I’m back! We will return to a weekly post on Fridays and the occasional post during the week. As always, please let me know if you have a question or concerns about your voice. I will feature some questions here on the blog.
Last week on the GROW Voice Facebook page, I asked for and got a couple of questions about the voice and voice health. I answered the questions there but wanted to follow up with some video on the exercises I described.
Question: Can raggedy voices ever heal by themselves, or are they done for life?
Answer: Thanks for the question. The answer is that voices can always be healed. There is no done for life unless there has been a pretty catastrophic injury to the vocal folds. What you describe as “raggedy” is interesting because there are several things can cause what we perceive as raggedy, or raspy, or even hoarse. There are of course physiological conditions that can cause these but many times it simply misuse, overuse, or lack of use. If you want to improve the voice you can begin by just singing more, using lots of breath, and while moving. If your voice really doesn’t want to play that may indicate that there is something that an ENT should take a look act. There are also toning exercises you can do to improve the tone of the musculatures of the voice. I am happy to post a short video on some of those exercises for you to try. I will leave you with this. Julie Andrews suffered a catastrophic injury following vocal surgery. It was determined she would never sing again. Except she does. She continued to work on it and continues to work on it. We may never know how her voice would have aged on its own but we do know that she can sing again. The voice is forgiving but it needs care.
Question: I have had some serious neck injuries. As a result, I experience very tight neck and shoulder muscles and a jaw that will not stay aligned. I employ a massage therapist, chiropractor, and the Thera Cane. Are there any vocal exercises to help keep my jaw looser and my soft palate more flexible. I am finally able to yawn more easily which helps. Thanks in advance, Gina.
Answer: Thank you so much for popping by. You are already doing good things to help manage your injuries. I might also suggest a full body stretch/movement routine if you do not already have one. It won’t surprise you to know that what happens in one muscle group rarely stays there. In terms of vocal exercises, there are definitely exercises you can do to help the palate gain flexibility — you probably do some of these in voice lessons already. What you may not already do is actual physical exercises for the face, jaw, and palate. I suggest adding Gurning to your vocal routine. Gurning is the art of making funny faces and involves you trying to move every part of your face. Few things release tension as well and in such a fun way (do it in front of the mirror, it is extremely chuckle-inducing). Tongue stretches can further eliminate root tongue tension. Root tongue tension has a direct effect on the ability of the palate to move. Lastly, practice moving your palate up while observing it in a mirror. It is important to watch because much of our sensation of the palate moving is inaccurate but you can see if it is moving for certain. I will try to get a short video on more physical release exercises up in the next week or so. Thank you so much for the question.
Both of these questions are about the physical work of habilitating and rehabilitating both the voice and the body where it resides. Rather than just make a list of exercises that can help, I wanted to do a quick video. Please keep in mind, this is not a professional quality recording but I hope it is helpful.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com