Canadian Musician - January/February 2023 - Page 32


5 Dos ( And Don ’ ts ) Of Vocal Health & Success

By Reed Alton

The voice is the instrument we ’ re all born with . It ’ s an incredible instrument that is uniquely gifted to each and every person that decides to pursue the craft . It is genetically crafted for you , for better or for worse . You can shape it and mould it into the sound and tone you desire , but on the other hand , it has already laid its foundational tones and qualities unto you from birth . The things we do to help our voice , with the environmental impacts and decision-based actions we choose to put our voice through , shape how our voice is , will be , and how it lasts deep into our aged years .

As the lead singer for two touring / busy bands and a vocal instructor , I am going to lay out five quick dos ( and don ’ ts ) of how to handle your voice and keep it performing in optimal health .
Do # 1 : Warm Ups I remember clear as day that while I was balancing my first serious band while also performing in a musical theatre production at my high school , my voice was 10x better after my rehearsal in musical theatre . I would show up to my jam afterwards and be able to hit higher notes , obtain and sustain tone and grit , and not be fatigued at all . The days I didn ’ t have musical theatre , my jams were awful . I would have a sore throat or feel pain , and I couldn ’ t sing what I heard in my head . For some reason , it took a long time to put two and two together . Nothing was making sense to me until one day our director was mentioning something about how important it was to have vocal warm ups during our communal warm ups before every rehearsal . A light bulb went off in my head ! Now , many years later , I would never think of going on stage or recording or even jamming without a warm up .
Do # 2 : Hydrate I drink more coffee than I wish to admit . However , over the years I have learned certain things you throw down your throat tend to create bad results vocally . Caffeine , alcohol , pop , these are all diuretics , which dehydrates you and makes your vocal chords less bendy and fluid . It also doesn ’ t help that a lot of our favourite drinks are also carbonated . I always tell my students to be kids , drink and eat whatever you want , but be aware of when you ’ re singing . On days I ’ m performing or recording , I drink copious amounts of water to ensure I ’ m hydrated .
Do # 3 : Listen It is always good to listen to your body . While it is key to make sure we are aware of how the voice is feeling physically , we need to literally listen audibly to what is happening . Sometimes when I am working with a student on finding their belt , and the proper placement that goes hand in hand with a said belt , there are tonalities and sounds that are being sung that aren ’ t necessarily good for one ’ s voice . The issue being that sometimes we aren ’ t physically feeling any pain , but are slowly causing harm to the chords . We should be just as self-aware with our voice physically and how it is feeling as we should with how it sounds and the tones we are getting . This can also help with shaping your voice and getting the style and tone you desire . Don ’ t just stay in a certain placement if you ’ re unhappy with the sounds you are getting , and if it hurts or sounds like it is causing damage , then it very well could be ! Stop and reset !
Do # 4 : Rest If an athlete is injured or needs to recover from a game , they rest . Plain and simple , and really easy to do . It is the same with singing and being a vocalist . We should always try and give our body time to rest , and recover regardless of the physical medium we are practicing . The issue always arises , however , when someone is on tour , or feels like they can ’ t stop and rest . I have fallen victim to his time and time again . The trick will always be to finding moments within the day to rest and allow your voice to recover . A good night ’ s sleep , not talking throughout the day , and also doing a proper “ warm down ” after a session . Don ’ t push yourself too hard , or push through pain and fatigue . Find moments during a performance to hold back at certain points , and allow yourself and your body to recover when given the chance .
Do # 5 : Appreciate & Accept Lastly , I want to mention the wheelhouse . I use this term to describe the uniqueness and tone that each individual possesses . Now , I will never tell a student they cannot reach that next high belt and subsequent note . But there is something to be said about a baritone having their range and a soprano having theirs . We all have a “ wheelhouse ” that we can grow , expand , and push ourselves within . Never stop searching and learning in regards to your voice and its limitations , but also learn to appreciate and accept the voice you were given genetically . The best singers and performers in the world have different sounding voices and ranges . So , learn to accept and appreciate the voice you have , and learn to work within that .
Reed Alton is the vocalist for Canadian progressive symphonic metal band Osyron . Bridging the gap between traditional European metal styles and the influence of their homegrown contemporaries , Osyron has created a unique sound of their own . Their latest album , Momentous , was released in November 2022 and is available on all major streaming platforms . www . osyron . com