Academic journal article Journal of Singing

How Do I Maintain Longevity of My Voice?

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

How Do I Maintain Longevity of My Voice?

Article excerpt

THOSE WHO USE THEIR VOICE PROFESSIONALLY for singing, acting, teaching, counseling, public speaking, telecommunications, oration, or other venues, need to maintain good vocal hygiene to sustain reliable, lifelong professional voice use. Like dental hygiene, vocal hygiene is a set of preventative measures that actively and consciously are undertaken by the voice user to maintain the health, reliability, and consistency of the voice. Proper training, strengthening, and conditioning are as important to the professional voice user as they are to a professional athlete.1 Attention to these practices will help prevent voice injury and maintain the voice through rigorous vocal performance and speaking schedules.


Preventative medicine is always the best medicine. The more one understands his/her voice, the more one will appreciate its importance and delicacy. Education helps us understand how to protect the voice, train and develop it to handle our individual vocal demands, and keep it healthy. A little bit of expert voice training can make a big difference. Avoidance of abuses, especially smoke, is paramount. If voice problems occur, expert medical care with a laryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor who specializes in voice care) should be sought promptly. Interdisciplinary collaboration among laryngologists, speech-language pathologists, singing teachers, acting teachers, many other professionals, and especially voice users themselves has revolutionized voice care since the early 1980s. Technologic advances, scientific revelations, and new medical techniques inspired by interest in professional opera singers have brought a new level of expertise and concern to the medical profession, and improved dramatically the level of care available for any patient with voice dysfunction.


Voice building is possible, productive, and extremely gratifying. Speaking and singing are athletic; they involve muscle strength, endurance, and coordination. Like any other athletic endeavor, voice use is enhanced by training that includes exercises designed to build strength and coordination throughout the vocal tract. Speaking is so natural that the importance of training is not always obvious. However, running is just as natural. Yet, most people recognize that, no matter how well a person runs, he or she will run better and faster under the tutelage of a good track coach. The coach also will provide instruction on strengthening, warm-up, and cool-down exercises that prevent injury. Voice training works similarly.

Voice building starts with physical development. Once vocal health has been assured by medical examination, training is usually guided by a voice trainer (with schooling in theater and acting voice techniques), singing teacher, or a speech-language pathologist. In the authors' setting, all three specialists are involved under the guidance of a laryngologist (the voice doctor), and additional voice team members are utilized, as well, including a psychologist or psychiatrist (for stress-management), pulmonologist, neurologist, and others. Initially, training focuses on the development of physical strength, endurance, and coordination. This is accomplished not only through vocal exercises, but also through medically supervised bodily exercises that improve aerobic conditioning and strength in the support system. Singing skills are developed (even in people with virtually no singing talent at all) and used to enhance speech quality, variability, projection, and stamina. For most people, marked voice improvement occurs quickly. For those with particularly challenging vocal needs, voice building also includes training and coordinating body language with vocal messages, organizing presentations, managing adversarial situations (interviews, court appearances, etc.), television performance techniques, and other skills that make the difference between a good professional voice user and a great one. …

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