In times of crisis, such as the current one, the human voice can above all, unite & comfort people.
And for World Voice Day (16th April), Ellon-born mezzo-soprano and celebrity vocal coach Yvie Burnett has revealed her best kept secrets on how to #KeepInGoodVoice.
Described as one of the top vocal coaches in the world by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Burnett has worked with both aspiring and professional singers, including alongside Simon Cowell on The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice.
Here, she rewrites the rulebook and shares her expert advice on how to #KeepInGoodVoice.
“Your voice and throat are delicate and easily damaged, especially if you using it constantly as singers and performers do,” says Burnett. “As a vocal expert, I understand the demands on performers today; your vocal folds are powerful. But if misused or forced, can become damaged.”
“Vocal strain is one of the most common complaints from performers. It is characterised by hoarseness, pain and can gradually lead to voice loss. As a singer, your voice is your most powerful tool, so it is essential that you learn to protect it with these simple steps:”
Warm up and cool down
“Start with some gentle humming, low in your range. Don’t ever start high because you need to gradually get there. Starting on low, easy notes is the best way to waken up your voice without any strain. You can now progress onto some lip trills; just imagine you are blowing a raspberry.
“Yawning and chewing movements also loosen the facial muscles, which help with the warming up process. If you are new to singing and don’t know what to do, hum a very easy song in a very low key and get higher.
“After your lesson, audition or performance is over, take time to cool down. The purpose of your cool down is to allow your vocal muscles to return to their normal speaking condition. Sigh on a descending note. Yawn to release any built-up tension. Hum a descending scale of 5 notes. Do some lip trills from the middle of the range downwards. Take 5 or 10 minutes to allow your voice to return to its neutral state.”
“It is important to drink water frequently. If you allow yourself to become dehydrated, your voice may suffer. It takes around five hours to hydrate the vocal folds, so start drinking as soon as you wake up. There is no point in starting to drink five minutes before your performance. In order to keep your vocal folds truly hydrated, you need to be drinking water from the moment you wake up. Staying hydrated will also help to keep your throat and mouth lubricated, making speaking and articulation easier as well.”
Avoid harmful foods and alcohol
“Many foods are problematic for singers however; everyone reacts differently and to varying degrees. You will get to know your own voice and how resilient or sensitive it is but there are certain foods that can irritate vocal cords like dairy, spicy and acidic foods.
Alcohol dehydrates and we all know that we are more prone to shouting or straining our voices after a drink. Being a singer means singing is your priority – occasionally you will have to make a sacrifice and stick to water.”
Quit smoking (or vaping)!
“Smoking or vaping is the best and quickest way to permanently damage your voice. Smoke irritates and dries out the vocal cords preventing them from vibrating and functioning as they should. Stop smoking now – you can spend the money you save on singing lessons.”
Try a unique throat lozenge designed specifically for singers:
“Nothing can take the place of adequate hydration. However, if you are performing on a regular basis, your voice and throat may need a little extra care. GeloRevoice® Throat Lozenges are formulated to help singers prevent and relieve all kinds of throat conditions, including hoarseness. When dissolved, GeloRevoice® forms a unique hydrogel complex containing hyaluronic acid. This complex forms a protective gel film that both soothes and moisturises the mouth and throat helping you #KeepInGoodVoice.
Don’t misuse or overuse the voice
“The vocal folds/cords are made up of layers of delicate tissue. Yelling, screaming, throat clearing, coughing and even loud talking can all bring the vocal folds together in a hard and forceful way, leading to injury. Avoid misusing or overusing the voice (even if you have children or a particularly annoying partner).”
“Imagine you are a professional athlete. You must train every day to improve your stamina, and tone and strengthen your muscles. It should be the same for professional singers – if you miss just one day of training, your muscles will get lazy. 15 minutes per day, every day, is essential. You will find that the more regularly your voice is exercised, the better it works.
However, like athletes, you must know when to rest. A tired voice, just like a tired body, is more prone to injury. If you are sick, or your voice is strained, take time to rest. That means no talking, no singing and definitely no whispering.”
Don’t sing if it hurts
“Singing should never hurt. We feel pain for one simple reason – it’s our body’s way of telling us to stop. If your throat hurts, if you have an infection or if you’ve strained your voice, don’t sing through the pain. REST. You could do yourself permanent damage if not. Drink lots of water. Get some sleep. Take extra care of yourself and your voice.”