You may have been hearing from many different places that we are officially past the 1-year mark of our new lifestyles with COVID. In some ways, this year has seemed exceedingly long and in other ways it has flown by! We have been asked to change our routines, learn new skills, and rethink our “normal” many times over the past 15 months.
Did your regular practice routine go out the window as we began to adjust to life in quarantine? Have you noticed a difference in your voice as you have been speaking with masks or while conferencing in a digital space? It’s perfectly normal for your voice to feel different since most of us haven’t been in a regular rehearsal environment in a while.
If you’re like me, you’re probably ready to be singing with your choir again, but you’re finding that your voice just isn’t cooperating like you think it should when it comes to stamina, endurance, and range. You may also be wondering how you’re supposed to get back in shape vocally to be prepared to sing for a 2-hour rehearsal in the future. (Yes! Those days will come again!) The good news is there are some things to be doing to get your voice back in shape safely and so you feel confident when it’s time to sing with your choir people again.
When we are accustomed to singing all the time, blog our voice can sometimes feel like it’s flying! When we’ve taken a break from regular singing, however, it can feel like our voice has flown away and might never come back. If you’re feeling like your voice just isn’t as strong as it used to be or that your range is not quite what it should be, starting small as you begin to sing again is important. If you try to do a two-hour rehearsal at home before you’re ready, you could create vocal fatigue rather than truly strengthening your voice. Begin with about 15 minutes per day, just doing simple warmups and maybe singing a song with a moderate range. Establishing good vocal habits early on will ensure that you can sing confidently going forward!
Technique is Everything
Most of us are used to doing vocal warmups as part of our regular rehearsal routine. Warmups are so important because they are designed to help us get in alignment and sing with as much freedom as possible. Warmups encourage proper singing technique that sets us up for success in our repertoire! As you start to sing more often, using warmups as part of your singing routine is critical to the success of your vocal strength and endurance. Check your technique and make sure you are doing warmups properly so that you can translate your great technique into your music.
If you’re looking for some warmups to help you get back into singing or to help you kickstart your practice routine, here are three excellent and easy warmups that will help you refresh your voice without straining or feeling the need to force out your sound.
- Humming – Humming is perhaps one of the gentlest and easiest warmups you can do to help get your voice going without pressure. Make sure that your jaw is relaxed with space inside your mouth for the sound to resonate and begin by humming a simple tune or small steps and leaps without extending your full range. Your vocal muscles will thank you!
- Vocal Slides – Another great option for gentle warmups is vocal slides, where you don’t miss any notes in between. Some people refer to these as roller coasters or vocal sirens. This are best done starting in the mid-range and then slowly expanding out towards the top and bottom of your range as you warm up.
- Lip or Tongue Trills – Another great warm up to help get sound moving without creating too much pressure on the voice is the use of lip or tongue trills. (Most of us can do one or the other, and sometimes both.) These are great for reinforcing proper breath and singing space as you refresh your vocal muscles.
Sing Regularly, Even without Rehearsal
If you find yourself struggling because your choir rehearsal routine is much different these days, I encourage you to find opportunities to sing regularly, even if you don’t have weekly rehearsals. Part of maintaining a healthy voice is to use it often, with good technique, and to rest when needed. Find warm up videos that inspire you, sing along with your concert performance tracks from last year, or create an accountability group that you check in with on practicing.
To conclude, you can easily compare your singing muscles to those you might work out at the gym. Maybe your bicep curls started with 5 lb. weights, but now you can lift 20 lbs. Similarly, vocal cords need to start light, with quality warmups and mid-range singing, until you can work up to your full voice and more endurance with singing time. You will be glad you took time to care for your vocal cords during quarantine because you’ll feel ready to sing in person again when the time comes!
Singing is so good for you, and it’s good for the soul, so adding a little bit of music to your everyday routine will surely lift your spirits and keep you going until we are able to sing in person again!
Are you doing anything to maintain your vocal health during COVID? What are some of your favorite tips and tools? Let us know in the comments!
Amanda Carroll is a former middle school chorus and general music teacher in North Carolina. She is a member of Carolina Style Chorus and Sweet Adelines International and is a non-performing member of Womansong of Asheville. She has Master of Music and Master of Public Administration degrees from Appalachian State University. Her background includes singing with large and small ensembles, as well as solo work and teaching private lessons. Amanda is passionate about creating meaningful concerts and connecting with the community through performance.