As a vocologist for 38 years, I’ve heard every excuse in the book for why my clients didn’t practice or follow my therapeutic recommendations: I was busy with my family, work was crazy, the dog ate my homework, I forgot…and on and on. But as I always say in my office, no one is too busy; it’s just a matter of priorities. And voice should be a BIG priority; after all, if you lose your voice, how good will you be at parenting, work, socializing, training your dog…for that matter, ANYTHING vocal???
Of course, I’m a realist. Even I’ve been known to utter “I’m soooo busy!” once too often. So, over the years, I’ve tried to develop ways to fit voice care and therapy exercises into our daily routine. And if you’re forgetful, I’ll give you some easy tips to remember to use the concepts I teach. Some of these excellent tips were contributed by our clients.
If you use disposable plastic bottles, save the bottle cap every time you finish a bottle. At the end of the day, count your caps, multiply by the number of ounces in the bottle (typically 16 oz. for a screw top and 24 oz. for a sport pop-top bottle) and you’ll have your daily hydration total.
You can use one of the water-tracking apps that we mention in the Hydration blog, such as the fun Plant Nanny, where your plant grows bigger the more water you drink. Remember to count water that you have with daily activities you’re already doing (teeth-brushing, taking vitamins or medications, etc.).
Good posture and alignment are essential for a healthy voice, not to mention a healthy body free from pain. But most of us can’t say we’ve perfected this habit. And thanks to the overuse of electronic devices, we’re often sticking our chins out to look at a laptop, curling over an iPad while sitting like a pretzel on the bed, or looking straight down at a phone in our hands. Here are some clever ways to encourage good posture, especially proper head alignment:
Use a sticky note on the wall to develop the appropriate chin tuck head position. Since we’re supposed to tuck our chins down and in slightly when singing or speaking, put a sticky note on the wall opposite where you’re practicing singing, therapy exercises, or even a spoken presentation. The sticky should be about 5 degrees below your eye level. This creates a slight chin tuck, which is the desirable head position for good voice. See the photos below:
INCORRECT: chin up, neck hyperextended
CORRECT: 5-degree chin tuck
To keep from developing a real “pain in the neck” while using devices, put your phone, tablet or e-reader on an adjustable stand like this one:
Adjust the angle and height of the stand so you’re in the “chin-tuck” position above. You can rest your hands, voice production will be easier, and your neck will thank you. ? This is especially good for Skype or FaceTime calls. (You can find this stand on our Amazon-affiliated website store. Note: Amazon pays Professional Voice Care Center a fee for items purchased; you get your usual Amazon benefits and fantastic prices).
Depending on what exercises you’re practicing in voice therapy, speaking voice training, or singing lessons, we have some suggestions to help you remember them and practice them frequently:
• Use a baggie or pencil case with flashcards, each containing one of our exercises (such as humming, lip trills, or straw exercise). Pick a card at random, and practice the exercise for 2 minutes. Repeat 8-10 times a day.
• For the straw exercise: Keep straws of various sizes in the cup holder in your car, and keep pieces of straws in your pocket or purse. This way, even on the go, you can practice vocalizing into a straw to keep your voice healthy and warmed up. If you’re not sure how to do straw phonation, see our blog on the subject, which contains some excellent instructional videos on this amazing vocal warm-up, presented by Dr. Ingo Titze, an expert in the field of voice science and voice therapy.
• Similar to the straw exercise, you can also pop that straw into a ½ cup of water and practice the bubble exercise. Keep a cup and a straw handy in the bathroom or kitchen for this purpose.
• Vocalizing while gargling is a wonderful voice therapy exercise. Associate this with teeth-brushing; after you’ve rinsed, gargle with clear water and siren your voice up and down.
• Use smartphone reminders or a kitchen timer to remind you that it’s time to do short voice practice sessions throughout the day.
• Keep a sticky or index card with a list of your voice exercises on it in the car or on the medicine cabinet.
• Since steam inhalation is so good for healthy vocal function, try practicing your voice exercises while steaming. Talk about multi-tasking! Just make sure to keep your chin tucked.
Here’s the student idea of the season: Come up with a mnemonic device or initialism to remember a concept you’re working on. Example: One of our clients, whose last name is Pisani, needs to cue himself frequently to use good posture (He’s a guitarist, and tends to slouch while playing his instrument and singing). He came up with Stand Tall Pisani, which he remembers as S.T.P. So he cues himself by saying “S.T.P.” throughout a gig or rehearsal. If you’re working in dry heat or drying air conditioning, you could cue yourself with D.E.W.: Drink Extra Water. Your “dewy” vocal folds will thank you! See what ideas you can come up with!
So now you know, voice care and practicing don’t have to take a lot of extra time out of your day. If good voice is important, you’ll find the time; if not, you’ll find an excuse. Take action, and get the Choice Voice you’ve always wanted!