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Just like an athlete would not think about exercising without warming up and cooling down, people who sing should also think of it as an exercise function and do the same.
Voice is a very complex function that involves various muscles throughout the head and neck area. It also involves various muscles throughout the body. Just think about when you are sick and how your voice quality is.
That being said, there is a direct correlation between being healthy and physically fit and having good voice quality. I understand the fact some of us can sing and have better voices than others, but we all need to be aware of voice fitness.
If you currently exercise, believe it or not, that helps your voice. If you have cardiorespiratory health and endurance, that will help the voice quality and projection.
Good muscle strength and flexibility as well as coordination also helps voice quality. Some professional singers as well as very serious amateur sings also have vocal exercises that specifically are made to strengthen the muscles of the voice box. And just like physical exercise for the body, it can be isometric or it can be dynamic.
Vocal exercises include things like warming up the voice, as well as cooling down the voice after singing. Stretching exercises and contraction exercises are utilized to go between the highest and lowest notes.
Regular exercising, if you do sing on a regular basis, is much better than hit or miss. The principles here are the same as the principles for good health and exercise. These measures are meant to be preventative and in the case of voice quality, this allows a person to have a comfortable range and good voice quality.
Just like a runner will warm up the legs, a singer will warm up the voice box, as this increases blood flow to the muscles and increases their flexibility. Then a singer can do a certain type of stretching exercises, such as repeating vowels, consonants and humming. This allows for the singer to have better tone and range.
After singing is done, vocal cool downs are also suggested. Just like a runner will walk around after a race, when you sing there is an increased blood flow to the muscles of the voice box and if you stop abruptly, there can be pooling of blood in the tissues that can damage the tissue. Cool downs help the pooling of the blood and reduce chance of injury to the vocal cords when carried out properly.
Just like a runner can get cramping in his or her leg, that can happen in the larynx. A simple practice of gentle humming can help alleviate that when done in the context of cool-down exercises.
So, if you decide to sing your heart out during the holiday period, please do so, but remember the value of taking care of your voice box. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink alcohol. Hydrate with lots of water and realize the value of vocal exercises.
This way, you will preserve your voice and be able to carry out many performances for years to come. If you are interested in more detailed instructions on vocal cord exercises, the Internet is an excellent source.
Denis Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.