Bonnie Greenberg


Caring for Your Instrument: The VOICE
by Bonnie Greenberg, M.S. Speech -Language Pathologist/Storyteller

Your voice is part of a larger system (your whole body) that requires careful maintenance to perform at its optimum. Remember: your voice is your instrument. The more you care for it, the better it will sound. Think of yourself as being in training. Like most athletes , you want to keep yourself tuned up for peak performance. Follow these guidelines for achieving that golden voice! Good luck!
A. The body
The body responds well to getting plenty of rest, good nourishment, lots of water (8 glasses a day if possible) , and proper attire (neck scarves and earmuffs in the winter).
Exercise regularly to improve breath control and overall body tone.
Learn relaxation exercises so that you can use them for warm-ups and general stress reduction at any time. (Invest in a good relaxation tape.)
Eat nourishing foods and on performance days, don't drink milk or eat dairy products as they cause mucous to form near vocal folds. Check herbal remedies for their effect on vocal folds. Don't smoke, avoid second hand smoke.
Avoid caffeinated, carbonated, and alcoholic drinks. Also avoid mentholated drops or medicines (they cause vocal folds to become dry.) Increase water to compensate if you must take antihistamines.
Keep your drinks room temp: not too hot or iced.

B. The vocal mechanism
Avoid abuse of the vocal mechanism: don't cough excessively, yell, scream, or talk at the end of your exhalation. (Breathing at regular intervals avoids straining the vocal cords. )
Don't use your voice for extended periods of time without a rest. Even the best cared for vocal mechanism will weaken with fatigue and overuse.Then, you will be prone to hoarseness or vocal nodules. Take frequent voice breaks throughout the day.
Use diaphragmatic breathing and projection of the voice to increase volume. Don't strain the tiny muscles in and around the vocal mechanism. Use amplification if you will be in large spaces with poor acoustics.
Know your material well to avoid stress/tension before performances.
Use relaxation warm-ups and gentle vocalizations with open throat . You can achieve an open throat and better resonance by yawning deeply and feeling the back of your throat open/extend.

C. When things go wrong and you wake up hoarse!
Rest and drink plenty of fluids (no kidding!)
Bundle up before going outside in cold or damp weather.
Give your voice vocal rest. This means NO talking. Not even a whisper (which is actually worse.) Try speaking in a lower or higher pitch if you must speak at all.
Drink soothing liquids: tea with honey or slippery elm (Throat Coat by Tradition Medicinal Teas). Suck non-mentholated cough drops (Thayers Slippery Elm Throat Lozenges,Pine Brothers, Ludens Cherry or hard candy)
Rule out strep throat and other illnesses--see your doctor if you are still hoarse after one week.
Have some chicken soup--it couldn't hurt.

D. A typical 5-10 minute warm-up routine. You can do this daily and before performing.
Reach up high, gently lower body towards toes, gradually raise body one vertebra at a time. Do this 2 or 3 times.
Sit comfortably in a quiet place...feet planted firmly about 10 inches apart.
Breath deeply 5 times, lengthening each exhalation just a little bit. (always make the exhalation longer than the inhalation to avoid dizziness.)
Do gentle neck bending, breathing out as you relax head in each of 4 rolling.
Lift shoulders high to ears, hold 5 seconds, release.
As you exhale, imagine a lovely wave traveling downward through your body from the tip of the topmost hair on your head to bottom of your feet-- through imaginary roots down into the ground. Feel breath and pulse slowing down.
YAWN .Attain Open Throat and practice reciting first part of story in overly open throat manner. Switch to tight throat . Switch to optimum open throat. Feel all muscles around vocal folds OPEN. Yawn several times and do it again.
Practice counting to 50 on one breath while enunciating each sound precisely in overly exaggerated manner. Chew each word slowly, then faster. Keep your body relaxed state at all times.
Use acupressure-type hand massage (especially between thumb and forefinger and in palms).
Practice last line of story in open throat relaxed mode.
Practice first line of story in open throat relaxed mode.
Smile. Go on stage.Take in your audience with your eyes.
Tell your story. You're ready!