Hi there, Voice Pal!
Warning: this blog post gets a little bit festive – ho ho oh em gee! If there’s anything we need over Christmas, it’s help with our voices, let’s be honest. You’ve got the noisy family around, you have a little bit to drink, and maybe you get a little bit dehydrated – I see you and I hear you.
So here we go, here are my 6 days of vocal health tips over the festive period *insert festive jingle here*.
Tip One: Remember you have a body
Yes, below your larynx. Sure your voice is made in the larynx but please remember that you have an entire body around it that’s also involved. Everything you do with your body impacts the freedom and the response of the voice. Check-in on your alignment, notice where you hold tension, and notice how the breath moves within the body. Those three things (alignment, tension and breath) will give you all the clues to what your voice might need. So maybe write them down and reflect a little.
Tip Two: Stay Hydrated
Sorry, I can’t give voice advice without saying ‘Stay hydrated’ I would implode! It’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie. You have to stay hydrated for feck’s sake – and no it doesn’t have to be boring old water. It can be cordial or fruit juice or tea, even coffee counts towards your overall systemic hydration – so get those in. And before you ask, no booze doesn’t count (sad times mulled wine, even though it’s warm). You might get a little bit of tension relief but you won’t gain any hydration.
I’m not the fun police, I’m not saying you can’t have a tipple – but chase it with a non-alcoholic beverage.
Tip Three: Work with ease…
Did your body just soften then, too? There’s no prize for pushing your body further than you need to. Ease doesn’t have to mean relaxed and low energy. Ease means efficient and working well, thank you to the glorious Barbara Houseman for that reminder. Check-in on your voice today – is it working harder than it needs to be? If so then maybe you need to check on your technique and work on alignment or breath or the other things mentioned in Day One!
Tip Four: Reflect on your diet
Please and thank you – don’t listen to the noise on Social Media (don’t drink coffee, avoid alcohol, eat apples, drink this ancient tea, don’t eat this, do have that…). It’s all nonsense if you don’t know your own body and in the words of the brilliant Dane Chalfin “nothing that you eat, drink, suck or swallow goes anywhere near your vocal folds”. It might feel nice, it might relax you in your mind space a bit, but it’s not doing anything to your actual voice. So please – do some of your own experiential research! Does eating healthily help overall? Sure. Might coffee exacerbate your reflux? Maybe. But check in on yourself first, no need to get Doctor’s Expensive Ancient Rare Herbal Tea on bulk order and give up coffee and cheese if you don’t need to (especially at Christmas!).
Tip Five: Focus on the outbreath
*breathe out now* As they say in accent method breathing, “if in doubt – breathe out!”. It really is the root to all when it comes to an efficient and supported breathing mechanism – letting the breath go. If you let the breath go then the in-breath will happen in some form, you’ve just gotta let the out-breath… out. Once you learn to let it go then you can learn to let it in, in the most efficient way and then learn to let it out and use it for voice in the most supported way. But you have to learn to let it go first. So, as you travel through each day just notice if you tend to hold each breath. If you do, each time just say to yourself “Oi mate, just let it go!”. So let that breath out now, how does that feel?
Tip Six: Find the Floor
The floor is your friend! We tend to get all up in the chest and shoulders when we speak and even up in the head and face sometimes because that’s where your voice comes out right? But this can lead to a less efficient vocal system as there’s tension in the breathing or issues with your alignment. So next time you go to talk, present, record, communicate… just take a minute to drop the tension in your feet, wiggle your wee toes, and bring your focus down to the floor. Feel the floor through those three tripod points (one in the heel of the foot, two in the balls) and then work upwards. Release the knees, let your bum drop, let the spine feel long, the shoulders fluid, the neck free – but know that the floor is there to support you. It’s really all about avoiding that rock from side to side, or standing on one hip or crossing your feet over and standing with yourself all screwed up like a corkscrew. Put your feet under your hips, feel the floor and take the energy from there.
There you go! 6 days of voice tips to take with you through whatever your holiday period entails.
A final note, rest. We all need that from time to time.
Wishing you the festive season you want, need, wished for.