Category: The Senior Voice

In this category we will look are the senior voice, it’s particular challenges and some practical solutions.

ask the vocal coach

As Your Voice Ages

As Your Voice Ages

Your Question

This week, Delia Asks;

My voice has gotten deeper as I age. What kind of exercise can I do to help maintain my key

My Answer

Thanks for your question, Delia. It’s true that the voice does tend to get lower as we age, and there’s a reason: Just as most of our body systems get less efficient and a bit sloppy, so can the voice. But, the good news is that if you take the right approach, and are willing to do a little work, you can stabilize the voice for years of good singing.

Here Are Some Common Issues:

  • Posture: We get lazy, crooked and less efficient as we age. This effects our breathing, vocal resonance and overall energy and stamina. The right principles and exercises can reverse this problem.
  • Breathing: If the posture is less efficient the breathing surely will be, and this impacts us in all areas. The right principles and exercises can reverse this problem, too.

Once you address the above two areas you can start working on other foundations like the sound/tone of your voice, diction, vocal warmups and more.

Vocal Coach training materials address all of these areas and are fun to use as well as very systematic and interactive, not to mention a great value. You can begin either with just the Complete Breathing CD or download, or get a more comprehensive set like Vocal Coach Singer which also includes Complete Breathing. After you have worked with these materials you may also choose to purchase an Online vocal coaching session. We would love to help you out via Skype or FaceTime. We can see and hear each other and have a very productive, personal training session.

CAN YOU TEACH ME TO SING?

Every few weeks I get asked that question so I thought I’d respond to it here. 

Singing is one of the most fulfilling ways to express yourself, and most people have some or all of the necessary starting tools.  But, can anyone be taught to sing?   To help you get in the right mindset, ask yourself this question:  “Can anyone be an outstanding cook, songwriter or athlete?”  Let’s consider those first, then singing.

Can anyone be a great cook?  Not if you have problems with your sense of smell or taste.  Knowledge of how foods go together can be learned, but the “smell” and “taste” also need to be present in great cooks.
What about songwriting? Can it be taught?  Yes, but there are some foundations that can make the difference between a casual writer and one who develops and creates amazing songs. I’m a great example.  I know music theory, love to use words and have a very musical ear, so I have a lot going for me. One of my songs is on dozens of CD’s and several more are published. However, I don’t do what serious songwriters do: Spend hours writing and co-writing songs.  It’s not priority for me, and until it is I won’t be a good, consistent songwriter.
Playing sports is a whole other subject.  To play any kind of ball well, you have to be in reasonably good shape, practice regularly (not once a month) and actually know and understand the rules of the game. Being a fan and being a player are completely different.

NOW, WHAT ABOUT SINGING?  Here are the elements that need to be working well and working together in order for you to sing with good quality, accuracy and consistency.

  • THE DESIRE AND WILLINGNESS to open your mouth in front of others and sing.  Seem obvious?  I  work with some singers who have enormous desire and passion but are literally terrified to sing in public, which is rather limiting.  Why this fear?  They don’t know what will come out under real-life  pressure.
  • THE MECHANICS of posture, breathing, tone and expression are all part of what makes a singer effective.  If any of those areas are weak, you will lose quality and consistency.
  • A MUSICAL EAR (ear, brain, larynx connection) is a must.  Without it you won’t have good pitch center (be on the right note), dynamics (loud, soft) and phrasing (what you “do” with the phrase). With decent training, someone with reasonable pitch accuracy can usually develop a good musical ear, but it takes time.
  • THE DESIRE TO COMMUNICATE A MESSAGE is what separates those who just “sing” from those who “CONNECT” with the audience, which is the ultimate goal.  That means analyzing the message (lyrics and musical style) and coming up with a game plan that includes expression, gestures, meaningful dynamics, phrasing and more.  It’s a real effort, that when done well comes off as easy and natural. That’s what allows the listener to relax and take it in, rather than nervously wondering if you will hit the high notes.

Now, it’s time to list your strengths as well as the areas that need some work.    Then, make the time to get the tools necessary to turn those weaknesses into strengths.  It may be one of the most satisfying things you ever do.

If you need guidance regarding which tools will serve you best explore the vocalcoach.com web site or email me at chris@vocalcoach.com We are here to help you be your best and get the most enjoyment out of singing possible.

HAVEN'T SUNG FOR A WHILE, BUT NOW YOU ARE?

A SINGER RECENTLY WROTE: After being a worship leader for many years I had a season of very little singing.  Now I’m back to leading worship and teaching again. Moice tires easily and has gotten a bit “fuzzy,” compared with what it used to be.  I might add that I’m not getting any younger and wondered about how age affects the voice.  Also, I took some Aspirin and Tylenol. While my voice then felt and sounded better, I still wanted your opinion and more guidelines.

VOCAL COACH THOUGHTS: What a great question and you’re not alone being in this situation. Due to the fact that what we call “the voice” is a combination of physical, mechanical and acoustical functions, all working together, aging will have an impact.  But, with a little knowledge and some new habits you should do just fine.  Consider these points:

1. Aging does impact the voice. As we age we become less flexible, can lose stamina and our bodies have a harder time maintaining moisture and lubrication.  Everything from our eyes to our skin gets dryer. Solution: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, and avoid caffeine. At least half your body weight in ounces of water, per day. (180 lbs=90 oz water.) Also, consider using Entertainer’s Secret Throat Relief Spray (ADD LINK) as a way to topically moisturize the sinuses, nasal passages, and upper throat.

2. What we call “the voice” is really a number of physical, mechanical and acoustical systems working together.  The muscles involved can get weak.  If unused for a long period they can suffer a gradual decline of effectiveness due to underuse or neglect.  But, don’t panic. A rebuilding process can change all that, so read on.

3. Regaining or rebuilding the voice simply means understanding and applying the right concepts and exercises. This means identifying the foundations, getting those foundations in order through systematic exercises and finally owning them.  How long might this take?  One minute to begin; several months to own. You achieve success by constant vocal awareness throughout the day combined with short periods of focused exercises.

4. Pace yourself and your voice usage.  Don’t try to go from 0-60 too quickly.  Get in the habit of daily, systematic and sensible warm-up.  When you can, let your voice rest before and after singing. Especially while your getting back up-to-speed. And remember: Talking is using the voice, often with less awareness of what you’re doing than during singing.

5. Caution: If your voice is tired and raspy after singing give it a day off from unnecessary use.  But, don’t whisper as that is more harmful than just speaking softly in a normal voice.

6. Aspirin and Tylenol. This reader did mention that these medications helped when his voice got rough. That’s because he had overworked the voice to the point of some minor inflammation, or swelling.  The anti-inflammatory medication would help that, but there could also be a side-effect of more drying.  When in doubt, breathing steam might be a better way to return the leading edges of the vocal folks to normal and get rid of that rough, raspy sound. The Vic’s Personal Steam Inhaler is a great, inexpensive tool for that.  I always have one nearby for those times when I’ve taxed my voice a bit too much.

ABOUT THOSE FOUNDATIONS

1. Posture is where it all starts. Sloppy posture undermines everything else. Be upright and relaxed. Visit the “Posture” category in the Vocal Coach Blog for more.

2. Good Breathing, or Breath Management will become natural as you understand and exercise these strong muscles.  Check out “Ten Steps To Better Breathing” on our Free Singing Resources page. Also, read other Blogs in the “Breathing” Category.  If you want a powerful resource get the CD or download for Complete Breathing.

3. Tone, is the sound quality of your voice.  The goal is to use minimal breath and good acoustics to easily project your voice to the point you are as efficient as a baby or child.  They have no problem getting their messages out there with no voice fatigue.

Click here for a short Vocal Coach Video on Tone called “What Does Your Voice Sound Like?”

4. Warming up your voice is critical to getting the most out of your instrument without sacrificing it. Starting the day with humming in your middle range is a good way to get things awake and moving.  From there (with good posture, breathing, and light buzzing tone) move higher and lower in your range. Moving to the lip-thrill, and finally songs, should get you ready to sing and speak safely throughout the day. Complete Warm-Up is a powerful tool to educate and exercise you and your voice.

Finally, here is the THE VOCAL COACH “BEFORE I SING” CHECK LISTWe use in our Vocal Coach Classes and private coaching. Print this out and carry it with you.

1. I’m an upright Child of the King, and should stand and sit like it all day long.

2. As I inhale I breathe down, expanding front, sides and back.  As I exhale the ribs and chest remain stable.

3. I am a sound system with my own resonators and amplifiers that I can feel.

4. I warm up my voice like the vocal athlete I am, starting in mid-range, then moving higher and lower.

Humming and Lip-Trills are the best start.

5. I make my words easy to understand by using my lips, tongue and teeth.  This takes stress off my larynx.

6. By being vocally-aware throughout the day I will be establishing good  Muscle Memory.