You warm up. Of course you do! Everyone knows they need to.
But do you cool down? Come on, be honest...
You might be missing the secret weapon to vocal stamina!
What is a Vocal Cool Down?
Put simply, it's the opposite of warming up. Warming up gets us from our "energy-saver" vocal posture to our performance voice quickly and efficiently. A Vocal Cool Down takes us back out of those vocal performance gestures in our larynx and vocal tract and resets us back to neutral. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes and it's really easy to do.
What do you mean, "Vocal Performance Gestures?"
When we sing, act, or project our speaking voice in public we engage in more athletic use of various parts of our vocal mechanism. Just like running and jumping are more athletic than walking. Some things that get more active include:
- higher airflow and air pressure
- greater vertical movement of the larynx
- greater stretch of the vocal folds from back to front
- increased shaping in the pharyngeal wall
- increased core stability
- increased blood flow into the vocal folds
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
Just like an athlete would stretch out and maybe take an ice-bath after a training session or event, a professional voice-user needs to ensure that they don't keep using their voice in performance mode once they leave the stage, vocal booth, or set. This would be a tremendous waste of precious vocal energy. It can also lead to muscle tension disorders over time. It is essential that we reset to neutral to maintain our vocal flexibility.
That makes sense, so how do I do it?
First, we need to get your larynx and vocal folds back to their normal speaking position. Most contemporary singing styles require that larynx to be a little higher than it would be in neutral speech. Try this quick exercise for 1 minute:
1. Starting on a medium-high pitch, do descending octave glides on your favourite SOVT exercise (lip bubbles, tongue trills, puffy cheeks, straw in water, etc.) until you get right back down to the bottom of your range.
Second, we need to get your airflow and air pressure back to neutral. Do these ones for 1 minute:
2. Find a comfortably low pitch, around two tones higher than your lowest clear pitch. Using a sigh-like sound hold the following sounds for 2-3 seconds with a released low belly breath in-between each one: ZZZ, ZHH, THH, VVV. The sound should be in your modal (chest, M1) voice but very light with and sigh-y.
Third, we need to release your pitch-raising muscles. We do this with a simple creak exercise that shouldn't take more than 20-30 seconds:
3. Find your vocal creak (M0) by sliding down from a low note to the lowest pitch you have and beyond. Your voice should naturally begin creaking. Remember, creak is the loosest, lightest vocal gesture we have. There should be no pressing or squeezing. Hold your creak and try to slow the pulses down as much as possible. Once you get to the point where you can achieve one slow pulse at a time move on.
Lastly, it's time to Stretch and Release your neck and throat muscles for two or three minutes. Have a look back at my "5 Minute Vocal Reset" blog for detailed exercises.
There you have it! A simple series of Vocal Cool Down exercises to help keep your voice fit, flexible and healthy.
If you are engaging in extreme voice-use (Operatic singing, very high belting, screaming, etc.) you may need some additional exercises that stretch your voice in the opposite direction to keep the muscles from getting stuck in that setting. That is definitely something to explore with your vocal technique coach.
If you want more info or to explore there techniques in-depth, head over to www.vocalrehabilitation.com where you can book a session with me in-person in the UK or online worldwide.