August 17, 2019

Calling card: How to preserve and strengthen the character in your singing voice

By: George Ellzey

If you rely on your voice for your livelihood, then your voice is your calling card. Professor Norman Hogiykan of the University of Michigan describes the voice as “your ambassador to the outside world”. Regardless of your introspective and personal song lyrics or your captivating robust presence on stage or even your beautiful boyish looks, your voice is the main factor that distinguishes you from the pack. When you hear “Think” on the radio you automatically know it’s Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. As the thought provoking “What’s Going On” plays on your Crosley Lancaster turntable, you know that sweet and smooth tenor voice belongs to Marvin Gaye and no one else.

Every person has a matchless character to their voice. Just like fingerprints, voices are not identical. Humans are born with the same hardware that contributes to your voice: 1.Power source – lungs. 2 The Vibrator – voice box. 3 The resonator – ears, nose, mouth, throat and sinuses; however, our genetic makeup combined with external influences craft our individual sound. Each voice is special. It’s our duty to protect as well as enhance our voices. Below is a list of suggestions provided by Dr. Martin Hopps, Otolaryngologist, on how to preserve your voice through all the hustle & bustle of singing, touring and everyday life:

1. Your singing voice is an extension of your speaking voice.
2. If you abuse your voice speaking, your singing will be affected.
3. Get a lot of sleep, drink plenty of water, and participate in exercise.
4. Rest, moisture, and muscle tone are the three key ingredients to good vocal health.
5. Going in and out of changing climates (cold/dry/warm) irritates vocal cords.
6. Smoke is the biggest enemy. It dries and irritates the throat.
7. Alcohol dries the throat. It is a major enemy to the voice.
8. Talking while smoking is very damaging (avoid smoking).
9. Caffeine is a drying agent. Avoid it or limit your intake.
10. Never yell or scream in conversation, especially in dry climates.
11. Moisture is the key to maintaining healthy vocal cords (drink plenty of water).

There is one tip, however, that every vocalist should consider – vocal lessons. Vocal training is not a requirement for becoming a superior artist: Elvis Presley allegedly never had vocal lessons or musical training and he became an icon. The act of learning about the mechanics of your vocal instrument will inform your use of it. The more you know, the more confident you will be. Whether it’s hiring a vocal coach or picking up new vocal exercises from YouTube videos, vocal conditioning and preservation is key to having a positive music career.