The larynx is your voice box, and you can feel it if you put your finger on the bump in the front of your throat (adam’s apple in men, the thyroid cartilage in the diagram). It houses your vocal cords and this is where your sound is created. The sound then goes through what are collectively known as your resonators – the throat (from the vocal cords to the back of the tongue), the mouth (from the back of the tongue forward) and the nasal cavities (a bit). It takes the perfect coordination a lot of different moving parts for your voice to be produced (the diagram above is very basic). It’s really quite amazing.
‘My body is a temple’ is associated with people who are seriously into health and fitness. The phrase is often used ironically now, but if we look at the way serious athletes treat their body, we will see a lot of activities which should be adopted by serious voice users – your larynx is a temple!
As you can see in the diagram, the larynx is partly made up of muscles, and these need to be treated like any other muscles in the body:
Athletes will do stretches and activities like jogging on the spot to get the blood pumping and the muscles warmed up. Going straight into heavy exercise from ‘cold’ will cause damage. Likewise, if you are going to be projecting your voice as a singer or speaker for any length of time you need to warm up with suitable exercises. Those of you who have recordings of your singing lessons can use exercises from the start of the lessons. Generally 15 minutes or so should suffice, but if you have a vocal coach you can work out what is best for your own specific voice.
After an athletic event or exercise session, an athlete will cool down the muscles with some gentle stretches to help the muscles recover and return to their pre-exercise condition. Can you see the parallel for the voice? Singing as a performer and public speaking stretch the vocal cords, and are different to talking quietly to someone next to you. If you leave your muscles in that condition and use them the same way for a prolonged period, strain will result. You need to bring them back to a normal level with some gentle exercises, ending up in the lower part of your voice. Again, check with your vocal coach if you have one, but 10-15 minutes should do the trick.
Chocolate is not the ideal food for this purpose unfortunately. Chocolate and ‘fast food’ will give you an energy rush which will just as quickly dissipate. You need foods which a have a slower digestion rate such as fruits, nuts and seeds. That said, I would not tell you never to have some chocolate (or whatever ‘not so healthy’ food takes your fancy). Common sense is the key. You also need to notice if any foods have an adverse effect on your voice so you can avoid them before a gig or recording.
Water should be a regular part of your routine – drinking it to keep the whole body hydrated, and steam inhalation for direct hydration of the vocal cords.
Massages are seen as a luxury but are not really – especially if you suffer from muscle tension, which will affect the voice.
Professional voice users (not just singers) should ideally have a team looking after them just as a professional athlete would. I will go into this in more detail in a later blog. In the meantime I have given you some ideas about what you can do to take care of your own voice.
If you have a particular regime that you follow, or any questions, please feel free to use the comments box!