• Daniel Turnell

We are singers not athletes!!!!

When trying to get singers whether they are having vocal problems or not to understand how to look after and maintain their voice, I always try and relate to sport or other perceived athletes, I am often greeted with a blank look when describing singing as athletic, but if we take the Merrian-Webster definition of an athlete ‘a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina’.

Keeping that definition in mind but also breaking singing down to its most base form, it is the active co-ordination of muscles to produce an effect, which in the case of vocalising is singing or speaking. Like all muscles they can become tired, tight, inflamed, injured etc. This may result in you feeling like access to certain parts of your range becomes harder to achieve, it may be that it is taking longer to warm up, in more severe cases it may result in loss of range, changes in tone, resonance, pain, or dysphonia.

Now if you were a runner, preparing for a marathon, you are likely to be thinking about managing your recovery and training, through a physio for regular maintenance of your muscles, as it may help with tension, stamina and eventually performance. The vocal muscles are the same and can also be maintained to try and prevent overuse irritation.

Sometimes, however, irritation is inevitable, it may be after a night out, a certain illness or a run of performances that were too big to cancel, leading to some of the changes mentioned above. For many the first point of call will be their trusted ENT of choice, with this more often than not showing no pathology or other problems. This can be a source of frustration for many as it would be normal to assume for most that if there is no issue then why can they not voice as they know they should be able.

This leads back to a change in mindset about voice use and is likely to mean muscle tension in the suprahyoids, jaw, neck, shoulders or back, causing a change in head and neck posture, and maybe an elevation in the larynx position, causing restriction in range of movement and ultimately at a local level restriction vocal fold mobility.