of the voice.5 The tendency to overindulge in starches and the lack of enough physical exercise often cause a corresponding tendency toward obesity, a condition associated with high blood pressure, higher levels of cholesterol, sugar diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory problems.6 Unhealthy for anyone, obesity is certainly detrimental for the professional voice user who must have a healthy respiratory tract; and, as Sataloff points out, obesity has significant disadvantages for the professional singer:

Today, most people involved in voice education and singing recognize that singing is athletic. As such, it requires good abdominal and respiratory conditioning, physical strength, and endurance. All of these are undermined by significant obesity. . . Even a moderate degree of obesity may adversely affect the respiratory system, undermining support.7

Bunch cautions against obesity but reminds singers that a good diet should include protein to combat wear and tear of tissues, and vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fat to insure vitality and energy as well as good health.8 Bunch also recommends physical activity which involves free movement and increased depth of breathing such as dancing, jogging, walking, calisthenics, tennis, and swimming. She states, though, that singers should refrain from diving and underwater swimming to avoid possible risks of nasal congestion and ear trouble, and further advises against weightlifting which tends to overdevelop the muscles of the neck and the adductors of the vocal folds.9 Prompt attention to and care for illnesses, especially those affecting the upper respiratory tract, is important in the prevention of more lasting vocal disorders. The common cold, which may begin with a tickle in the throat, congestion, and/or sneezing, can lead to more serious infections of the sinuses, bronchial tubes, or lungs. Unfortunately, as Lawrence points out, the cold, or the URI (upper respiratory infection), "is a fever producing, sudden onset illness that attacks the...
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