ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly publication for choral conductors and teachers at all levels. It is published online, and each issue contains four practical articles. If you are not already a member of ACDA, you can join as an Associate for $45 per year and receive access to ChorTeach and the Choral Journal online.
The summer 2016 issue of ChorTeach contains an article written by Robin Samlan titled “Teacher Self-Preservation: Tips for Preserving Your Voice.”
All choral conductor/teachers have heard the traditional vocal hygiene recommendations: hydrate (drink water, avoid caffeine and alcohol), don’t yell or scream, get plenty of rest, don’t sing when you have a cold, etc. Some of those suggestions might help, others might not, and some might be beyond your control. This article offers five ideas beyond the traditional suggestions for maintaining a healthy voice. Two are below.
- Semi-occluded Vocal Tracts
“A semi-occlusion refers to narrowing the vocal tract at any point. Semi-occluded techniques build up air pressure in the vocal tract in a way that helps the vocal folds vibrate more easily. They also help the voice to sound resonant (i.e., more “ring”) and louder while putting the brakes on vocal fold collision. The result? Your voice will carry better, and you should experience less vocal fatigue.
“Many of the sounds we use for singing and speaking voice warm-ups take advantage of semi-occlusions. We can use lip and tongue trills, humming on “m,” “n,” or “ng.” We can sustain “oo,” the bilabial fricative /β/ (humming through a very narrow opening between the lips) and other voiced fricatives such as “v,” “z,” or “zh.” When sustaining these sounds, focus on feeling vibration in the mouth (lips or behind the upper teeth) and a feeling of ease or comfort in the throat. You should then work toward the same feeling when you repeat syllables (e.g., “nee nee nee nee nee”), words (e.g., “mean, moon, mine, known”), and phrases (e.g., “yummy melons and marmalade”). Planning a little time in the morning or before a class or rehearsal to warm up your speaking voice in this way should help prevent voice fatigue.”
2. Voice Rest vs. Exercise
“Many of us have been taught to rest our voices when we have a respiratory illness, have had heavy voice use, or are fatigued. Voice rest might mean complete rest or conservation (i.e., decreasing the overall amount of talking and using a quiet voice when one must talk). Though conservation is not disputed for severe injuries, there is a growing interest in determining whether gentle, resonant exercise might be more beneficial to healing than vocal rest.
“Researchers have found that teachers with disordered voices improved more when they performed vocal function exercises than when they only practiced vocal hygiene recommendations (e.g., rest, eating a healthy diet, avoiding coughing/throat clearing, loud voice, low pitch and monotone talking, holding ones breath and hard glottal onsets, smoking, alcohol, caffeine). They improved more when using amplification than when following vocal hygiene recommendations.
“While methodology has been challenging and results mixed, preliminary reports show that resonant voice exercises may decrease vocal fold inflammation after heavy voice use or injury. If future studies provide additional evidence that this is the case, there will likely be caveats regarding amount and type of exercise required for benefit and not harm.”
Read the rest of the article by clicking here and looking in the Summer 2016 issue for Robin Samlan’s article. If you are not already an ACDA member, you can join as an Associate for only $45 per year and receive online access to all ACDA publications! Go here to learn more.