Overcoming A Worn Out Voice
Regardless of how loud or soft you are singing, duration is a big factor in fatigue. There are only so many hours a day the vocal folds can vibrate risk-free. We often adopt speech habits that aren’t best for singing. Besides the actual gig, you use your voice during rehearsals and singing lessons, hanging with the band after sound-check and chatting with the audience afterwards. But, you could also be taking phone calls, raising children, teaching or working the day job. We learn our speech habits from those who raise us and who we spend our time with growing up. Unfortunately, we often adopt speech habits that aren’t best for singing.
Keep Calm and Semi-Occlude
If you want to have a long and successful career, you will want to use a wide range and various vocal qualities. It is essential for singers to learn to sing in the ‘mixed’ voice. It would be very tiring to always sing in ‘chest’ or ‘falsetto’. The ‘mixed’ voice can be sustained very easily throughout a long set.
The best way to warm up your voice and access your ‘mixed’ voice is with ‘Semi Occluded Vocal Tract’ (SOVT) exercises 2 or 3 times a day for 2 or 3 minutes at a time. You only need a small amount of vocal warm up. There is no sense in wearing out your voice before you’ve even set foot on stage. You can either lip trill or sing through a slim straw. A hum or ‘Ng’ is also effective.
This exercise creates a pressure in the oral cavity that helps set the vocal folds in the most efficient vibration and reduces collision. You can easily glide through your whole range, first thing in the morning if you wish, without risk. If you do this with an open vowel you could injure yourself because you won’t have a steady pressure above the vocal folds which helps maintain an efficient vocal fold posture. You may wish to start with a wider drinking straw if you are not used to the feeling of your sound being held inside your body. But the smaller the occlusion (space for the voice to escape), the more effective the exercise.
Keep Calm and Listen to Your Body
You need to become sensitive to what your body is telling you. Only you can learn the progression towards fatigue and out of fatigue. Start a daily or weekly log of how your voice feels and what you sense, particularly the days after a gig or rehearsal because fatigue is not always immediately felt. Ask yourself how long does it take for my voice to get back to normal? Once you have mapped out this process you know how far you can push yourself.