We are all familiar with the saying, ‘you only live once’. So much so, in fact, it has been abbreviated to the acronym ‘yolo’and quoted, tweeted and even tattooed. How often do we hear the phrase, ‘you only have one voice’though? Think about it.
You are born with a voice. It is one of the first instruments or tools you will begin to master –before you walk, before you can eat solids (at least without choking on every other bite) and before you know it, you are speaking so fluently, you do it almost unconsciously; almost all of us take our voices for granted, unless we sing; singers know too well the value of having a voice –and thus, of looking after that voice.
One of the simplest ways to take care of our voices is to take care of ourselves. You know what they say about the fat lady singing –it isn’t the beginning when that happens, but the end. To avoid reaching the end of your singing career or killing off the potential of one, looking after yourself is one of the best ways –not least because a good level of overall health will also insure you against ill health and an immune system that may otherwise struggle to protect you from throat, chest and repertory bugs and problems.
To find out about how physical health and diet can help (or hinder) your vocals, the Natural Voice Practitioners’ Network website features some invaluable tips, tricks and general advice.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
The Natural Voice Practitioners’Network website also offers some very useful information about effective and safe warming up and cooling down exercises and practises. The fact is that many of us, including those of us who sing regularly or professionally, fail to warm up and cool down appropriately. Even those of us who never fail to warm our voices up may be forgetting or forsaking warming our bodies up too.
Before singing it is imperative to think, not just about our song choices or vocals, but our bodies. Guitarists, pianists, violinists etc know that without caring for every part of their instrument, the talent they have will get them nowhere; without a fully functioning instrument no musician can make the most of their potential or hope to enjoy any real success or longevity.
That said, warming up and down immediately before and after singing is not enough. How you stretch, strain, treat and care for your vocal chords and voice in between is equally important.
Vocal coaching and singing lessons are a no-brainer; whatever we endeavour to do or master in life, seeking expert advice is never a bad idea. That said, there are a lot of experts out there, not to mention a lot of folk purporting to be experts. Hence, even when we feel we have found a genuine expert, it may not be the best expert, at least for us. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to do our research before entrusting our vocals to any one coach or instructor; singing teachers, like singers, vary in their styles, approaches and areas of expertise.
One way to ensure you do not waste time and money on the ‘wrong’singing teacher is to speak with a teacher who began first as a singer as they will be able to empathise and communicate with you on equal footing. One such singer-turned-singing teacher for example, is Laura Long (www.lauralong.com). I single Laura Long out, having discussed above the importance of the body as much as ‘the voice’and of building a rapport with a singer teacher, because Laura Long’s approach puts heavy emphasis on both of these things. One of the most experienced singing teachers in London, Laura teaches and approaches those who simply love to sing with just as much respect as her professional and signed clients and views both relationships as a ‘partnership’. I cannot stress the importance that subtle distinction makes when tasked with ‘laying your soul bare’–which is what singing and exploring your vocal weaknesses is to anyone who cares about singing.
Laura Long has also worked with a uniquely diverse mix of clients, including ‘extreme vocalist’and beat box extraordinaire Sean Palmer, proving that not only can the best (and most unconventional) vocal artists out there benefit from vocal coaching, but that it isn’t even just singers who can make the most of their voices through lessons –or use their voices to do or communicate amazing things.
It Is Never Too Late!
Like painting or dancing, as we age, many of us ‘give up’doing the things we loved as kids in an ironic effort to tailor our lives and organise ourselves; we aim to be productive, successful and efficient. Often though, the seemingly superfluous habits or hobbies we leave behind take some if not much of our potential with them. Consequently, twenty years on we find ourselves about ready to scream. Fortunately, singing lessons can help us to earth out that scream, whether via singing, beat boxing, performing poetry, acting or just exploring what our voices are truly capable of.