I’ve been singing in some sort of organized, conducted choral music since I was in the 6th grade so it’s not often that I run into something applicable to choral singing that I’ve never heard of before. Today I did and 1) it makes sense, 2) it tracks with similar stuff in life that also makes sense and 3) my first thought was “duh, shoulda known dat”.
My daily routine includes 3-4 miles of walking at a pretty blazing pace (at least for me) that builds up a nice lather of sweat. I start at a stroll to warm up and then kick it into gear once everything is ready for it. If I just stop at the end it’s as if a faucet is turned on as my body tries to compensate for the fact that I’m overheated and not moving around to calm things down. A short “cool down” walk at a slower speed gets the breathing and heart rate back to normal via a reasonable transition and the post-workout afternoon is a lot more relaxed (and not sticky).
Coming up this fall I’ll be joining all of you each Tuesday evening to spend a couple hours of singing (yay, can’t wait) that starts with a warm-up and then some pretty serious work by all the muscles and bodily stuff that makes singing happen and then we put the chairs away and head on home. No cool down…which I’ve never done after singing. Never heard of it, even.
I was looking for something else on the web when I stumbled on something else (the usual way things go) and found a research paper entitled “The Impact of Vocal Cool-down Exercises: A Subjective Study of Singers’ and Listeners’ Perceptions”. It’s pretty long but it all lands on the conclusion that there appears to be a correlation between cooling down after singing and 1) the overall vocal health of the singer and 2) the singer’s perception of how they feel after an extended period of singing. It’s not something that’s really easy to quantify but 80% of the study’s participants said they’d continue to use cooling down as a regular part of their regimen after they’d been introduced to it as part of the research.
Further clicking and reading and clicking and reading led me to multiple teachers and techniques that spoke of the same thing and its benefits, especially as it applies to the aging voice (I resemble that remark) so I figured I’d fling some of the stuff everyone seemed to agree on out to you for consideration. At the very least I found it interesting and, even though there’s no data-driven proof that it actually helps it sure can’t hurt!
Professional organizations dedicated to singing who employ people a lot smarter than me agree that you should do these things after a long rehearsal or performance, all to be done GENTLY:
- Head and neck rolls to relax things.
- Running up and down your singing range on the “nnnn” sound.
- Doing the same thing with “ahhhhh”.
- Humming the lowest note you can get to (somebody named this “vocal fry” but I don’t smell any chicken).
- Lip trills (that motorboat thing we do during warm-ups)
The whole process takes five minutes or so and can probably be done on the drive home (okay, do the neck rolls before you start, moving your head around like that might make for some interesting not-so-straight driving). I suspect that it will not only help calm your voice back down in a smooth way but also help the rest of your parts descend from the little jacked-up feeling that you get from singing!