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TIPS AND TRICKS

A VERY EFFICIENT VOICE MASSAGE



This «massage» of the voice was advised to me by my singing master, David Kaufmann.

As I have used it many times, I know it is extremely efficient.

Whether your voice is raspy, tired, hoarse, or unclear, it will immediately improve it.

It can be done as many time as needed in a day.



1. Massage the larynx softly with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water, for 2 minutes.


2. Then, with a cloth and a little after-shave lotion, massage the larynx for 1 or 2 minutes.


3. Dry quickly with a dry soft cloth, while massaging softly for 1 minute.


(The larynx is this ‘ball’ situated in the throat, high up in your neck, the ‘Adam’s apple’ for men.)






HERBERT CAESARI’S BREATHING EXERCISE



By mastering the following exercise, taken from the book “The Science and Sensation of Vocal Tone”, from E. Herbert Caesari, published by Dent, one can gain a control of breathing that is better than that of most professional singers.

(Read the WHOLE explanation before starting).


First and second week :


You must be lying on a bed or even on the floor.

Compress one nostril with a finger and keep it compressed and well closed during the whole exercise. (It doesn’t matter which finger compresses which nostril, the important thing is that one nostril must be closed).

While looking at the second hand of a watch or a clock, you breathe in through the other nostril for 4 seconds, then you hold your breath for 4 seconds and finally you breathe out (still only through one nostril) for 4 seconds. Immediately after you start again.

You do this for 5 minutes, three times a day, spaced out in the day: morning, midday, evening.

Do this exercise for two weeks.


Third week :


You go from the lying down position to the sitting position, with your back leaning back against the chair or armchair.

The exercise is the same, except that you count 6 seconds now instead of 4. (Breathe in for 6 seconds with a compressed nostril, hold your breath for 6 seconds, breathe out for 6 seconds, etc.).

You still do it for 5 minutes, 3 times a day, spaced out.


Fourth week :


You still do the exercise sitting down, for 5 minutes, 3 times a day, spaced out, but you count 8 seconds instead of 6, during the whole exercise.


Fifth week :


From now on, the exercise must be done standing up. My advice: lean against a wall, at least until you are sure you are physically stable during the exercise. Continue in the same way but counting 10 seconds of breathing-in, 10 seconds of retention (retention is the act of holding your breath), and 10 seconds while you are breathing out.

Still for 5 minutes, 3 times a day.


Sixth week :


You will do the exercise for 12 seconds now.

Then each week, you will add 2 seconds, until you can hold your breath for 20 seconds.


When you reach this stage, you have acquired an IDEAL control of your breathing. As long as you continue to work on singing, you do not need to continue the exercise.


IMPORTANT

- If you are not in good health, stop the exercise when you have acquired breathing control of 14 seconds.

- You must never progress beyond a stage before having mastered it. For example, when we work on 8 seconds, you can find the exercise easy at times, then difficult and then again easy, it’s a sign that you haven’t mastered it at all! You must continue until the exercise is always easy, while breathing in, holding, and breathing out for 8 seconds. Even if it must take an added week.

- It is useless to want to empty or fill fully your lungs. You must not try to take in a lot of air or a little. You must just breathe normally during the required time.

- You must absolutely do the exercise 3 times a day, and at spaced out times. If not, it is useless and you are wasting your time. If in a day you forgot one or two exercises, don’t try to catch up that day. The exercises must spaced-out in time. Start again correctly the day after, three times a day.

- Do not do the exercise immediately after a meal.

- It is very important to do the exercise while watching the second hand of a watch or a clock. It is its exactitude that makes this exercise efficient.

EVEN IF YOU ARE PROGRESSING A LOT IN YOUR SINGING, DO NOT NEGLECT THIS EXERCISE !






THINGS TO KNOW



Some factors damage your voice, others are beneficial. The more you will progress in your knowledge of the voice, the more you work and muscle your voice, the more professional you become in singing, the more you need to look after your voice.

If you are a beginner, the following pieces of advice can seem excessive at present, but with experience, you will realize their usefulness. All this advice is based on my personal experience. This is why I share it with you. I hope it will help you.


1. THINGS TO AVOID

Tobacco

Some singers smoke. For example, Cesaria Evora used to light a cigarette on stage in the middle of a concert! Others will not be able to be in the same room as a smoker. Beyond health and well-being, for singing, this choice is especially important according to the genre of songs you sing. You do not make the same effort and the same technical precision for Opera arias or Reggae. But you must be aware that the vocal timbre is modified by the ‘gel’ deposited by tobacco on the vocal cords. This gel also weights them down, the high notes are therefore difficult to reach and the breathing capacity is diminished.

An Opera singer will therefore need to have a perfectly healthy lifestyle and mustn’t even be in places where smoking happens (even though there are exceptions). A Blues singer can be allowed this, and will often have no difficulty in singing in a some-filled bar (though I must say that for all singers and musicians I know, it is a delight not to have to cope with tobacco smoke in clubs and bars).

In any case, it is important to not smoke during rehearsals or concerts, and it is necessary to wait at least 20 minutes after having sung to smoke. In this way, you protect your vocal cords as much as possible.

It is also important to know that tobacco can provoke edemas of the vocal cords, and these clearly diminish vocal capacities in several aspects.


Milk

Milk is an irritant. When we drink milk, it leaves a greasy deposit on the vocal cords, which weights them down. It becomes more difficult then to sing. The voice is less controlled, more difficult to master, hoarse.


Alcohol

Alcohol really diminishes vocal capacity. After having alcohol, the voice is tired, hoarse and needs a 24h rest to recover fully.

As for those who say that alcohol ‘warms-up’ the voice: most often these people have stage-fright and alcohol simply «helps» them to feel more at ease in front of an audience. They wrongly think that alcohol make their voice more supple, warmer, etc. The only thing that ‘warms up’ the voice is appropriate exercises.


Coffee

It’s a little known fact that coffee, like tea, dehydrates you!

The vocal cords must be well hydrated to be able to use them correctly. So, if you drink a lot of tea or coffee, be aware that it can affect your vocal capacity and mitigate this by drinking a lot of water too.


Lack of sleep

Physical tiredness is the first enemy of the voice. You must ensure that you sleep well when you have a concert or a tour, and to be well rested. It’s the first thing you must look after to guarantee being able to use all your vocal capacity.


Talking

Before a concert avoid speaking long or loud. Especially avoid shouting or calling out.  But also, avoid talking on the phone for a long time. The position of the body while you phone is generally very bad, you pull on the larynx, you talk louder than necessary, and your head is not straight. All this contributes in tiring out the voice, abusing the larynx and therefore your vocal cords. Like sleep, vocal rest is the basis of a happy voice.


Hormonal changes

The contraceptive pill can affect the voice (it was confirmed to me by my phoniatrist, a medical voice specialist). In fact, hormonal changes often have some effect on the voice. It is very evident in young boys during their voice breaking, but also among certain women who, the day before or the day of the start of their period, suffer from excessive water retention.  It becomes much harder to sing on these days.  Menopause can also have an important effect on the voice, as well as any illness relating to the hormonal system, such as thyroid disorders.

In all cases, it is better for a singer to avoid hormonal types of contraceptives.

For those who suffer a transformation of their voice at menopause, the solution is to work on or re-work on your vocal technique. With regular professional training, the voice recovers most of its capacities, if not all.


Gastric reflux

An important voice alteration, often continuous, can be due to acid gastric reflux. There are several ways to deal with this. A good phoniatrist (medical voice specialist) will be able to point out to you the natural solutions to efficiently remedy the problem.


IN ALL CASES, THE FIRST THING TO DO TO SOLVE ANY VOICE PROBLEM AT ALL IS VOCAL REST: DO NOT SING, TALK AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, DO NOT SHOUT.




2. BENEFICIALS ELEMENTS

Water

As we saw above, vocal cords must never be dehydrated. They must therefore be well hydrated! The best hydration is pure water. Drink! Drink as much as your body demands and even more! (Thirst is the signal that the body is ALREADY dehydrated. To avoid dehydration you must drink BEFORE being thirsty!).


Rest

Rest is mainly physical rest, but also more specifically, voice rest! If your voice is tired, look after yourself, rest your body and rest your voice by avoiding singing and talking.


Vocal massage

A very effective massage for tired, irritated, unclear voices, etc. explained above.


Herbal teas

You can find an effective herbal tea for the voice, of the Brand Yogi Tea, in Health Food shops. In France, it is called Vox Sana or Réconfort pour la voix. In English it is called Throat Comfort Tea. It is composed, among other things, of liquorice and fennel, which are very for the voice.

If you know a herbalist, buy Erysimum or Sisymber, a very beneficial plant for the voice, also called ‘Cantor’s Herb’. (L’herbe aux chantres in French, and ‘Hedge Mustard’ in English).

In the case of hoarseness or loss of voice, you can also take homeopathic granules. In this case you must take the 7CH or 5CH dosages and the name is Erysimum Officinal.


Honey

Finally, honey, raw honey if possible. (Raw honey is a complete honey that has not been heated. You can find it sometimes in markets or Health Food shops. Supermarket honey, even organic, is not a complete honey and has been, most of the time, heated, so has lost some of its goodness). Very good for the throat in general, it contributes to the health of the voice, but I do not advise to take honey before singing.  It contains a light irritant, which does not help when singing. So, as much honey as you want, but not just before singing.

HERE ARE SOME PIECES OF ADVICE AND TIPS YOU CAN USE FREELY

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