Ten tips for teaching singers in poor health

I know this will not always a be a situation singing teachers might find themselves in but having been through a serious illness myself I am aware that singing can still be done and can often contribute to a greater sense of well-being. Prolonged medication, chemotherapy etc. can affect hearing, (more in the way we perceive our voices than any long term damage I would testify). So for my lovely students, some of whom suffer dreadful ill health this is what I have learnt from you. Thank you!

  1. Try to get the guts of the singers involved. Breathe OUT first and feel the lower body respond as the air comes in.
  2. Try to engage the eyes, the temple area in the skull. Sparkle if you can, the eyes are the door of the soul!
  3. Lift the soft palate, that will stimulate the gland that sends around all the positive hormones! Yawning is good, it stretches the back of the throat, your ‘trumpet’ bell of sound.
  4. Releasing the whole body from the toes, via the knees, upwards to the shoulders and neck is good for you.
  5. Recommend more water- hydration is the key, we are after all made of water and it helps to wash out the bugs from the system.
  6. Imagination- try to engage the creative part of the brain to access different sounds, an operatic voice, or try being the Queen, make it fun, play out different roles to shake expectations and access new areas of sound.
  7. Short tasks are better than long ones, 5 minutes at a time, plenty of rest breaks to keep the elasticity of the muscles from strain. But keep an interest by exploring musical phrasing etc.
  8. Focus on positives.
  9. Keep vocal range small initially, though they might be surprised – I could still hit top Cs even through chemo!
  10. Mozart, Handel, Gershwin are good ‘healers’.
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