Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Vocal Aerobics- the importance of physical exercise

I have a new understanding to offer you for the phrase "Move it or Lose it!" Think of the word "it" as meaning "voice".

If you sing according to Power, Path & Performance principles, you'll notice you don't get vocally tired. You'll also notice that you do get physically tired! That's because singing correctly will use the big muscles of your core (abs, back, thighs, buttocks) and minimize incorrect over-use of the little muscles of your throat. The state of your body at any given time will affect your vocal ability - for better or for worse.

It should go without saying that part of the state of your body has to do with your rest, stress, hydration and nutrition levels. However, in this post, I want to concentrate on the levels of flexibility, coordination and strength of your muscles.

I have noticed that people who don't do much physical exercise don't contract their lower abdominal muscles when they sing. This means they won't be encouraging the abdominal contents to shift upwards, which is vital for supporting the upper movement of the diaphragm. This results in all kinds of vocal limitations.

These sedentary people also don't get good breath in. Their shoulders tend to be rounded forward, ribcage slumped, trunk sort of compact and arms hanging limply at the sides like rib anchors.

They also tend to be rather numb in performance. It takes physical energy to communicate.

Great vocal exercises can work out your physical core if you do them properly. I used to notice my own abs get sore after a number of vocal lessons. (They don't get sore anymore... I use them too much, and they are strong!) But I suggest working out your core so you can do your exercises more correctly. You'll find yourself singing longer without strain. Remember- once physical fatigue sets in, vocal fatigue can quickly follow.

My suggestions:
  • Find an exercise routine you will actually do regularly - at least 3 or 4 times a week.
  • If you go to a gym, consider hiring a personal trainer for at least one round of lessons. Let them know you are a singer or public speaker. When holding your breath to push against a weight, be careful not to put too much pressure on your vocal cords. (Don't grunt hard).
  • Find a routine you can take with you wherever you go. I used to use Cindy Crawford tapes in my hotel room before my concerts. I didn't know why then, but I knew from experience that I sang better for exercising at least 30 minutes before a show.

My cautions:

  • Don't use your physical strength against your voice! In your mind right now, separate what you should do when weight training from what you should do when singing. Weight training requires you to tense muscles in your neck, which you MUST relax when you sing. Also remember to relax "buff" chest and throat muscles when you sing or speak. Float your head on your shoulders, like you wouldn't do while weight training.
  • Don't work out too much - or incorrectly with weights. If you injure your neck muscles, you will definitely affect your voice. Again... find a great personal trainer to help you protect yourself with correct form. Don't weight train the day of performance.
  • Remember to rest your muscles with a day off when weight training. You can do aerobic training (treadmill, etc.) every day, but not weight training the same muscles.

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