As the Renaissance Choir are using some of these on their website, for which I am very honoured, I thought I ought to put them up on my blog too!
Ten tips to avoid vocal tiredness
- Keep body balanced, shoulder points, hips and ankles in line (in rehearsal breaks, bend over and stretch and then build vertebrae up) – do diving board lifts with feet or if you feel extrovert ‘Da Vinci man’ stretches. When sitting in rehearsal try to keep the same elongated posture, you don’t need your legs to sing and when you do stand watch that you don’t lock your knees (difficult in a cold Scottish Kirk!)
- Move shoulder points in tiny rotations, – no one should notice you doing it but you will feel the muscles even more than large cartwheel movements.
- Imagine a massage extending from the ‘Clapham Junction’ knot at the nape of the neck to your low back (or even better work in pairs to get the feel of the downward stroke in rehearsal break – not the performance!).
- Loosen the jaw, try ‘kissy’ lips when you get a chance and cleaning teeth with tongue, blowing bubbles, massage jaw line.
- Keep the holes behind the eyes as open and free as you can. Face should be loose with ‘ecstatic nun’ expression! Or as the Americans’ say an ‘apple pie’ face.
- Remember each repeated note is different, same pitch but different, feel it in the soft palate ‘St. Paul’s Cathedral Dome’ and let the acoustic take over (it’s like driving and taking the foot of the accelerator to save fuel). Don’t tighten or push. If you feel that happening tongue trill or lip trill or blow out cheeks!
- When singing prolonged high notes; use your low back muscles and lift your back teeth (I know it’s impossible but imagine you are!) it will keep the back of the throat open.
- Use resonance and vowel tuning to create a louder sound, don’t just take a bigger breath –it’s much harder work and you will get tired more quickly. However do keep breath deep when you have the chance as quick snatched breaths are also more tiring in the long run and tend to dry out the vocal folds. Warm up high hums and sighs are good.
- As singers get nervous they tend to lean forward; choral singers, in particular, aiming to please the conductor move the head forwards out of balance, this will quickly make your voice tired and tense.
- Hydration is key; but it starts at least 24hours before concert, a quick swig before you sing feels good but it doesn’t hydrate the body, start the day before keeping water levels up. You should be able to sing all day and never get vocally tired. Don’t take strong throat pastilles, just suck a glucose sweet if necessary. Strepsils have an anaesthetic which means you don’t feel the problems and sing on when you should stop!
Susan Yarnall (Dr. S.J. Monks)