Tips for Classical Singers from a Voice Therapist

Tips for Classical Singers from a Voice Therapist

singers voice, Carnatic Classical singers are gearing up for the biggest annual music event in South India-the December Music Season. Even as this article is being written (and read), scores of seasoned artists, debutants, and intermediate level Classical singers are preparing themselves for over a month of continuous musical performances by practicing their repertoire and fine-tuning their style. But remember, as a singer, your voice is finally what makes or breaks your performance! Singers can even be considered athletes in their own right, and just like other athletes, you have to make sure you train your vocal muscles carefully, acknowledging the limits of what you can do and preventing injuries. Here are some tips you can keep in mind as you get ready for this year’s music season so that your voice will be in the best possible shape as you get to perform (more tips to read here).

  • Know about your vocal system.
    • It is important to know what voice machinery you are working with when you sing.

    • Keeping an awareness of your internal sensations in different parts of your upper body as you sing will help you notice your technique and modify it if needed, and may even help you catch possible issues early on.
    • Here is some information about the systems involved in speech or singing, and here is some information about the system that produces voice (phonation). singers voice
  • Warm up.
    • Like any muscle, vocal folds need to be warmed up before singing to prevent injury.
    • You can start with some breathing exercises, do some neck and shoulder stretches, and then move to scales or sustained notes on a vowel or the sound /m/.
    • Make sure to move in the lower octaves first, especially if you practice early in the morning
  • Pay attention to the way you breathe when you sing.
    • Just like talking, singing is done on an exhalation, so your breathing organs play a major role.
    • Whether you are seated or standing while singing, it is essential that you breathe into your stomach. Your abdomen should inflate like a balloon on inhalation and deflate on exhaling (i.e. while singing).

    • As Saint Thyagaraja has famously said, “…Naabhi Hrudh Kanta Rasanaa Naasaa adula andu Sobhillu Saptaswara…” Airflow while singing the seven notes should rise up from your “Naabhi” (navel), to your “Hrudh” (heart or chest), to your “Kanta” (throat), to your “Rasanaa” (tongue/mouth) and your “Naasaa” (nose) and beyond. singers voice
    • Also, your shoulders must never rise or tense up when you sing-you can practice singing in front of a mirror to check. This is to maximize breathing efficiency and also to make sure you are not putting outside tension on your vocal cords from your shoulders.
  • Be mindful about clothing choices.
    • This may seem trivial, but a tight waistband, dhothi, Saree, or blouse can restrict breathing and this does not bode well for breath control!
  • Keep your head, neck, and upper body relaxed but erect.
    • Don’t move your head or neck up/down when moving between low or high notes. This does not help your larynx change pitch at all, and may even cause undue strain on the surrounding muscles.
    • Don’t look down at lyrics while singing. This also adds external strain.
    • Make sure your microphone, if present, is also at the correct height for you to look straight as you sing.
  • Stay hydrated.
    • This is fairly common knowledge, but water is extremely important.
    • Keep taking frequent sips every 20-30 minutes if possible, rather than downing large amounts at distant intervals,
    • The water does not have to be extremely hot-anywhere between room temperature to tolerably warm is sufficient.
    • Coffee is actually a dehydrating agent, so it is no substitute for water.
  • Don’t whisper.
    • When a day is filled with singing, it is understandable that you may want to speak less loudly—but whispering is harmful in itself.
    • Instead, speak at a regular tone, but softly.
    • You can also take short voice breaks at intervals—about half an hour of silence in between 2-3 hours of performance, perhaps.

  • Watch out for red flags of voice problems.
    • These can include physical sensations in the body or a change in the sound of your voice, such as:
      • A feeling of strain or pain, particularly when singing in higher registers
      • A constant feeling of needing to clear your throat
      • Inability to reach higher pitches comfortably, or “cracking” in these pitches
      • Inability to sing softly comfortably
      • Inability to sustain breath in singing like you used to be able to do before
      • The sound of a “double” voice
      • A hoarseness in your voice
      • A weak or “breathy” voice
      • Any other physical sensation or abnormality in your sound.
    • If you notice any such signs (or others as mentioned here), consult a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible, as they are trained to diagnose and treat problems of voice. Read more about voice disorders here.
    • You may also need to see an ENT specialist for closer physical examination of your throat and any surgical or pharmaceutical aspects of treatment.

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(1 Comment)

  • Uma

    Thank you not only for singers aswell teachers this would help

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