So the week after the African American History Month concert Susie gave us a rehearsal day off to rest. I suspected it was more for her than for us given the drain that doing concerts on two islands had to have on her but I discovered that wasn’t really the case. I bet I’m not the only one who came back to the next rehearsal and found that their voice had a little more crispness and power to it. It actually caught me by surprise a little bit. I’ve been singing for about a zillion years and am very much “in tune” with the ol’ pipes and the difference was noticeable.
It’s hard to understate the need for vocal rest after a full-on strain (like a concert). There really is a certain amount of healing needed to get back to your happy place. Personally, I’m lousy at it. My weekly voice abuse starts on Sunday as a choir director…not singing but talking loud enough to be heard by both the singers and the accompanist in a room with the worst acoustics in the history of wood-framed buildings. I’m always hoarse by the time we lock the doors and put the cover on the piano strings.
Then, of course, I compound the issue on Tuesday with all you wonderful people and the not-my-best-kinda-scratchy voice rules the evening. If I overdo it I’m REALLY screwed. Of course the vocal rest from Wednesday to Sunday sets everything right…and then I do it all again.
So what to do? The Sunday bit is a constant as it’s my job (which I find both big fun and very fulfilling) so it’s Tuesday where I sometimes have to adjust a little bit. It’s not about singing louder or softer, it’s about singing smart and I bet you could benefit from doing a bit of it. None of it is rocket science but if it’s not on your mind then you won’t do it.
First, posture. You need the support to make the air work for you. As you’ve heard more than once, your diaphragm is your instrument. Yeah, the sound is created in your larynx but the strain can be decreased if you’re supplying the air correctly. Second, the warmup is your BEST friend. Do all the exercises, no matter how weird they may be. The entire sequence is designed to get everything moving in the proper direction to bring you up to speed correctly so don’t be shy!
Finally, the bit about singing smart. Pay attention to how your voice feels and adjust accordingly. Don’t over-sing on the loud parts, even if it means not getting to the full-on fortissimo that the score calls for. If a note is outside the range of the day then don’t force it. Too high? Try a little falsetto if that’s comfortable. Too low? You’re not going to do yourself any good with the gravelly grunting noise and it can really do some harm. If you have to just move your mouth without making any noise for a few notes in a phrase then so be it.
Remember, you’re at rehearsal to learn. If that means that this week you’re voice is crap because it’s been abused or you have a cold or allergies are ruling your world then maybe this is a week to listen more than you sing. You’re still immersed in what’s going on and the notes are going through your brain and finding a place to reside (unless you’re a tenor and it’s just an empty space and stuff blows on through). Only you know your instrument and it’s important to keep it in top shape.
The other thing you can do is be sure you get things that your body needs to keep all the rest of it healthy. Rest is good, water is good, healthy food is good. Keep all the parts happy and the voice shall follow!
Speaking of water, a little extra hydration on rehearsal day is a good idea BUT don’t pound it all just before you head to the hall. Space it out throughout the day to avoid the inevitable…ummmm…challenges of drinking a whole bunch of water.
If ya’ know what I mean and I think ya’ do…