As with any profession, the more experience gained, the more knowledge possessed. After seventeen years of working as a professional vocalist, I have picked up quite a few tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy voice. Singer Sundays is my means of passing on this information and hoping it will serve useful to those who enjoy sharing the gift of vocal music.
Tip#3 — Stretch it out!
For any of you that have taken voice lessons or vocal masterclasses, you have undoubtedly heard how important it is to stretch out your neck muscles and probably participated in some teacher-guided tension-releasing stretches for your neck. The importance of this seems so obvious to me when someone else is leading, and even enjoyable when a group is participating. The problem arises when I have a weekend like this past one. I worked on a keyboard project until late Friday night, sang a three-hour gig on Saturday night, and then woke up early Sunday to sing in a classical oratorio for Easter. When I am racing between different projects with little sleep, stretching is the last thing on my mind and even when it does enter my mind, I find there is no time for it. But this morning, as I was warming up my voice, I realized the vocal tension was not coming from my cords but from tense muscles so I MADE time to stretch not only my neck, but my shoulders and back muscles as well. After about ten minutes of stretching, I went back to my vocal warmups and there was an ease that was not there ten minutes earlier. For those in weekly vocal lessons or in an academic setting, this reminder seems foolish, but for those of us who use our voice on a regular basis while struggling to balance life, stretching is an oft-forgotten gem.
A few years ago, I challenged myself to run a half marathon. While training I began to see the necessity for stretching when I started running five miles. From five miles to thirteen, pre and post stretching was a part of my training routine, and if I did not stretch, my muscles would pay me back with tension and soreness. The voice is a muscle and in order for endurance and longevity to be gained, it must be treated as other muscles that are worked strenuously. If you make time to do a few tension releasing stretches in your neck, shoulders, back, and even legs before singing, the results gained will be well worth the ten minutes spared.