Famous things that happened over the years on August 6th:
- Denton True “Cy” Young pitched and won his 1st major league baseball game.
- The first case of motion sickness in space was reported (I bet that got messy).
- Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act prohibiting voting discrimination against minorities.
- “Oh! Calcutta!” (which was quite naughty) closed at the Edison Theater in New York after 5,959 performances (proof that naughty sells).
- Microsoft announced it would invest $150 million in Apple Computer Inc. (hey Bill, how’d that turn out?).
- And most recently, the Windward Choral Society’s 2016 fall semester open house is exactly one month away.
So what do we do? There are two viable options:
- Scream and run in circles like your hair is on fire.
- Start getting ready to sing like an angel.
The second one seems like a better long-term strategy so let’s explore it a little bit. Unless you’ve been involved in some sort of organized singing since the spring concerts finished up, chances are that your voice is out of shape and this should be addressed before cranking the machine back up. The long list of muscles (and other body parts) that make beautiful music need to be brought back to life gently so you don’t do any damage (and end up sounding like a 90-year-old chain smoker after the first rehearsal).
So what do you do? You need to start slow and work your way back to vocal health so you can be ready to rock on September 6th. Here are some suggestions that build from week to week. If you do these things a couple times a day thou shalt indeed rock.
(If you’re a lawyer, read this part. If you’re not, feel free to skip it. The Blogmeister disclaimer: I am not a doctor, haven’t even played one on TV. What follows are suggestions based on decades of experience as a singer and director. This is not medical advice and anyone with concerns about anything should talk to their doctor. ‘Nuff said.)
Week one: Remind yourself of the posture and breathing needed for singing and practice it. Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart. Nice straight spine and arms relaxed at your sides. Inhale slowly using your diaphragm (if your shoulders move up that ain’t right) and then exhale slowly through your mouth. (Blogmeister tip: if you stand straight and take a few diaphragm-driven breaths it’ll make your day a little better. Oxygen is your friend.) Do this a few times and add a humming sound to the exhale. Add a little something else to each breath until you’re making an “ah” or “oo” sound in your gentle singing voice. Don’t be loud but try to make the best quality note you can. Do this for a few minutes a few times each day to get things started. It also wouldn’t hurt to do the motorboat noises that look and sound so goofy but are so good for you. Total time: 5 minutes or so.
Week two: Add some singing to week the one exercise, staying within the middle of your comfortable range. Open your throat up as you start (for me, it works if I make the first motions of yawning to accomplish that). Four or five notes of a scale moving up a little and down a little and increasing in volume until you get to a comfortable mezzo forte. Tone quality is more important than volume so don’t push things. If you can’t sound pretty, you’ve gone far enough. Total time 10 minutes.
Week three: Add some range to the exercise, increasing the scales to full octaves or singing a song you know that stretches the boundaries a little. Do this at that mezzo forte mentioned above; trying to expand your range while singing soft can strain things a little. Time: 15 minutes.
Week four: When you’re done pushing the range a little, expand the volume both up and down. Sing progressively louder until it starts to feel like work (no straining) and then get progressively softer. Do that a few times and you’ll find that, as the week goes on, your range of notes and volume will be expanding nicely. Time: 20 minutes.
See you in September (minus the space sickness).